In a brief introduction, the facilitator Dusica Parezanovic summarized the issues involved in cross-border projects, to be discussed in the workshop (see Discussion below). Before discussing these questions, two case studies of concrete cross-border exchange projects were presented by guest speakers:
Case study 1: La Grainerie (Balma, Toulouse) – presented by Hélène Métailié
La Grainerie is a circus and travelling arts factory based in Balma, outside Toulouse, France, dedicated to developing the circus industry and to assisting players involved in circus activities.
It also acts as a social network, based on diversity and solidarity.
Its values: A community arts approach, based on diversity and the social economy.
Its major areas of activities: Promotion of artistic development projects to spread circus arts and develop cultural and social actions.
La Grainerie has been recently involved in three EU-funded cross-border projects, including a 3-year project in 2008-2011 called “Cir que o!”. This was a cross-border cooperation project between Spain, France and Andorra, jointly funded by the EU Interreg programme and by Progtiva [sic??]. It involved a total of 40 private and public players, local programmers, creation centres and town councils, etc., on both sides of the Pyrenees, which shared its artistic, creative, cultural and economic aims. Its target recipients were mainly professional circus artists and agents, young artists, circus school students, amateur artists, etc. Actions included a network of social economy incubators that support circus arts or economic projects, and “Circus in transhumance”, a promotional travelling circus festival.
The three-year Cir que o! project has ended, but La Grainerie has presented a new project, and is waiting for the decision on its application.
Case study 2: Kulturfabrik (Luxembourg) – presented by Céline Suel
The Kulturfabrik centre is in southern Luxembourg, just five minutes away from France.
The greater cross-border region consists of five areas - the Lorraine area of France, German-speaking Saarland, Luxembourg, Rhineland-Palatinate, and French-speaking Belgium - covering four countries, with three languages (Luxembourgish, French and German) and a population of 11 million.
Kulturfabrik is a creative arts centre. It provides artists’ residencies and is a pilot centre for sustainable development. 50% of the audiences come from cross-border countries, mainly from France. It aims are to change mentalities, to promote artists, and to develop a survival strategy.
Kulturfabrik has at least two partners in each area, including many local artists and administration institutions. Its challenges include: the differences in administration structures between the State, Region, town, etc.; very strong intercultural differences and language barriers; and the imbalance between areas (there are many more arts organisations in Luxembourg and in the French Lorraine region than in the other areas).
Two concrete examples of Kulturfabrik’s cross-border projects
The first project concerned Tasuma Nasrin, an exiled Bengali writer. World-famous for her feminist views and her criticism of religion, she campaigns for secular humanism, equality for women, and human rights, by publishing and lecturing. This project took place in May 2011, with the collaboration of over ten political and arts organisations from two countries. The writer met students in Luxembourg and women from all social and political horizons, and took part in literary events, etc.
The second project, “Symphony for Flower Pots, Wine Glasses & Vuvuzelas”, also took place in May 2011. This collaboration project for children involved two French administration bodies, two French schools, an arts centre and a music ensemble from Luxembourg, and a German composer. The aim was to help children to discover other worlds of art, language and culture. After training for one week with two artists, they gave a final concert in front of parents, some of whom had never been to an arts venue.
The main long-term aim of this project was to change people’s mentalities in Europe.
A discussion addressed the questions raised by the facilitator’s introduction and the case studies, as well as other issues raised by the participants, summarized below (More details of the discussion are provided in the Long Summary below).
Why do we get involved in a cross-border project?: To broaden our vision and our minds, and to change mentalities. To break down or jump over barriers. To learn from, about and with others. To develop new ideas and improve ways of doing things.
We must face the challenges of differences and complementarities: We must overcome differences and obstacles between partners in exchanges. Where possible, we can turn to advantage certain complementarities, such as cultural differences. We must find shared aims, common interests and joint methods with partners, while respecting the identify of each party. In working with other cultures, it is important to make a good choice of partners, to progress gradually in small steps, and to know our partners well. It is best to work with reliable partners whom we know and trust. We must build relationships with them to ensure that we work together towards the same goals with the same priorities.
Compromise is needed: We must accept, respect and reconcile our partners’ different working practices and habits, etc. while being aware of the dangers of poor communication or misunderstandings between partners. A lot of collective discussion is needed. Modern tools can facilitate communication, but some may also cause or exacerbate communication problems.
Partners must participate equally, sharing the same attitudes, aims and interests, with a balance between their respective contributions to and benefits from the project.
The slow, complex process of applications: A lot of time is required for processing an application for funding. As part of one cross-border project, it may be better to submit several national applications for funding, rather than central EU funding.
Focus on the idea first, rather than on funding: We should devise a project first and then look for funding for it, rather than looking for available funding first and then devising a project to suit it. We should focus on the real quality of a project’s content and the idea behind it. We must focus on what we want to do, and beware of being used to promote other ends.
To meet the needs, not only of our organisation, but of our audience, we must obtain feedback from the audience and/or recipients regarding their reactions to the project. Evaluation of projects is required by funding programmes. But we must not confuse feedback with evaluation.
What are the benefits of a cross-border project? After a cross-border project, you should ask yourself what you gained or learned through it. The benefits of a project may be entered in a “dictionary” of suggested key points (listed in the long summary below).
In the facilitator’s concluding words, a cross-border project is beneficial because it promotes growth on all levels, and personal growth and development are the most important things.
Peter Mc Cavana
Text written on the basis of discussions in Bordeaux on 28/10/2011 during the workshop on “Crossborder exchange”
Coordination Trans Europe Halles and ARTfactories/Autre(s)pARTs