Rivers of Opportunities partner meeting in Stockholm was organised during the most intensive days of the cultural activities offered by our city. Three such events: Stockholm Culture Festival, We Are Stockholm and Stockholm Fringe Fest STOFF took place between 13-16 August 2014.
The gathering was organized in line with the goal of our learning partnership, which is to exchange and share knowledge about practising culture in public places as a way of engaging audiences/non audiences, specifically on urban waterfronts/river banks across Europe. The occasion was purposefully chosen by the hosting organisation Intercult so as to provide the participants with the opportunity to meet people who work practically with the diverse audiences at their events in public spaces.
The meeting in Stockholm brought together 10 European organisations – members of River//Cities Platform- from UK, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Finland, Poland, Portugal, Italy, Croatia and Sweden. The program offered occasions of good practice share among the partners and Swedish cultural operators in a more structured form as well as a lot of informal time to get acquainted with each other as intercultural ambassadors of their own cities. Both issues are at the core of the learning partnership’s project.
During the meeting we tried to investigate some of the activities taken by cultural actors using the methods of measuring the audience in order not only to improve the numbers but also to better learn the audience’s needs, involve the audience in the planning process and adjust the cultural offer in public spaces on waterfronts to the new demands.
Thursday was a very intensive day with a tight schedule. The partners had a chance to get a glimpse of Stockholm as a water city. A boat took us around the central water area showing the great number of cultural stops- offering a possibility for citizens to enjoy the waterfronts and public spaces. Later, in the afternoon, an open conference at the Culture House gathered 50 active local and international participants who listened to and commented on several presentations of cultural audience development/ measurement- initiatives.
Friday started with a follow-up meeting led by Iwona Preis from Intercult with an aim to round up Stockholm impressions so far and discuss a framework for an integrated project outcome within the audience development subject, but also further development of the 2-year of our partner co-operation.
The following questions were raised:
• Is there a need of making an effort to work with audience while doing art in public space?
• Often art events are organised in a post-industrial public spaces, which normally are empty. Are these spots used more after events? What is an impact?
• Should a festival organizer work with smaller events throughout whole year to attract audience to the main event?
• What do we really measure, are numbers important?
• How can we measure an impact on well- being at the festivals?
The discussion revolved around the festivals’ targets and issues. A festival is usually about delivering culture but also hopefully other issues like attracting young people from the suburbs- thus it is usually culture plus something else. The issue orientation is better than a target orientation. Our guide from Stockholm festival said: Let’s give teenagers the music and everything will be ok. It’s a dangerous approach. Music is a tool but does not solve the problem; solving problems must be consciously included in the planning process.
In the afternoon we gathered again in the city by invitation of Stockholm Culture Festival. Its director, Cleas Karlsson took us on tour around the festivals stages and main points of interest, elaborating on working strategy, methodology in the planning process and also telling us about collaboration with Barcelona, security measures and development plans. Eva Widegren, responsible for We are Stockholm, led us through the young peoples area – a space in a public park very well planned and implemented with a great help from volunteers- despite the moderate means. In both cases, it was a very useful practical insider view, useful especially for those of us organizing our own festivals in the cities of Vienna, Turku, London, Munich and Warsaw.
Special thanks to all supporting organisations: Adam Potrykus from STOFF, Claes Karlsson from Stockholm Culture Festival, Patrik Liljegren from The City of Stockholm Cultural Department and Henrik von Arnold from Stockholm Business Region!