New on Festival Bytes: Strategic intent with artistic integrity

21 February 2013

In a newly launched series entitled “Inside/Insight Festivals” on EFA’s blog Festival Bytes EFA and its bloggers will share insights and expertise, exchange ideas and visions, explore trends and best practices – and thus create a space for story-telling about festivals. In the latest blog post, an excerpt of Ching-Lee Goh’s essay “Strategic intent with artistic integrity” is featured. Ching-Lee is the former Director of the Singapore Arts Festival, and Executive and Artistic Director of CultureLink Singapore. The essay appeared in the latest publication by the European Festivals Association “Inside/Insight Festivals. 9 Festival Directors — 9 Stories”. Behind the applause and footlights, festivals are complex creatures that require careful tending and nurturing. Each festival director brings their own vision, experience, intuition, ambition and inspiration to the process of shaping it – each negotiating in his or her manner the politics, economics, and social realities of the city where it takes place. Ching-Lee believes that “a festival has to mirror the aspirations of our times and be inspired by the spirit of the city it inhabits. It must reflect the creative work of artists in today’s environment.” “I hadn’t intended to become a culture professional. My real ambition was to be a diplomat. I was absorbed by the world that was outside my own, and avidly followed the political developments and crises of the day that were no less dramatic than what one might have found on a theatre stage. I needed a place where I could be in touch with the moving world, and the only place I saw that offered this opportunity was the foreign affairs ministry. But as luck would have it, a piano music certificate among my application papers convinced the government recruiters that I was better suited to culture than diplomacy (...). That was how I came to be Assistant Director for Music and Literature at the Ministry of Culturein 1984. This turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me. I did become a diplomat, albeit a ‘cultural diplomat’, with the added bonus of engaging with artists and the arts. I was to find myself combining art and diplomacy to win friends and goodwill for Singapore’s arts both at home and abroad. Those same interests in history and current affairs were to provide helpful contextual resources for my future role as a festival director.” In her essay, Ching-Lee shares her vision of the festival and cultural sector in Singapore. She is the former Director of the Singapore Arts Festival. She co-founded the Association of Asian Performing Arts Festivals and was its Chair for several years. She also developed Singapore Season, a programme showcasing Singapore’s arts overseas. Today, Ching-Lee is the Executive and Artistic Director of CultureLink Singapore. She has collaborated with the European Festivals Association for many years: with CultureLink Singapore she co-produced EFA BOOKS 5 “Inside/Insight Festivals. 9 Festival Directors - 9 Stories” and she was a presenter at the Atelier for Young Festival Managers, amongst others. The full essay by Ching-Lee Goh can be read in EFA BOOKS 5 “Inside/Insight Festivals. 9 Festival Directors - 9 Stories”. In “Inside/Insight Festivals” Ching-Lee and eight other renowned festival directors from all over the world – Robyn Archer, Serina Chen, Rose Fenton, Frie Leysen, Lucy Neal, Maria Magdalena Schwaegermann, Thorunn Sigurdardottir and Carla van Zon – share their insights into festival making in the past decades and invite for a journey of artistic and thought-provoking encounters around the globe. The publication is available on the EFA eShop.