We gather in what looks from the outside like an office block from the 1960’s, though it was constructed in 1973. From the other side it reveals a more industrious purpose. It was a former factory which, in the Cold War times, made the guidance systems for rockets. Today it is rented out to a variety of small businesses – on the top floor is a centre for photography – our host for the first workshops – with different spaces for printing, a library, meeting rooms and an exhibition space.
Weronika and Agnieszka gave a brief introduction to the workshop, reminding participants that this was an opportunity to fine tune their project proposals (and welcoming some fresh participants). Following the development of the proposals, in the new year there would be the opportunity to submit them for potential funding. The intention of the Borderland School is to assist at least one project to be realised in each country from April onwards.
In morning session, participants were interviewed by Chris and Willemijn after a short demonstration where they interviewed each other about their respective projects in Amsterdam – the Read My World literary festival and The Tolhuistuin, covering their motivation and inspiration, their contexts for their work, target groups and audiences and, as importantly, communication skills. They stressed that it is not an easy task to tell the story of your project in short sentences, in a short space of time, to say what it is and why it is important, and this is a skill to develop – and these workshops will provide a continuing opportunity to do that.
Starting the afternoon session Chris and Willemijn shared a couple of projects – one which was still in the making as a new literary initiative and one which a music festival that had started small in scale and now extremely popular and profitable.
The first example was from Utrecht – Cultural Sundays – which they described as a programme intended to be easily accessible to a wide range of people – ‘entertainment but with some thought’. As part of a Sunday in November an event called Visiting the Book (Op bezoek bij het boek) would be taking place. This would be a series of readings by authors in people’s houses, or in libraries, restuarants, different kinds of spaces. It was a format that is replicable, a great way to introduce new audiences to literature – which was a particular concern for some of the participants.
The second example was Into The Great Wide Open, a music festival for all ages on Vlieland, an small island in Northern Netherlands, which had started out as a very small event – almost you might say for family and friends – the initiative of a guy who had a record label, who went on holiday there regularly with his kids.
(Note from Brendan: another example might be The Goat Milk Festival in Bela Rechka, a small village with less than 500 (mostly elderly) people in the mountains of northern Bulgaria, which began over 10 years ago with a small group of cultural professionals visited the village where their grandparents came from and decided it would be a great idea to reconstitute the traditional village sabor (festival) in May, an event which had not been organised since communist times.)
Chris then told the group about the time a few years ago, when he was writing the final proposals to gain support for his arts centre, and at the last moment felt that there was a vital ingredient missing. So he decided to write ‘A Day in the Life’ of the centre, imagining what it would be like in a year’s time, once it had opened.
Extract from: A day in the life of Tolhuistuin
8:14 Uncle Abdel is cleaning up the garden, together with the students of the high school next door, who have joined our maintenance team. Scattered all over the garden, they find the colored balloons of Malika’, who had her 8th birthday party here yesterday.
9:08 Piet and Jaap, two retired harbor workers, have a cup of coffee at their fixed spot at the window of our cafe, overlooking the water.
10:00 The alarm bell goes off in the artist residency in the former building of the Shell medical service. Erzen Shkololli, video artist from Kosovo, has been editing til 4 o’clock in the morning on his short film about an Albanian marriage in our neighborhood – and turns over, because he decides he deserves a little more sleep.
10:05 Slight confusement in the meeting room in our main pavilion. Both the intercultural committee of the Foundation for Literature and the management team of Mentrum (arts&culture for people with a mental handicap) have rented the space for their meeting. Touria, our manager, solves the situation. From the kitchen ladies arrive with platters of coffee and baklava.
12:10 Ellen welcomes a gallery owner from Perpignan in her ceramic atelier in the former security building. The French lady finds her way through the tiny new Picasso’s from the primary school around the corner, who are fingerpainting on the floor, coached by Saskia of Noordjes Kid’s Art. Sarien decides to close her office door, to be able to have a concentrated meeting with her partners from three other cities in Holland about the national young poets competition, that she will organize in our main hall next month.
13:08 The weekly team meeting of Tolhuistuin starts with the announcement that the wildwater cycling race across the river has been canceled because the municipality didn’t approve of the idea after all.
13:16 Crowds at the self service counter for lunch in the cafe. The piles of sandwich with local Waterland cheese are disappearing at an alarming speed. Co-owner Eddy Muller runs around shouting and cursing because his food suppliers are still not catching up with the surprising number of visitors.
Participants were then asked to prepare a similar piece, in their teams, to present back to the whole group. ‘A way to make it visual, to bring it alive – try to picture what is going to happen in the future’ – not only by including the things that are great and they would like to see, but including the things that might be obstacles, so they could think of solutions in advance.
Participants had one hour to work on these descriptions to present back for discussion and critique.
Yuliya Tsimafeyeva presented the project to promote ‘PrajdziSvet’, an internet-journal of translated literature, to both fill a niche (literature translated into Belarusian) and as an independent platform where translators, critics, writers can discuss actual problems of modern literature and culture. (We’ll share her presentation to give you an idea of how this session went…)
Sviatlana Haidalionek presented the project ‘Academy on the Grass’, a five day event in a village in a national park, based on the idea of alternative education with discussions and practical activities involving art and ecology, social animation, DIY, performances, concerts, film screenings.
Alina Dzeravianka and Marina Zavvazhnaya presented the project ‘Brest Fortress’, which aimed to restore the old abandoned citadel on the outskirts of the city as a cultural and historical attraction for both local people and tourists, to reclaim its story through contemporary art installations, performances and cultural events.
Oksana Karpovets presented the project ‘Cross Line’, which intends to bring together artists, curators and art managers from Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and Poland, in three different spaces with diverse historical contexts which are united by one concept – the space of migration. The first event would be in Turov (Gomel region, Belarus).
Ianina Kazchuk presented the project ‘Kara’, which aims to create a cultural centre (both incubator and platform) with non-formal educational activities and an active community around it.
Aleksei Shinkarenko presented the programme of the PhotoCentre and how it aimed to engage with partners and institutions to promote a wider interest in photographic practice.
Kaciarynka Pikirenia presented the project ‘Ja knihu maju’ (‘I have a book’), which aims to is to change the very perception of native literature among Belarusians by introducing the reader to forgotten, historically banned or simply currently unavailable authors.
In the evening Pavel Kasciukekich gave us a tour of “Ў” Gallery of Contemporary Art and the adjacent bookstore and literature centre, Kniharnia Loguinaŭ, which holds events and publishes work. There is also a small arts & craft shop here which sells material made by local artists – lots of goodies to be found here on Nezalezhnasty av. 37a. (Their very nice t-shirts which caught the eye of our co-ordinators).