Reflection of Agnieszka Wlazel
Why do we organise festivals or art events in the public spaces? What for?
That is a good question, and not the easy one. Even us, the River//Cities partners, respond differently to it. We have received some specific replies also here in Stockholm, but not from all.
How one can organise events without knowing this answer? Well, they can. If not the answer, they need lots of money; and politicians, that will use it for public or their own good.
I like the We Are Stockholm’s mission. Europe's biggest youth festival We Are Sthlm, that is for everyone aged 13–19, takes over centrally located park Kungsträdgården. There are the popular among young audiences musicians on the main stage, but the festival features everything from a gladiator assault course and a skate park to dance workshops and Popkollo – girls’ music workshops. Youth can get stuck into their favourite pastime, try something they have never done before or dance all week long http://kulturfestivalen.stockholm.se.
Stockholm City Hall security departments created this festival, with mission to prevent young people from dangers of the big city life. This goal is still valid, so the festival is a secure place where young people can enjoy art and be active without their parents’ supervision. It would be very easy to turn an event with such an aim into boring and didactical, but it did not happen in Stockholm. Why not? The festival’s programme is created and taken care of by young people themselves. Sounds easy, but it is not easy. I can point out many youth festivals programmed by experienced cultural managers and not many that the power was delegated to youth. Can a festival planned by 30-40-50 years olds be relevant and interesting to 13-19 year olds? I am not sure. We are Sthlm curated and organised by young people is a success. Youth creates for youth and public space become alive.
Another reflection I had in Stockholm was about place and audience development.
Many festivals organised in the city centres do not think about audience development. They have huge audiences, and they have passers-bys, that become audiences. Do they use these encounters to keep those visitors coming back, or attending other art events? How one can do that?
Art in remote districts, unknown squares or less crowded waterfronts needs serious audience development effort. It is a bit easier to bring art lovers there as they are often curiously looking for new cultural adventures. Less pedestrians is there, but there are neighbours and local communities. How they react? Positively? As they are feeling safe in their own environment. Or negatively? As we, with “our art”, intrude their place? It is possibly easier to develop lasting relationship with those audiences, so if one cares about audience development less crowded and more personal encounters with art should, in my opinion, work better.
By the way have you heard about ISO20121 for Sustainable Event Management? http://www.iso.org/iso/iso20121