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13 November: opening of the 16th Atelier for Young Festival Managers NEXT 2019

Yesterday night 13 November 2019 the 16th edition of the Atelier for Young Festivals Managers taking place in the Eurometropolis region of Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai and Valenciennes (BE/FR), organised in partnership with the International Arts Festival NEXT, officially started with a public opening event in Lille (FR), Palais de la Bourse.

The 35 festival managers coming from 25 different countries and all continents were welcomed by Benoit Geers, Coordinator NEXT Festival, Nathalie Le Corre (Director Espace Pasolini Valenciennes) and Irène Peucelle (Conseillère régionale déléguée, region Hauts-de-France). The Atelier programme strongly relates to the local context where it is taking place and part of it is to experience first-hand the unique festival model of the cross-border NEXT Festival and meet with its organisers and the local artistic scene. 

Inge Ceustermans (General Director The Festival Academy) introduced the Atelier and The Festival Academy.

The tone for the 7 days was set by a keynote panel reflecting on the role of festivals and the arts in our contemporary world, facilitated by Mike Van Graan (President African Cultural Policy Network) with Airan Berg (Artistic Director and Theatre Maker - Festival der Regionen in Upper Austria), Andrea Caruso Saturnino (Director Cena Aberta, Sao Paulo) and Danny Yung (Founding member and Co-Artistic Director Zuni Icosahedron - Hong Kong).

In the light of us being in a space of a festival taking place in 3 different regions the keynote panel is composed of festival managers coming from challenged regions as Brazil, Hong Kong and Austria where popular protest is taking place and impacting. Part of the panel was to look at the relationship between popular protest and how artists and the artistic scene are responding to and being impacted by it - Mike Van Graan.

Andrea Caruso Saturnino highlighted the fact that arts and culture are about thinking together, collaborating and opening up. Art is meant to change the future, to keep the feet just a little bit up from the ground. Danny Yung added that we should question ourselves on how to bring culture into politics, economics and education. The future of festivals is to advocate for critical thinking.  Airan Berg focused on the fact that frustration leads to isolation which is the cancer of our society. Therefore, we need to foster participation in order to break the ice and overcome phenomena such as nationalism, generated by this feeling of frustration.

The opening ceremony was only the start of what is promising to become an enriching exchange between participants, mentors and guest speakers from across the globe concerning amongst others digitisation, the impact of festivals on local communities and (their) environment, audience development, diversity, inclusion, climate change, freedom of expression and movement, the future generations of artists and the need for a sustainable, growing and impactful community.

‘Part of the mission of The Festival Academy is also to see how, from festivals, and together with other organisations who strive for democracy and democratic values, we can act together from civil society in a joint effort. How can we strengthen each other’s initiatives and what can we create from a joint public space? It is thanks to the work of so many artists, festivals, foundations as present here today that things have already changed, that situations are looking up, that life’s of people have been improved. How can we contribute to that with festivals from this platform The Festival Academy offers?” -  Inge Ceustermans.

You can read Inge Ceustermans’ speech here.

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Copyright pictures Camille Graule.