Festival Summit of the European Festival Association

This year, the EFA Festivals' Summit with its annual general meeting was held in an expanded composition, in the cities of Girona and Peralada, Spain. In addition to festival members and their representatives, the summit brought together former participants of the Festival Academy, representatives of EFFE and EFFEA HUBs and representatives of other EFA initiatives, with a total of more than 200 participants. The summit was held over four days with a full programme: panels, discussions and active participation in smaller groups and cultural activities (Girona city tour, concerts, tour of Peralada Castle) were organized in cooperation with local festivals and their representatives as well as artists they wanted to present.

The summit presented themes that focus on the business aspect of festivals, such as: building an accessible, inclusive and fair trade market; a new way of understanding the festival business: impact, success and sustainability; building societies: inclusiveness - but who, for whom, what and how?

Three relevant speakers from the ranks of festival leaders and business circles (analysts, foundations, consultants) spoke on each topic. One could hear examples of good practices and the speakers' experiences. After a whole day of presentations and discussions, the conclusion of the participants of Central and Eastern European countries was that cultural policy and the way of functioning of the entire system are created according to the needs and capabilities of western European countries and that the differences are large, in some cases insurmountable and that they do not fully meet the basic needs of the events themselves, which is why they deal with global topics to a lesser extent than their Western European counterparts, such as sustainability.

In several sessions, focus turned to Ukraine and artists and festivals that have been displaced, are even in exile trying to act and organize festivals. Raising awareness more than a year after the start of the war in Ukraine was an important segment of the summit, as it is relatively easy to continue with daily activities while such topics fall into the background. The most common problem colleagues encounter is how to reach people from Ukraine in their countries, mainly due to GDPR principles. In the working group on this topic, the Croatian Composers' Society representative Mirna Gott shared MBZ's experience with The Singing Stories project, which was well received and visibly encouraged those present to think about potential partners who would help them overcome GDPR issues, as is the case with organizations that work directly with refugees from Ukraine.

Sessions on sustainability and on making festivals "greener" were extremely interesting. Divided into smaller groups (each of which shared the experiences of their own organisations with the group), participants worked and recorded the most diverse practices and ideas that will be summarized in the EFA report on this topic. The report is not yet available.

On the same topic, at the meeting of representatives of HUBs, a pilot project from Malta (EFFE HUB, head of Davinia Galea) was presented, which would - if financed - produce a manual for festivals with all relevant information from how to calculate the carbon footprint of a festival to ideas, practices and solutions on how to reduce the negative impact of a festival on the environment.

One of the initiatives already in place is the planting of a festival forest in Iceland. You can read more about the project on the website: https://festivalsforest.eu/ This initiative can be joined by festivals which can promote the initiative and be promoted on the above web.

The EFA's annual general meeting was not elective. Admission of new festivals was confirmed, and regular reports were voted on. After the official part of the assembly, the attendees were joined by representatives of the festivals who participate in one of EFA's initiatives, but are not yet members. For them, a presentation of various aspects of EFA's work was organized, as well as a presentation on the membership benefits. Two representatives each spoke on the topics of EFFEA, FestivalFinder, Festival Academy, Perform Europe, Joining Hand and Hearts, inter-festival support, etc.

In this part, along with Joost Fonteyne (Klarafestival, Belgium), Gott had the opportunity to say something about the communication tools of EFA itself, which festivals are invited to use (such as an interview podcast featuring Margareta Ferek Petrić, available on EFA's website).

In the end, the inevitable conclusion is that two topics dominated the official and unofficial talks, namely sustainability and arts and well-being, which are also in the focus of selected topics of the European Commission relevant to shaping cultural policies, for the period 2019-2024, and which have great growth potential in the future and would be worth taking a closer look at in the context of HDS projects. MBZ has already introduced the topic of sustainability in a big way, and with the project Behind the scenes, the Composers' Society is spreading awareness of different aspects of musical art among high school students.

The next summit is in Germany, on the island of Usedom, from 12 to 15 May 2024, where there will again be an opportunity to directly participate in the work of this umbrella associatin of European Festivals.