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Meditative Dance

European Festivals come together in Bulgaria

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The 2nd European Atelier for Young Festival Managers, organized by European Festivals Association (EFA), was held in Varna, Bulgaria during April 26, May 3, 2009. Event motto ‘The true role of a festival is to help artists to dare, to engage in new projects…’ was chosen as the theme for the atelier, organized with the support of Varna Municipality and Varna International Summer Music Festival. 40 selected festival managers from all around Europe and the world, including Sweden, Germany, Lithuania, UK, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Latvia, China, Singapore and New Zealand, participated in the Atelier with their latest projects and presentations.


This 7-day meeting hosted experienced mentors and powerful presenters, including Hugo De Greef, Former General Secretary of EFA in Belgium, Nele Hertling, member of the strategy group “Soul for Europe” in Germany, Rose Fenton, co-founder of LIFT Festival in UK, Robyn Archer, the Artistic Director of Light in Winter Festival in Australia, Bernard Faivre d’Arcier, former director of Avignon Festival in France, Jonathan Mills, Director of Edinburgh International Festival in UK, and many others.

During the event, participants found the chance to meet organizers and managers of many renowned and new festivals from all around the world, in the field of music, contemporary performing arts, dance, as well as multidisciplinary arts; to share knowledge and experiences, and to develop fresh and innovative ideas.

Through structured discussions, panels, lectures, workshop sessions and open space debates, the Atelier provided its participators the opportunity to present their work, to discuss the challenges they face, to receive practical knowledge and guidance, to develop a broader and deeper understanding of artistic and technical issues, as well as to expand their vision with regard to culture, culture management and cultural policies and their relation to and reflections in festival making. The multinational atmosphere also contributed a lot to effective information exchange, reflecting on each participant’s experiences and questions, with an effort to form a wider framework and bring comprehensive solutions.

Cross-cultural cooperation, the ways of increasing reach and visibility of independent productions, the potential of arts and festivals for cultural tourism, the importance of cultural lobbying and building advocates for festivals, the ways of engaging the private sector, and culture politics were also among the topics discussed during the workshops and open sessions.

In the field of performing arts, managers of Stockholm Dance Festival from Sweden, Watch This Space Program from UK, Belgrade International Theater Festival from Serbia, Baltic Circle International Theater Festival from Finland, Dancing Antics Festival from UK, Kiasma Theatre’s festival from Finland and Malta International Theater Festival from Poland were among the participants of the Atelier.

In the Atelier, Turkey was represented by two festivals; Mersin International Music Festival in the field of music, and Integral Move -Istanbul International Performing Arts and Dance Festival in the field of contemporary performing arts. Mersin International Music Festival, being organized since 2002, aims to promote Turkey's artistic and cultural achievements and create an awareness of historical and cultural riches of Mersin City, within the universal world of music. On the other hand, Integral Move Festival, which is organized for the first time in scope of 2010 European-Off Meeting in European Capital of Culture, Istanbul with the participation of Physical Theatre Makers, Independent Performers, Dance groups and Body circus shows from all around Europe, aims to provide a further opportunity to develop artistic cooperation and mobility within Europe, especially in new member and candidate states; with the idea that arts can be an effective tool to advance understanding and dialogue by creating new forms of communication. As Robyn Archer also emphasized during the event, arts has the power to initiate a large scale transformation by paving the way for organic change.

During the event, it became apparent that management of festivals or cultural events and initiatives cannot be conceived separately from their artistic content and socio-political ingredients, which makes it necessary to align organizational efforts with artistic needs, social trends, as well as cultural policies and initiatives in the broader sense; to be inspired and challenged by them, and at the same time, to influence and challenge them.

In addition to providing specific training and guidance, EFA Atelier also reflected the rising efforts in networking in the field of culture and arts, which in turn, contributes to the cultural and social integration process throughout the EU. Participation in these kinds of meetings and trainings are a part of effective networking for organizations and interest groups, since they act as an open platform for representation and an opportunity to have a voice, the importance of which is stressed further during the meeting.

Finally, as an umbrella organization of festivals in Europe, EFA was successful in bringing the next generation of festival makers together, to take the lead in providing a platform for artistic development and for intercultural dialogue, which is something that belongs to EFA’s mission since its inception, as noted in EFA’s welcome message for the Atelier.

Thanks to EFA for this diligent organization and to Varna Municipality for their warm welcome and hospitality during the event.

Derya Yuksek

Simya Sanat