TRANSEUROPA Festival is shedding its old skin and emerging anew. We want to explain why and how the festival has changed, and to invite our community and partners to join us in making #TEF15 the success we want it to be.
At European Alternatives, we believe that in the face of new obstacles and challenges, one must innovate, renew and create. This is true of the European project in general, but also applies to EA’s activities. The organisation questions itself and examines how best to develop and increase our reach. And in so doing, we determine the way forward.
Politics is greater than the mere act of ‘policy making’. Politics should be a controversial space, informed by different experiences and realised by a broad range of societal actors. This is why the role of artists, creatives, academics and activists from Europe and beyond is central to our goal of imagining, demanding and enacting a new Europe. The festival provides the space for this form of collaboration.
From 2007 to 2009 the festival was held in London. Activists from across Europe wanted to bring the festival to their cities in order to connect with their local audience. What followed was weekends of collaboration among activists across Europe to jointly plan a truly transnational festival. Their hard work paid off and for four years in a row, the festival was held simultaneously in as many as 13 cities.
The success of the festival relied on local groups made up of activists who had both conceived and organised the event. The amount of energy that went into and came out of the planning was amazing. But some fatigue sank in as well, and we had to reassess how best to reach the festival’s objectives while keeping energy going from one edition to the other.
The festival has always aimed to provide a transnational space, as well as to promote the transnationalisation of people and organisations. It is the standard that we set for ourselves. But as those who work transnationally know, the logistical challenges are significant, and there is no reference book to turn to. Success comes through hard work, experimentation, learning from mistakes and a little bit of luck.
One of the main difficulties of the simultaneous multi-city format that surprised us most was that of the exchange between people from different cities. They were too focused on creating a successful event in their own location to meaningfully connect with their counterparts in other cities during the festival period. We learned that – for organisers and activists – the most meaningful transnational interactions took place in the planning meetings, not the festival itself. For the audience, the symbolism of a multi-city festival and the opportunity to exchange with people from all over Europe without travelling remains strong.
We discovered that a simultaneous opening event and closing forum were the most successful transnational elements of the festival. The opening event is a common celebration and its synchronisation can be staged to create a symbolic common shared moment among participants.
Due to this success, #TEF15 will again begin with a transnational opening event that offers opportunities for activists to gather in different European cities. Some will journey on to Belgrade for the main festival. So as not to lose the richness of a participant driven festival, we are asking participants to co-create the festival in Belgrade. There will also be several outreach events after the festival.
Shifting the festival activities from a multi-city to a single-city event was not an easy decision, but one pursued out of necessity and a willingness to gather forces in order to be able to strengthen the format in the coming years. Our funding changed, so in 2015 we do not have the resources to organise the necessary planning meetings in multiple cities, for multiple people.
The festival this year will be different to previous years. Future years will also be different, as we continue to seek funding to support a far-reaching event and experiment with ways to bring a transnational agenda to local audiences. And as we continue to listen to the needs of our community.