New on Festival Bytes: Audience participation: a buzz word or real engagement for active citizenship

1 March 2013

Audience participation is a buzz word that reigns programmes in support of arts and cultural activities. It is a key to many strategic objectives in several policy fields also for the European Commission and its new Creative Europe programme: Mainstreaming culture and access to culture to promote audience participation is important in external relations, in development policies etc. In this series of posts on the topic of arts and politics, Festival Bytes will share opinions and reflections of personalities form the cultural and festival sectors on the concept of ‘audience participation’. In its impact assessment on the establishment of the new Creative Europe programme, the European Commission states that EU support can have a particularly interesting role to play in “encouraging cultural organisations to develop “audience-building” strategies which encompass both a social outreach and educational role, as well as an economic dimension due to the fact that new and larger audiences can generate new revenue streams and contribute to the emergence of new business models.” Maybe too little, the contribution of festivals to the wider process of participatory citizenship is a component of the emerging political agenda across Europe despite increasing evidenced-based research, case studies and policy recommendations in recent decades which underline the positive impact of arts and cultural festivals in terms of revitalisation of urban life and increase of the social interaction between various groups of inhabitants; they remap the mental image of the city the inhabitants carry and attract them to less familiar “territories” that become new resources (Dragan Klaic). What is new is that, increasingly, the EU is looking to define an “active” citizenship and 2013 is promoted as the European Year of Citizens. But what kind of citizenship are we talking about? What does “active” mean beyond the simple words? For the first time the attention is turned not to legal or ethnic terms but to the active role people take in their communities. (Photo © Berliner Festspiele)