The aftermath of ‘The Time We Spent Together’ in Varna

11 September 2023

A letter from Ana to EFA and the participants of this time spent together.

Dear EFA community,
Dear participants of ‘The Time We Spend Together’,

Setting the end of the summer period 20 cultural managers and festival makers coming from the EFA community and the local cultural sphere were welcomed in Varna (Bulgaria) for a three-day get-together called ‘The Time We Spend Together’ co-organised by EFA together with the longstanding EFA Member the Varna Summer International Music Festival. This shared experience took us from the personal to the collective to which some even dared to assign a name: the “varna splashers”, giving a sense of belonging to the rest. 

It was a time in which participants were courageous enough to ‘step out of the wheel’, courageous enough to leave aside our frenetic rhythm of life and for a while not look ahead but inside, an introspective experience that allowed us to find or reconnect with our own vision. This feeling was triggered not only through the festival, its artistic offer and the beautiful surroundings of the city of Varna at the Black Sea, but also through a three-days workshop facilitated by Rarita Zbranca and Mahir Namur on the topic of arts and well-being. Rarita and Mahir carefully listened to the needs and drew a thread which built up from one day to the next one. In the midst of this workshop, participants treasured this safe space and built on it by continuing their discussions over a drink at night under the light of the full moon. Late nights for some and early swims for others, dinners altogether and dances only for the boldest ones, all this in between concerts that carried us throughout time and space from the Spanish Baroque to its Renaissance until the Modern times. It was a time of hope and connection through arts that some described in the second day as “carrying from yesterday the joy to know how easy it is to connect if care is taken care of”.  

I listened to people getting surprised, being touched, reconnecting with their inner child, doing something they had not done for so long that they had even forgotten. Varna with all that this city encompasses, starting from the Varna International Summer Festival and its wonderful people, gave us the context and hosted us in a caring and inspiring way. 

All the different parts of these days made this experience a whole: from the festival to the sea, from the concerts to the dinners in what became our favourite restaurant at the beach, to the workshop on arts and well-being and more in particular through an embodied experience difficult to translate into words. 

It was a time of rest while working in our understanding of arts and the work we endure for the benefit of our communities, of our sector and the entire society. 

Now it is time to step into the wheel again, but I hope this time we leave a foot slightly outside, to firmly step on the floor and stop if we feel the urge to do so, reminding us of our limits and choosing how far we are willing to distance ourselves from our comfort zone. 

Warm wishes,

Ana Benavides Otero