1st Nordic-Baltic Festival Meeting
1st Nordic-Baltic Music Festival Conference in Reykjavik
5-7 October 2011
The conference was opened by Steinunn Birna Ragnarsdottir, Music Director of Harpa, and Asta Magnusdottir, Icelandic Ministry of Culture, who welcomed the delegates warmly to Reykjavik and to the concert hall. "The focus of this first Nordic-Baltic festival conference is our cultural collaboration, its validity and future possibilities."
Franz Patay, Secretary General of the International Music and Media Centre in Vienna Managing Director of the Kunsthaus Wien
Based on his experiences as executive director of the “Vienna Mozart Year 2006”, Mr Patay offered an outline of the role of art in future Europe.
PRESENTATIONS BY THE PARTICIPATING ORGANISATIONS:
1. ICELAND – Arndis B. Ásgeirsdottír
2. ESTONIA – Marko Löhmus, Tallinn Philharmonic Society
3. DENMARK – Jörgen Boe, Vendsyssel Festival, Björn Ross, Copenhagen Renaissance Music Festival & Sine Tofte Hannibal, The Danish Composer’s Society
4. LATVIA – Guntars Kirsis, Latvian Concerts & Astra Sefere, The Riga Opera Festival
5. NORWAY – Tone Ystanes, Norway Festivals
6. GREENLAND – Najaaraq Möller, Aasivik Music Festival
7. FINLAND – Kai Amberla, Finland Festivals
8. LITHUANIA – Ruta Pruseviciené, Vilnius Festival and The National Philharmonic Society of Lithuania
9. SWEDEN – Peter Eriksson, Swedish Music Festivals
10. THE FAROE ISLANDS – Kristian Blak, Summartonar
11. FESTIVALS IN EUROPE AND THE FESTUDY PROJECT – Jan Ove Hafstad
Moderated by Steinunn Birna Ragnarsdottir
Jan Ove Hafstad, Swedish Music Festivals Kai Amberla, Finland Festivals Ruta Pruseviciené, Vilnius Festival & National Philharmonic Society of Lithuania Franz Patay, International Music and Media Centre in Vienna & Kunsthaus Wien together with the conference delegates
The discussion was opened with the question of whether the participating organisations have anything in common, and a natural point of departure was that everyone present is convinced that culture and art is important. The challenge is finding ways of collaborating as well as learning and benefiting from each other’s best practices, of joining efforts, and turning ideas into practical projects. Since lasting values are now in demand in society, and music might be said to be one of the most lasting things there are, now may be a good time to do all this. The meeting offered a possibility to discuss the validity of a deeper collaboration between the participating organisations and ways of channelling this collaboration. The goal of the discussion was for a tangible result to come out of the conference.
The validity of collaboration may be defined through two main strands of activities, one administration and financing, the other artistic content and programming. There is much to be gained from cooperating in both these fields, for instance through sharing the costs of bringing international artists to the area, or joining forces to have more negotiating power with large sponsors or partners. The need to secure financial grounds is something all festival arrangers have in common, as is the insecurity of not being able to plan ahead. A stronger cooperation may greatly improve the chances of achieving long-term contracts of financing.
The Nordic-Baltic region is currently important in many ways, and culture is a prominent part of the vision of many of the countries represented at the conference. Collaboration projects between these countries are also interesting on different levels – the fact that the conference received money from Nordisk Kulturfond (The Nordic Culture Fund) indicates this. There may be several possibilities of receiving support from Nordic funds and it should be clearly shown that cooperation between festivals is something new and exciting. The European Commission is currently deciding on a strategy for the Baltic region which might also mean new opportunities.
It is clear that there is an intellectual value in a collaborative network of some kind, since many ideas, artistic as well as administrative, are born through discussions and meetings between festivals. Working with events that set trends, festival managers in a sense have to know what the audiences want to listen to before they themselves do.
From the artist’s point of view, a Nordic-Baltic festival network could be very positive and offer opportunities of allowing a production to circulate between several countries. Artists often find ways of collaborating, and this could be a way of supporting and helping them.
As a start, it is agreed that a database, e-mail group or online community of all the participating festivals is to be created, where discussions can continue. This is not a formal creation of a new network or alliance, but a way to continue what has been begun here and a first step towards exchanging ideas and creating collaborative projects. This means initially focusing on an intellectual and creative network – an unofficial Nordic festival alliance – which may then be developed and continued. There is already a strong section of Nordic festival associations within EFA, and the suggested collaboration between the participants might benefit from using this network, which is a good channel for networking and lobbying, as a platform. The festival survey undertaken by EFA may also prove a useful tool in discovering what possible collaborative partners there are for different festivals.
The second tangible beginning agreed upon was a document, a common statement, which shows that cooperation exists between the organisations present at the conference. This is a document of support for the participating festivals to use in their further work on a local level, addressed to politicians. The statement serves to highlight that a valid and important cooperation has been initiated, and that the organisations who have signed it represent a joint force. The hope is that it can be a tool in explaining the importance of arts and culture to those who do not see it as clearly as the participating organisations do, and that it can be a first step in exploring how mobilisation can be used to promote culture.
Additional concrete ideas brought forward were:
Organising joint Nordic-Baltic conferences every year or every second year. This is already common practice for museums and theatres.
Exchanging knowledge and experience through guest producers or curators. This brings new input to all parties involved and increases understanding of how our festival organisations work.
Creating a structure for supporting travelling productions and giving ensembles the opportunity of performing the same programme several times. Festivals can receive information about prospective projects and ensembles and join in collaborative agreements. This is beneficial for the artists as well as financially efficient for the producers. A “Nordic Express” would create a platform for festivals to work together as well as a possibility of showcasing more ensembles and orchestras to the audience, thus creating new names in the music life. Funding is of course an obstacle that needs to be considered, which may prevent smaller festivals from being able to join.
Creating a network that highlights what is going on in the Nordic-Baltic region, perhaps through a website.
Two aspects of collaborating and promoting the activities of the participating organisations emerged during the discussion in relation to the question of identity. The first aspect, which is an objective for many of the festivals, is to introduce the world to the audience at home, and to encourage exchange. This is reflected for instance in bringing artists and projects from the rest of Europe and the world to the Nordic festivals. The second aspect is showing the uniqueness of the place to a visiting audience. The ideas introduced suggest that there may be a balance to be found between providing possibilities for bringing international artists to perform in the Nordic festivals and finding and promoting what is creatively and artistically unique for this region. It was suggested that there is a possibility of using a collaborative platform to market and promote the Nordic area in a wider sense as well, something that further encourages potential international visitors to decide to come, perhaps by focusing on something specific for the area, for instance the concept of “Sound and silence”.
The discussion on identity proved challenging and raised questions about what is meant by “the Nordic countries”, whether there is a Nordic-Baltic identity, what it looks like if there is one, and whether, if it exists, it is something the organisations want to communicate. Thoughts that emerged were that the idea of the “Nordic” area should involve the whole north (including for instance Alaska and Canada), that inhabitants and visitors look for and experience different things and that both aspects are important, that the identity of an area is in the eye of the beholder (as in the case of the “Nordic light”), and that ways of explaining what the terms “Nordic” and “Baltic” mean to the rest of the world may be needed. At the same time, many participants seemed to be agreed on that the objective of the collaboration is not to identify or create a common identity, but to find a common agenda that can, in the best possible way, help the participating organisations to highlight and develop their activities in this region.
Something all the organisations have in common is a considerable national variety in festivals, together with the need to be versatile. This is an asset, and perhaps leads to a word that provides a common artistic identity: diversity. It was also suggested that a common denominator could be the approach to creativity, which is something that is appreciated and encouraged throughout the Nordic region. Perhaps this idea of creativity is something to gather around. It is a concept that also holds an important place in society today.
Throughout the presentations as well as the discussions, a strong interest in pursuing possibilities of cooperation could be traced, and a hope of future meetings expressed.