What happened during Module I?
Module I consisted of a 3-day workshop included practical study visits and focused on the exchange of experiences: participants exchanged knowledge and practiced with 3 experienced production managers and their peers, attended the set-up of performances, followed rehearsals and met with artists.
The Festival Academy believes that true exchanges can only happen when communication is continuous and varied. During the intense three days of Module I of the Festival Production Management Training, participants, presenters and guest speakers came together in a number of different ways: formal and informal, structured and unstructured, professional and personal.
Participants were given the chance to introduce themselves in the very first session, so that the others could begin to understand their unique perspective and background. Themes for discussion had already been identified from questions answered by the participants prior to meeting. Other topics were introduced with a presentation from a speaker before the floor was opened to questions, feeding into other debates. Some sessions began with small working groups, the conclusions of which were presented to the group. Moreover, participants dined together and had a lot of informal opportunities to make connections.
Three main presenters, Roy Luxford, Elisabeth Knauf, and Annet Lekkerkerker, not only gave presentations on their own experiences but participated in and contributed to other sessions. Additionally, long-standing The Festival Academy mentors Hugo De Greef and Nele Hertling were on hand to faciliate and share their knowledge.
Roy Luxford, Planning and Operations Director Edinburgh International Festival, spoke about his experience of coming to the Edinburgh International Festival from a theatre and dance background. He emphasised the importance of prioritising artists and artistic choices above all other aspects of the festival in order to give primary to quality and innovation, despite the practical challenges this poses.
Elisabeth Knauf, Production Manager HAU Hebbel Am Ufer, explained the unique working methods of the HAU, including commissioning, coproducing, and funding, as well as giving advice on mistakes: how to handle it when things go wrong.
Annet Lekkerkerker, Managing Director Holland Festival, joined the training on the third day to give a presentation on the Holland Festival with novel perspectives on working with sponsors, internal communication and engaging new audiences.
Roy and Elisabeth were present for all three days, meaning that participants could really make a connection and had the chance for informal as well as formal discussions.
Guest speakers from diverse backgrounds
A wide variety of guest speakers joined the proceedings at different stages, often joining the debate in addition to giving their presentations.
The team of deSingel International Arts Campus gave participants the opportunity to learn about their work on-site. Director Jerry Aerts shared deSingel's mission with participants and gave them a tour. Nathalie Douxfils introduced desingel's one-year Sabatinni training programmes for stage technicians and production assistants, while her colleague Katrijn De Wit described how deSingel are engaging young people with the Young Ones 'online media lab' for 18-25 year olds and their composition competition for 4-12 year olds. Vincent Wilms explained the challenges of production management from his experiencese at deSingel. The whole team were also present during informal periods, giving participants the chance for one-on-one conversations.
Lies Marten and Matina Magkou from Pearle* Live Performance Europe visited to introduce Pearle* and present its Online Interactive Risk Assessment tool for productions and venues.
For the session on 'Touring with artists around the world,' Valérie Martino, Artistic Coordinator and Production Executive of the LOD muziektheater, visited to share her experience of difficulties when planning in the longer-term for opera and music theatre. She was joined by Charlotte Clary, Administrator and Distribution Manager Temple Independent Theatre Company, who raised the issue of interpretation and cultural differences with different audiences and artists.
Ger Lawlor, chair of the Wexford Opera Festival, attended on the final day of the festival to contribute his experiences organising an international festival run largely by volunteers.
Productions in action
Participants enjoyed Wim Vandekeybus and Ultima Vez’s dance performance 'Speak Low If You Speak Love' on Thursday 21 January, and had the opportunity to meet Wim after the show. On the following day, his team joined the participants to exchange experiences and ideas.
On Friday 22, participants attended experimental jazz-electronic band STUFF.'s sold-out gig which took place in two parts, one seated and one standing. STUFF. were in residence in deSingel at the time.
“I was delighted to discover the course initially as it was the first course I had found on the topic and also the first course which promised practical learning (unlike many cultural management courses focusing on academic theory). I have not been disappointed! I really enjoyed the mix of hands on experience shared by participants and experts as well as the fantastic opportunity to be in a performing arts venue for the duration, experiencing production management first hand.”