Shahidul Alam provokes the Atelier for Young Festival Managers with "Spaces for Dissent"

29 March 2019

Courage is Contagious 

Shahidul Alam provokes the Atelier Young Festival Managers with ‘Spaces for Dissent’.  

Shahidul Alam, acclaimed Bangladesh photographer and initiator of the first photography festival, Chobi Mela, in Asia, challenged the minds of festival managers and guests with his opening provocation  to mark the start of the 15th Atelier for Young Festival Managers running from 23-29 March 2019 in Valletta. Alam openly shared his story, experience, and ongoing pursuit for social justice through media, education and culture, even in most harsh contexts, demonstrating the power of arts, community involvement and festivals as platforms for social change, resistance and possible ‘Spaces of Dissent’.  

The Atelier Valletta is bringing together 32 festival managers from 20 countries and all continents with expertscoming from all over the world and a diverse range of fields of action, such as Robyn Archer, Luiz Coradazzi, Faisal Kiwewa, Roy Luxford, Brett Pyper, Shahidul Alam, Mike Van Graan to exchange critically on the role of festivals in today’s society. The Atelier facilitates an exchange between people coming from different art disciplines, regions, social backgrounds and addresses issues as sustainability, curating and programming, new technologies and their opportunities in festivals, sustaining and developing audiences, working internationally and with diverse artists as well as issues as freedom of expression, and if festivals can be agents for social change and much more. 

The Atelier Valletta is organised by The Festival Academy (an initiative of the European Festivals Association) in collaboration with Festivals Malta. Annabelle Stivala (Director Festivals Malta) emphasized that the very choice of hosting the Atelier in Malta, as Maltese Culture has developed over centuries through dynamic exchanges, is symbolic of the promising and exciting cultural synergies that lay ahead of us. Executive Chairman Arts Council Malta, Albert Marshall, highlighted the importance of investing in the implementation of an internationalization strategy to get Maltese artists to network creatively with the rest of the world.  

Inge Ceustermans (Managing Director The Festival Academy) introduced the Atelier and the unique programmes of The Festival Academy which bring together an enormous variety of creative minds with the purpose of generating positive change, using creativity to imagine a world where future generations can (still) live in peace with each other regardless different belief systems and values, where more fair and sustainable ways of collaborationare being considered and practiced, where we anticipate or look into opportunities and challenges the digital revolution brings alongfor festivals and much more.

“At a time when challenges are put on freedom of movement and association, festivals are excellent platforms for exchanging ideas, meeting and forming identities. Arts Festivals as bridging platforms or crossroads with a direct link to people: civil society structures and public authorities. The purpose of the Atelier is to generate awareness about festivals and their role in society, their capacity to be vehicles for social change, social cohesion, strengthening human rights values and global identities, with the aim to create a more open and tolerant society.” 

Courage is contagious was the concluding message Shahidul Alam sent out to the opening ceremony guests and to the Atelier participants that have now arrived on the last of 7 intense days of conversations on the role of festivals in our contemporary world. You can find the full programme here. Follow the Atelier Valletta on Facebook where pictures and news about the Atelier are being shared.  

If you also wish to participate in an Atelier for Young Festival Managers don’t hesitate to apply for the 16th edition taking place in the Eurometropolis region of Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai + Valenciennes (BE/FR) organised in partnership with - and during the International Arts Festival NEXT between 13 and 19 November 2019. The application is open until 21 April and you can find out more and apply here

 You can find full speeches/videos here underneath: 

Here you can read Annabelle Stivala’s speech, Director Festivals Malta. 

Here you can read Albert Marshall’s speech, Executive Chairman Arts Council Malta. 

Here you can watch Inge Ceustermans’ speech, Managing Director The Festival Academy. 

Here you can watch Shahidul Alam’s speech, introduced by Inge Ceustermans. 

Shahidul Alam is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2018, renowned photographer, initiator of the award winning organisations Drik, Pathshala and Chobi Mela, teacher, writer and human right activist. As a photographer and activist he has documented human-rights abuses and political upheaval in Bangladesh for over 30 years. He was arrested in August 2018 for making “false” and “provocative” statements after criticizing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in an interview. Alam still faces up to 14 years in prison for publishing propaganda against the government under Bangladesh’s Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT), a “draconian” measure that has been used over 1,200 times to muzzle dissent, according to Amnesty International.