Arts Festivals Summit 2019

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EFA members met their Asian peers in Shanghai

2 November 2015

As in previous years, an EFA Delegation went to Shanghai (15-21 October 2015) for the China Shanghai International Arts Festival / Performing Arts Fair. Some 10 EFA members attended the event to meet colleagues from the Asian arts and festival sector and to explore collaboration opportunities. EFA President Darko Brlek spoke in a workshop on “How to Plan and Run an Arts Festival”. Ceyda Berk-Söderblom shares some more insights in her blog "New Routes of the Silk Road" on Festival Bytes.  

"In a world in constant change it is fundamental that the values we hold dear, the values that artistic practice and access to culture help us cultivate, are upheld. The arts, and festivals as unique moments of celebration of the rich diversity of human genius, are a powerful tool not only to create beauty, not only to contribute to economic growth but, and foremost, to contribute to the development of thought, the development of knowledge, the acknowledgement that we live in a diverse society and the best each human being, the best each community, the best each country has to offer results in a society which is better than just the sum of its parts upholding the values of freedom of speech and democracy, fostering curiosity and creativity,” said EFA President Darko Brlek.

Over the past years, EFA has collaborated with Asian festivals and cultural organisation on various occasions. EFA members have annually joined EFA Delegations to Shanghai; the Atelier for Young Festival Managers took place in Gwangju just recently and in Singapore in 2011; a third Atelier in Asia is envisioned in Chiang Mai in 2016; two publications have been realised in collaboration with Asian partners (EFA BOOKS 5 “Inside/Insight Festivals. 9 Festival Directors – 9 Stories” in collaboration with CultureLink Singapore, and “Serving Artists Serves the Public” in collaboration with the Asia-Europe Foundation), to name but a few highlights of EFA’s engagement with Asian partners.

“Festivals have been working across borders and cultures since the dawn of festivals, before Europe was a project of unity, before Europe was a space that aimed to facilitate cross-border exchanges. They have a positive impact on the construction of the cultural heritage of tomorrow, they can be important actors in societal development, in changing the world for the greater good, as they provide a platform for artistic expression and bring communities together. Festivals have a responsibility in the development of the common, multicultural, free space Europe is. International collaboration between various regions worldwide – Europe, Asia, the Arab World, Africa, Latin America – is of great importance, and festivals are key actors that can open doors in this respect," said Brlek.

EFA members represented in Shanghai included: Festival Ljubljana, International Festival Wratislavia Cantans, Prague Spring Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, Budapest Spring Festival, Israel Festival, Vilnius Festival, Ankara International Music Festival, and Turkish State Theatres, as well as festival networks such as Finland Festivals and Estonian Music Festivals.

“This year, Shanghai International Arts Festival and Shanghai Performing Arts Fair were, as usual, full of surprising and attractive events and performances. The opening performance of the festival, a musical drama entitled “Jews in Shanghai”, even if it wasn’t comparable to similar shows on Broadway or in London from an artistic point of view, was a strong signal of a newcomer in that field. Besides, participants have witnessed the impressive variety of artistic creation in the country. Furthermore, round table talks on art festivals in countries along the Silk Road turned out to be quite promising. Something to be watched closely,” said Ömer Bozkurt, Board member SCA Music Foundation (organiser of the Ankara International Music Festival), to summarised his experience in Shanghai.

Other related events on the agenda are an EFA Delegation to Thailand (end November 2015), and EFA’s 2016 General Assembly, taking place 14-17 April in Wroclaw, Poland. It will be organised in collaboration with and hosted by the International Festival Wratislavia Cantans and the National Forum of Music. Some 120 festival makers from all over the globe – EFA members from 40 countries, as well as members of the Association of Asian Performing Arts Festivals (AAPAF) and the African Festivals Association (AFRIFESTNET) – will be invited to discuss the contribution festivals make to our daily life, and to share common challenges, experiences, and ambitions.

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