Go to Travelling Academy 2018 Resource Base
Our latest Travelling Academy kicked off on an October morning in cultural centre Ambasada, along the Bega canal in the outskirts of Timisoara. As rain poured onto the huge windows of the former hat factory, we greeted representatives of members from Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland or the Czech Republic, some of whom we were meeting in person for the first time. Our speakers were from Serbia, Italy, the Basque Country, Germany, and of course Romania - as were many participants from the Timisoara cultural scene.
European Capitals of Culture are interesting points of intersection between local and European cultural policy. In the kickoff speeches and debate, Simona Neumann and Chris Torch, from the Timisoara 2021 team, spoke of their desire to raise citizen engagement and awareness of Europe, and to push the local cultural sector beyond its comfort zone. On the other hand, some stakeholders from Timisoara told us they felt they had lost ownership of the ECOC process, which they saw as lacking fundraising and failing to support local initiatives.
"All around Europe, the balance of power is shifting. Public authorities are loosing their spending power, and if we can show them that our way of doing things works, then they are ready to listen."
The need for empowerment and self-confidencence, and the idea of reinforcing them through local cooperation, was a recurrent theme. “You have to strengthen your confidence, and you are more confident when you are allied with others”, said Eleonor Hefner, from Insel Sommer (DE). “Don’t go begging to public authorities”, advised Chris Torch. “Build coalitions in your local context so that they come to you, looking for the votes and political activism that you can bring. Or they will try to crush you, which can also be good for energy.” Vittorio Bianco from Rete de Case del Quartiere (IT) explained: “Our audiences are not just audiences. They’re involved in the management of the centres. They also come to pick up food they've bought together and to get information on their social security. It's a liquid environment. And their involvement is a strong point in the relationship with local authorities.” He added: “All around Europe, the balance of power is shifting. Public authorities are loosing their spending power, and if we can show them that our way of doing things works, then they are ready to listen.”
Milan Vracar from Kulturanova (SE) spoke of local networks as crucial to cultural survival in postwar and austerity contexts, and of the importance of finding the right representatives to speak for a coalition. Helga Massetani Piemonte from Mugakide (FR/ES) listed some necessary qualities for organisations to cooperate (complementary resources, connections and contacts; shared interests, ways of operating and conceptual lines), and some pros and cons of networking. For instance, “Sharing a calendar that takes into account each structure’s existing programmes is a key tool for optimising resources, expenses, and admin and production time”.
“What is a network?” asked Eleonor Hefner. “It's foggy. It's fluid, dynamic, always developing. You don't always need it, but it's always there. That's why you need to take care of it.”
“What is a network?” asked Eleonor Hefner. “It's foggy. It's fluid, dynamic, always developing. You don't always need it, but it's always there. That's why you need to take care of it.” Helga Massetani confirmed the nebulous aspect and the necessity of highlighting “processes that recognise that positions are relative, provisional, variable, experimental, shifting and evolving”.
The study visits that followed the discussions were too rich and varied to be detailed here. We’ll just say that Ambasada, the organisation that hosted our meeting was a compelling study case of how a network is born - in this case, through other projects, with compromises, through acting as informal intermediaries between artists, with hybrid business and social plans, but also unlimited and unpaid goodwill and energy. “We hadn’t actually realized we were a local network”, said Andreea Iager-Tako, one of the organisation's founders. “We’re social artesans”, said Vittorio Bianco. “These skills are not something you learn at school.”
Speakers presentations, photos and more are available on our Travelling Academy Resource Base.
Travelling Academy 2018 was held on October 24-25 in Timisoara, Romania. The topic was "Build your local network [and keep it alive]! The panel on ECOCs and local networks with Chris Torch and Milan Vracar was moderated by Andrei Popov.
Study visits included Basca/Solidart, MISC, Beta Architecture Biennal, Timis County Youth Foundation, Triade Foundation /Jecza Gallery, the Museum of Communist Consumers and the Hungarian State Theatre.
Thanks to Andreea Iager-Tako, Raluca Iacob, Simona Neumann and Chris Torch for their warm welcome and help setting up the meeting. Many thanks also to Natalie Giorgadze and the Culture Action Europe office in Brussels.