EFFE’s International Festival Jury: looking at ambitions, challenges, and criteria

21 May 2015

On an unusually sunny day in Brussels, a group of international experts, with expertise from Aachen to Zagreb via New York met to discuss the Festival Award for Excellence, a selection of prizes which will honour Europe's agenda-setting festivals. These experts form EFFE’s International Festival Jury. "An important part of the international jury is to set the tone, to set the benchmarks," said Chairman Vincent Baudriller, Director of Lausanne's Théatre Vidy. "The award is a way to shed light on a few festivals."

Their meeting is built on months of hard work by the festival hubs and the national experts who have pulled together a definitive list of their country's festival offerings, from world-renowned dates in the cultural calendar, to eclectic events known only to switched-on insiders. It has also been a beacon of hope in a difficult time for arts in Europe.

This work will grow into a guide and record of those behind Europe's top festivals, designed to extend the reach of European festivals across borders. Those who've never been to a festival can learn about events, while seasoned art-lovers can discover new experiences to combine with planned journeys -- or events worth making a special trip for.

The platform isn't restricted to the 28 current full members of the European Union. Reflecting the arts' ability to break down barriers, accession countries are involved as well. "Serbia has a lot to offer," said Jovanka Visekruna Jankovic, the Balkan country's hub. Joining EFFE will "help Serbian festivals to be promoted more internationally, across borders."

The jury grappled with the wide range in size of events: how to choose award winners from a pool which includes global names as well as hidden gems. "If unknown festivals are shown next to big names, this raises them up," Mr. Baudriller added.

With the national hubs having selected over 900 festivals to review, and the label awarded to a broad selection of events from across Europe, the jury must now select the EFFE award nominees . Underpinning the whole process -- a desire to drive artistic creativity across the continent. "New content is irreplaceable," said Hortense Archambault, a former co-director of Festival d’Avignon, the landmark event held annually in the South of France. "Festivals contribute to European project -- we are dreaming, creating, Europe."

The International Festival Jury’s members are: Mr. Vincent Baudriller (President, Director of the Theatre Vidy), Ms. Hortense Archembault (Director MC93 in Bobigny), Mr. Tom Creed (Opera Director), Mr. Piotr Gruszczynski (Dramaturg Nowy Theatre), Ms. Ulrika Josephsson (Production Manager at Jupither Josephsson Theatre Company and Project Manager for the Ingmar Bergman International Theatre Festival at Dramaten), Ms. Nina Pece Grilc (Director, Kinodvor), Mr. Mark Russell (Founder and Co-Director, Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival), Mr. György Szabo (Manager of the Trafó - House of Contemporary Arts).

After several hours of deliberation, the International Jury knew what it was looking for. "We need to de-construct stereotypes and stigmas," said Mark Russell, Artistic Director at New York's Under the Radar festival. And the way to do that, and see each festival as a fresh creation in its own right, is to assess it based on criteria as Artistic Merit, Innovation, Internationality, Political Value and Sustainability.

The jury has selected a shortlist of festivals that represent these criteria. After further investigation into each of these festivals, the final list of award recipients will be set. The award winners will be announced and celebrated at the EFFE Award ceremony. As our time to celebrate, the biennial ceremony will take place at one of Europe’s greatest festivals. Please keep an eye out for more information to be announced soon.