Module I of the Festival Production Management Training concludes in Antwerp with great success

29 January 2016

Last week from 20 to 23 January, the first round of the Festival Production Management Training took place in Antwerp, Belgium. Organised by The Festival Academy (an initiative of the European Festivals Association) in collaboration with deSingel International Art Campus, the new training programme gathered 22 young festival makers from 15 countries. For three days, they heard from and exchanged with experienced production managers, discussed topics related to producing artistic creations in festivals in working groups, and linked theory to practice through witnessing artistic performances. “Attempting a breakthrough in the 10th year of my arts producing career, Festival Production Management Training Antwerp inspired me when rethinking and shaping my future plans,” said participant Si Kei Chan.

Jerry Aerts, director of deSingel said, “We were delighted to host this new training programme at deSingel. These kinds of exchanges and capacity building are a core part of our mission and fit perfectly in our art campus.”

Hugo De Greef, General Coordinator The Festival Academy, was on hand throughout the week to facilitate, ably assisted by Nele Hertling, Member Strategy Group “A Soul for Europe” who has been working with The Festival Academy as a mentor of the Atelier for Young Festival Managers for many years.

Roy Luxford, Planning and Operations Director of the Edinburgh International Festival, and Elisabeth Knauf, Production Manager of the HAU Hebbel am Ufer, were present throughout the training programme. Roy spoke about his experience coming to the Edinburgh International Festival from a theatre and dance background and how his festival gives primacy to artistic quality, integrity and innovation despite the challenges this poses in more practical areas. Elisabeth explained the unique working methods of the HAU, including commissioning, coproducing, and funding, as well as giving advice on mistakes: how to handle it when things go wrong.

On Friday, Annet Lekkerkerker, Managing Director of the Holland Festival, joined the training and gave a presentation on the Holland Festival with novel perspectives on working with sponsors, internal communication and engaging new audiences.

Participants also learned about the work of Pearle* Live Performance Europe and its risk assessment tool OiRA from Lies Martens and Matina Magkou, received first-hand insights into deSingel International Arts Campus through a workshop with the team of the deSingel and an energetic tour of the premises led by deSingel Director Jerry Aerts. Valérie Martino, Artistic Coordinator and Production Executive of the LOD muziektheater, shared her experience of difficulties planning in the longer-term for opera and music theatre, as did Charlotte Clary, who raised the issue of interpretation and cultural differences with different audiences and artists.

After Wim Vandekeybus and Ultima Vez’s dance performance “Speak low if you speak love” on Thursday 21 January, participants had the opportunity to meet and discuss with the artist and his team. Finally on Saturday morning, Ger Lawlor, chair of the Wexford Opera Festival, gave participants a new perspective on volunteering with a presentation on his festival, which is world-renowned despite being volunteer-run and held in a small Irish coastal town.

“I believe it is very important to organise these trainings for the natural allies of the artistic directors. I really hope this programme will help and strengthen the participants to even better achieve their mission to help the artists realise their dreams,” said Inge Ceustermans, Managing Director The Festival Academy, during the closing session.

The exchanges and discussions between participants themselves were some of the most interesting of the programme. Informal contact time was also extremely valuable, and the participants left with a new network of fellow production managers. They will also join the extensive Alumni Network of festival makers existing from the Ateliers for Young Festival Managers, The Festival Academy’s training with a focus on artistic programme management. After nine Ateliers and one Festival Production Management Training, the Alumni Network counts 357 members from 65 countries.

 “What struck me is the positivity, the passion, the interest of the participants,” said Roy Luxford.

Over the course of the year, the Festival Production Management Training will continue with Modules II and III. Module II consists of a one-week placement in a festival from across the globe, in which participants will get hands-on experience and work directly with another festival’s production manager. The festivals hosting a participant are all high-level events of various genres. Module III consists of a 2-day concluding session in which participants will reflect on their practical experiences gained during the placements, once again guided by experienced production managers.

The entire training programme was documented and the photos are available on our Facebook page. Inge Ceusterman’s closing words from Saturday 23 January are available here.

To stay updated with the Festival Production Management Training as it moves into Modules II and III, or to hear about other training opportunities from The Festival Academy, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.