Final sessions in Minsk

The final sessions in Minsk took place between 10 am and 3 pm on Sunday at the Belarusian PEN Centre.

Hanna Yankuta gave a brief introduction to the work of the centre, a place where several cultural initiatives come together – acting as the office for an independent newspaper, the Belurusian Collegiate hold classes here, a school of young writers meets here, as well as members of the PEN Centre for literary discussions, seminars and workshops. The centre organise a number of literary awards and have a new award to encourage literacy criticism – ‘inviting people to write about a book you are reading now’.

Chris then shared his thoughts on the previous two days and what had been achieve, and how people’s thinking and idea had developed into concrete proposals – not in all cases, for some there was still work to be done. The morning was spent working in teams on a final presentation back to the whole group. ‘You need to convince and each other of the quality and reality and do-able strength of your project.’

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The elements of this would include:

– Project outline
– Short-term goal
– Long-term goal
– Budget (but not in detail)
– Partners that you have, or who you will invite
– Target group
– The audience
– Planning
– Follow up

Each team worked on these and made a final 10 minute presentation back to the group for further critique and advice from Chris and Willemijn.

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The presentations were strong and professional and the development of the proposals was evident. However, based on all the presentations, these are some points for us all to remember:

– When there are two people presenting, make sure you are fully aware of the other person, listen to what they are saying with interest and try not to overlap or interupt each other.
– Clearly say who you are, what organisation you represent, what your project is.
– Be more specific in describing content – if you are talking about a series of activities at a historical site be clear about what the connection between your contemporary art programme and this site is; if you are talking about a series of educational meetings, give an example of what you mean by this; if you are talking about an artist activity, give an example of the type of artist you want to work with.
– Put dates into your planning, so we understand the timeline of the activity.
– In terms of physical presentation, if you are using a flipchart of a powerpoint, talk to us, the audience, don’t talk to the flip chart.
– Put your personal passion into the story.
– Speak about your experience and skills more. If you mention artists, tell us their expertise.
– Go beyond the concept and be specific and concrete as much as possible. When you explain the context, say how you will use the arts to change this situation.
– A light touch can be welcome in a presentation. A little humour can help us better digest lots of facts and statistics.

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