Interview: “Culture carries the capability and the capacity for social change”

6 August 2010

In 2010, the Festival Internacional de Música y Danza de Granada opens its doors for in-depth reflection on the role of arts and culture in fostering social transformation. Eight live-streamed discussion rounds entitled “Diálogos” reflect on the topic from various angels: the June edition focused on cultural institutions as vehicles for understanding, cooperation and progress; the July “Dialogue” discussed dance as a means to foster social inclusion. In an interview with the European Festivals Association (EFA), Director Enrique Gámez underlined that today cultural festivals are “increasingly broadening their range of activities to include programmes and gatherings which contribute towards opening the dialogue, thereby becoming a relevant instrument for social change.” For the past couple of years the Granada Festival has been organising the discussion series “Diálogos” (“Dialogues”). What is it all about? What do you expect to achieve? International or intercultural dialogue is at the heart of the entire thinking behind the work of cultural Festivals. In this context, Festivals have historically carried out an essential task in public communication, educating audiences, informing people, building bridges and creating working environments for artists of the most varied tendencies, regardless of nationality or status. We live in a time when what is called for is a dialogue between cultures rather than between nations; this involves a true recognition of diversity within the territories themselves. Festivals such as this one in Granada are increasingly broadening their range of activities to include programmes and gatherings which contribute towards opening the dialogue, thereby becoming a relevant instrument for social change whose aim is tolerance and peace. 2010 is the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. To what extent do you see culture and education as instruments for social transformation – the topic of discussion of the first edition of the 2010 “Dialogues” series? We consider it to be an unquestionable fact that education and culture carry within them both the capability and the capacity for social change. That is why it is so essential to establish clearly the quality of the change to be achieved. Culture and education have the capability of either building up or bringing down a society as a direct result of the way they are employed; both cases can be observed in many examples throughout history. Culture is not merely a question of erudition or scholarship, but rather the capacity that it provides through education to select and correctly use those elements for the common good. Without culture and education the human being would lose his main ‘raison d’être’ in society. Do you think that this dialogue reaches the level of policy-making in Spain and can have an influence on it? The Granada Festival has organised ‘Dialogues’ with the approval and the backing of the governing Board of Directors which is made up of representatives of public institutions who, in turn, answer to political bodies. Moreover, participants in these events have included politicians and people linked to politics who are active contributors to the regulation of duties and rights within society. These Dialogues have attracted studio audiences of over 500 people; they have also been recorded and posted on the Internet so they have had a far wider audience. They have also attracted a lot of media attention and comment. All this data is highly encouraging and we can expect the Dialogues to have even greater repercussion right up to the end of the year. The fact that we organise this type of event gives us the authority to exercise relevant influence over society which, otherwise, would certainly not be the case. At the Granada Festival we always like to think that the bottle is half full and we try, within our capabilities, to fill it up to the top. Where do you see the possibility for Festivals to engage in social issues such as poverty, social exclusion, intercultural dialogue, etc? Is it on the level of raising awareness? Changing people’s minds? Or engagement through concrete projects? As a relevant instrument of free and multicultural societies, Festivals will always make a significant contribution towards increasing individual and general awareness through the scenic arts and by means of cultural projects, as long as their aims are clearly directed towards that goal. The staged representation or a dialogue of a dramatised scene from life are a mirror in which the spectator sees his or her reflection; we must never forget the decisive and permanent role played by culture and education in Mankind’s historic development. The absence of these key elements or their misuse have always been the hallmark of governments who have been afraid of their power for change. That is why they have had such a positive influence in the pursuit of individual and collective freedoms. In this context, within our Festivals we have active elements whose purpose it is to stage reality and to set up subjects for debate which stir the collective conscience of audiences with many and varied nuances and aims which are, at the same time, complimentary. To what extent do you benefit from initiatives at European level such as the “Open The Door” project? The term “Open The Door” in itself defines the benefit. It is necessary to open doors to multi-regional and multi-national projects, to take part in gatherings and projects which broaden society’s outlook and renew public confidence in the active and modernising role of cultural organisations. Our Festivals reach millions of spectators directly, with no intermediaries. Initiatives such as “Open The Door” create a very significant environment, at European level, for reflection and communication with the option of reaching even further through social networks. The Dialogues held in Granada, and born within the European Festival Association (EFA), have moved forward in this framework of exchange and collaboration. The interview is part of a series of interviews with festival directors in the framework of the EFA “Open The Door” project. It was published in the third edition of the FestFlash of the European Festivals Association.