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Closing News on the Atelier for Young Festival Managers, Johannesburg, 23 - 29 March 2018

The 13th edition of the Atelier for Young Festival Managers, was officially closed on Thursday 29 March in The Market Theatre, Johannesburg, South Africa. The first edition taking place in Africa and in the Global South was organised by The Festival Academy (an initiative of the European Festivals Association, EFA) in partnership with the Market Theatre Foundation and the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Arts.

We are delighted to give some last insights on the Atelier Johannesburg. Thanks to the engagement of 25 participants coming from 13 different countries, mentors from across the globe and guest speakers from South Africa, the Atelier has planted seeds for exciting international exchanges and long-term collaborations amongst the next generation of festival managers. Darko Brlek, President The Festival Academy Board and Artistic and General Director Ljubljana Festival - Slovenia, encouraged the participants to put ideas for collaboration into practice and to consider the creation of an African Festivals Association with a global outreach.

The Atelier Johannesburg was facilitated by Mike Van Graan (President of the African Cultural Policy Network), who designed the programme of the Atelier together with The Festival Academy. During the 7 days the participants drafted proposals on toolkits for sustainable festivals, identified characteristics of a good leader, a good festival and a good festival manager. They discussed their dream festivals with international mentors, worked on a protocol for more equal collaborations between Global South and Global North and participated in panels on themes as for example ‘Festivals, diversity and cultural chauvinism’ or ‘Festivals as agents of change’.

“I’m delighted to have been involved in this Atelier Johannesburg because in the context of today’s increasingly polarised world, we need to be having conversations across the divides that alienate us from each other. Often, dialogues about addressing key global challenges happen in the Global North and on their terms. The fact that this Atelier with a majority of festival managers from the Global South is happening in Africa in particular, helps to shift the conversation in the direction of solidarity and more equitable partnerships.”                                                                                     

Mike Van Graan

Outside the theatre there were ample opportunities to gain more insights into the history of the country and the arts scene of Johannesburg, thanks to visits of the Apartheid Museum and Soweto, The Windybrow Arts Centre (welcomed by its Head, Keitu Gwangwa), the Centre for the Less Good Idea (welcomed by William Kentridge and Bronwyn Lace) and a meeting with Leila Heinriques, Director of the musical ‘Hani: The Legacy’ after the performance in The Market Theatre.  

During the official closing ceremony participants were waved goodbye by Keitu Gwangwa, Head Windybrow Arts Centre, in the name of Ismail Mahomed, Chief Executive Officer the Market Theater Foundation - South Africa, Brett Pyper, Associate Professor and Head of School at University of the Witwatersrand School of the Arts - South Africa and Darko Brlek, President The Festival Academy Board and Artistic and General Director Ljubljana Festival – Slovenia. Participants of the Atelier Johannesburg Ross Millard (Sunderland MAC Trust - Summer Streets Festival) and Rasheeda Nalumoso and Nikissi Serumaga (32º East | Ugandan Arts Trust) were invited to address the audience with their statements on what the Atelier meant to them. 

To conclude the official closing ceremony, Inge Ceustermans, Managing Director The Festival Academy - Belgium, highlighted the significance of this first Atelier in Africa:

“This first Atelier in Africa has been exceptional on many levels. First of all in the diversity of the group of 25 emerging festival managers coming from 13 countries, a wonderful group of people, all strong activist voices, with a majority coming from Africa which has influenced the dialogues and the perspective of what sustainable festivals can be, related to the conditions of a country, a nation and within the global context of today where the challenges of a nation or a continent are globally interrelated. Tough questions have been put on the table and issues have been addressed directly and I’m sure participants will go back home transformed which will affect their festivals and the work they are doing in their communities.”

Under the facilitation of Mike Van Graan (President of the African Cultural Policy Network) participants worked with leading festival professionals: Ismail Mahomed (Chief Executive Officer the Market Theater Foundation - South Africa), Mantse Aryeequaye (Co-Director at Accra [Dot] Alt, Chale Wote Street Art Festival - Ghana), Carole Karemera (Artistic Director Ishyo Arts Centre - Rwanda), Cristina Fuentes (International Director Hay Festival - UK/ South America), Carmen Romero (Executive Director Santiago a Mil International Festival - Chile), Annet Lekkerkerker (Director Holland Festival - The Netherlands), Brett Pyper (Associate Professor and Head of School at University of the Witwatersrand School of the Arts - South Africa). The following South African guest speakers joined the Atelier for a panel on South African festivals: Yvette Hardie, ASSITEJ Director South Africa, Siphiwe Ngwenya, Curator & Founder The Maboneng Township Arts Experience, Ricardo Peach, Director Vrystaat Kunstefees/Arts Festival/Tsa-Botjhaba and Mandisi Sindo, Theatre4Change Arts Project.

Follow the Atelier Johannesburg online:

On The Festival Academy website where participants will share some first-hand insights.

  • Latest news and pictures are published on Facebook
  • twitter: #AtelierJohannesburg
  • Closing Ceremony Speech Inge Ceustermans, Managing Director of The Festival Academy
  • Closing Ceremony Speech Ismail Mahomed, Chief Executive Officer The Market Theatre Foundation

The Atelier Johannesburg is organised in partnership with the Market Theatre Foundation and the University of Witwatersrand’s School of Arts.

The Festival Academy and the European Festivals Association thank for their structural support the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.

We thank the following for the support of participants: Arts Council Korea, Belgian Embassy of South Africa, DOEN Foundation – The Netherlands, French Institute South Africa – IFAS, Goethe Institute South Africa, National Arts Council of South Africa, Swiss Arts Council - Pro Helvetia Johannesburg, Spanish Embassy of South Africa.