When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

12 June 2020

Press release - June 12 2020

© Hank Willis Thomas. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Matthew Lapiska.

The Festival Academy launches the Atelier for Solidarity. Around 80 artists, curators and festival managers, both emerging and expert, from 40+ countries and all continents, as well as cross sectoral experts and players will take part in this virtual mutual learning Atelier from June 14 to June 20, 2020. 

The festival Academy (an initiative of the European Festivals Association) is all about bringing together an enormous variety of creative minds. We value a global inclusive dialogue between different fields of actions, being the artistic, social, political, business and technological/digital world starting from arts/festivals on the role art, artists and festivals can play in a fast changing world

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdowns, we saw not only our activities being cancelled, but also the complete cultural sector being shut down. However, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. The answer of the sector was one of creativity, resilience and solidarity. Festival managers launched new initiatives, moved their (cancelled) festivals online and came up with mechanisms for solidarity to support those who were in precarious situations. You can find examples that relate particularly to our young festival managers alumni community counting today 699 festival managers from 80+ countries and all continents here. 

Following the initiative of our alumni, The Festival Academy has been facilitating bi-weekly online gatherings run by our alumni community to share and reflect on how the global COVID-19 pandemic is affecting their festivals and communities. This first virtual Atelier for Solidarity aims to tackle issues more in depth and has the purpose of strengthening the festivals’ community during these challenging times. 

We are very excited to announce Hank Willis Thomas as our opening Keynote speaker. Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist from the USA, mainly working around identity, history and popular culture. His opening Keynote will be held on Monday June 15th at 16:00CEST and will be framed in the context of what is currently happening in the USA and all around the world. He will address issues of continued racism and inequality, decolonization and equity through his artwork. His work ‘Unity’ in New York has become a gathering place for protest and action in recent weeks. The keynote will be open to the public and live-streamed on our website. 

Our other Keynote speakers are equally impressive and all topics are framed into the context of today’s world, addressing the role of arts and festivals as platforms for change related to more equal and inclusive societies, existential threats as pandemics and climate change, and in essence about what it means to be human today. All these keynotes can be followed live both on our website as on our Facebook. 

  • Monday June 15th, at 12.00: Moky Makura, Executive Director of #AfricaNoFilter - South Africa - On the development of nuanced and contemporary stories that shift stereotypical and harmful narratives within and about Africa. 
  • Tuesday June 16th, at 9.00: Arundhati Gosh – Executive Director India Foundation for the Arts – India - "Wearing a Mask is Taking the Blindfold Off: Arts and Culture in the World of COVID19" 
  • Tuesday June 16th, at 14.30: Orwa Nyrabia Artistic Director International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) - The search for the meaning of holding a festival, and then again, during a pandemic 
  • Wednesday June 17th, at 13.00: Ana Carla Fonseca Reis – Economist and PhD in Urbanism/ Director Garimpo de Solucoes– Brazil – On the role of Creative Industries in the current crisis. 
  • Thursday June 18th, at 10.00: Lemi Ponifasio – Artist and Founder of MAU – New Zealand – On what it means to be human. Related to his work with indigenous communities, climate change, and the interrelation of both. 
  • Thursday June 18th, at 19.00: Benjamin Von Wong - Visual Engineer + Solution Consultant + Installation Artist for Change – Canada - Surviving Virality - Benjamin Von Wong's work lies at the intersection of fantasy and photography and combines everyday objects with shocking statistics. It has attracted the attention of corporations, like Starbucks, Dell, and Nike and has generated over 100 million views for causes like ocean plastics, electronic waste, and fashion pollution. 

If you wish more information about our programme or if you wish to book any interviews please contact Yannick Roman at