One thing all Europeans can agree on is how much we love a music festival. From mammoth, week-long sites of pilgrimage to smaller boutique events in second cities from Graz to Ghent, the European festival scene is in rude health, with new events being added each year.
Of course, while we might be united in our passion for live music, the very nature of competition in a common market means that co-operation between organisers and promoters, can be, at best, limited. Aiming to tackle this issue head on is We Are Europe, a three-year initiative that brings together eight festivals from around the continent in the spirit of cultural exchange.
Between us, the selected festivals run the gamut from high-profile events with a large international following (Sónar and Nuits Sonores, in Spain and France, respectively) to cooperative non-profits at the foot of the Arctic Circle (Insomnia in Tromsø, Norway), and span the length and breadth of the continent, from Thessalonica’s Reworks in Greece to The Hague’s TodaysArt in the Netherlands, along with Austria’s Elevate, Germany’s c/o pop and Serbia’s Resonate.
We’re now one year into the project, and starting to see the advantages of the collaboration in a clearer light. The first, and perhaps most obvious benefit has been in terms of booking. Closer ties between the festivals has allowed us to draw on local knowledge, to identify and reach out to those acts in each territory who best fit the profile of our festival.
Of course, this network has advantages for artists as well as promoters, giving them an opportunity to play to like-minded crowds further afield.
Closer ties have allowed us to draw on local knowledge and reach out to those acts in each territory who best fit the profile of our festival
And this is by no means limited to live music. In fact, one of the characteristics all of the events in the programme share is a willingness to explore the wider ecosystem around music and creativity in all its forms through conferences, installations or networking activities. While the cultural exchange element forms the core of the project, the development of We Are Europe as a brand and platform in its own right also gives the participating festivals an online presence throughout the year, as well as generating supplementary content for use across all channels. At a time when content is king in the marketplace, this is an invaluable resource for everyone involved.
Most importantly, and thanks to the diversity of the festivals involved, the project has allowed us to build a clearer picture of the wider challenges to the festival community in Europe, likewise enabling us to better adapt by entering into these challenges together; whether this is through a greater focus on multidisciplinary or supplementary activities (workshops, conferences, installations) or how to respond to innovations in communication, inclusion in a wider network gives us all access to a larger toolbox. As the realities facing all of us within Europe continue to evolve, our hope is that by working ever-closer together, we can all work to create cultural events of an increasingly high quality: a goal we can all be proud of sharing.
We’re only in the early stages of the project, but already after a year we’re starting to see the real benefits to be had from closer collaboration. As we move into the second year, we can only see things getting better, with greater understanding of the concrete benefits to be had from collaborative thinking, and the space for introspection this provides.
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