Diversity, Community and Festival Interviewing Inge Ceustermans (Part 2)

On the last blog, Inge Ceustermans introduces us to the European Festivals Association’s (EFA) The Festival Academyfrom which we learned the importance of diversity to the academy. But how does The Festival Academy create such a metropolitan learning environment?

Venue is intrinsic to the structure of The Festival Academy, and the event is hosted in different parts of the world each season. Previously hosted cities included: Johannesburg, Chiang Mai, Budapest, Gwangju and more. Shifting  the geographical context can engage participants from different backgrounds, which enhances the accessibility of the academy as participants will no longer be geographically restricted to join this global network established by EFA. Inge thinks the academy in Johannesburg is a pertinently successful example:

‘The Academy in Johannesburg is the first edition that happened in the global south. It is very important to move the dialogue there, as immediately we can see the increase in participants from the Africa continent; which is very exceptional. This changes the perspective of the dialogue completely.’

Such process of diversification is still on-going, however, as show in the pie chart below, The Festival Academy already has a fairly diverse network:

2018 Repartition of the Atelier for Young Festival Manager Alumni per continent

However, creating such diverse environment is never easy. Cultural differences can be a barrier sometimes, and Inge shared an anecdote about an alumna who struggled to make her teammates fit into her shoes due to their different backgrounds. Therefore, working in such a diverse environment sometimes is about negotiation, comprising and managing expectations. To resolve problems like this, Inge believes the next step of diversification is to step out of the Eurocentric mind-set and create a reciprocal dialogue instead of just one-way ‘lecturing’. Hosting events outside of Europe is a way to diversify the participants. As well as that, Inge believes it is also important to diversity the structure of the festival:

‘Sometimes participants have difficulties in translating the conditions that they are working in. That’s why we want a more diverse group of speakers so that these international participants feel like they are more represented; creating an environment where everyone is culturally sensitive. And this is what I want to change. I want equal representation on all levels, including the speakers, the mentors, the participants and the board members.’

The European Festivals Association’s (EFA) The Festival Academy is, in my opinion, very symbolic, as it marks the flourish of the global community and the merge of different countries. It is a platform which celebrates diversity, multiculturalism, and most importantly, unity. I would like to finish this blog with a quote from an alumna who joined The Festival Academy:

I find [The festival academy] to be a space to leave aside the differences and identify all that we share. As many of us echoed, a focus on what is similar within our contexts, within our processes of work, how we feel and our belief, gives us the valuable opportunity to open our minds, leave behind stereotypes and biases we have collected unconsciously over the years, to identify multiple reference points to read and listen to each other and find ourselves in a position to transform through generosity.

Virkein Dahr, participant of the Atelier Chiang Mai 2016

Click here to learn more about the European Festival Association’s The Festival Academy, and check out their upcoming events.

Follow The Festival Academy on Facebook  now!

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