A Short Read for Beirut

A Short Read for Beirut

August 10, 2020

© Photo by Sebastien Chatelier

Dear festival colleagues and friends,

 I’m mourning. I fell in love with Beirut in 2013 when I went there for the first time. For multiple reasons, for the people, friends who live there, for its beauty, its culture, its generosity, the food – of course, its diversity, its sincerity and its people’s amazing resilience…but sometimes it is just too much, no?

A country and city torn apart so many times, to go through this ruinous explosion almost as a blasting image of its current state. No country, no people deserve this…

I look at the devastation created at our partner’s venue Zoukak Theatre Company I read Tania El Khoury’s statement on Facebook – one of the amazing artists the country brought forth.

The familiarity of an explosion is not ok. Feeling disposable is not ok. Having to decide if outside or inside is safer and remembering the many times you had to decide that, is not ok. Choosing between taking a bleeding friend to a hospital and rushing to be with your family is not ok. Lying in bed with buzzing ears replaying the explosion in your head is not ok. Wishing that your baby won’t remember this, is not ok. Moving their bed away from the window in case of another explosion is not ok. Praying that their childhood will not be ruined like yours was, is not ok. Nothing about Lebanon is ok. It hasn’t been ok since we were born. And we are tired and we are enraged.

We had our first Atelier for Young Festival Managers in Beirut in 2015. Before that it had been canceled in 2013 because of political escalation between the US and Syria at the time. When we finally did go, the situation had not improved with one million Syrian refugees taken in by that time, but the relevance to go there, to support the artists working there and to create international relations, ever more, so we made it happen. It was an incredibly rich experience on the level of the participants, the cultural life we encountered, the struggles we heard and shared about, and the network we built with the country and the region since then.

We were planning to be there this December with our partners Zoukak Theatre Company and Drosos Foundation, but we had to postpone our activities to 2021 due to COVID 19. We are used to adapting and being flexible with a very small staff and organization team, we learned a lot from Beirut in this.  I’m hopeful we will meet again.

 ‘How could this happen?’ Will be one of the main questions in weeks to come. Well, it happened. It shouldn’t have. May those who are responsible for this be held accountable, for once.

My thoughts are with my friends, colleagues, the people of Lebanon.

Hope is all that’s left…rebuild, reconstruction, re-imagining. Nothing is certain, we live by the light of day….We meet, we talk, we act, we are sad, we are angry, we mourn together. Often through a screen today as international travel is still limited, but the need for connection is strong.

We are organizing online Atelier Reunions, not chronologically, randomly, at request by our alumni. We will start with the Beirut one.

Nahzun Ealayk Bayrut.

Inge Ceustermans

General Director

Do you want to support the arts and culture sector in Lebanon? Have a look at some solidarity initiatives here (updated regularly). If you wish to share other initiatives, please send an e-mail to info@thefestivalacademy.eu.