Thanks to the engagement of ASSITEJ Norway, the Nordic – Baltic network and their supports, 600 professionals of performing arts for young people attended ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering 2019 in Kristiansand, in the best possible conditions: an inclusive space, where people’s contributions are strongly supported, and nourished by high quality performances. Of course, Norway is far up north, and everyone can’t just buy a ticket and join in. But in its long history, ASSITEJ has organized bigger and smaller meetings in as many places as possible across the world. Geographical diversity is secured each time at least in the essential: the artistic program must offer half local and half foreign performances, from all the continents. Organizers always arrange reduced prices to those coming from low-income regions. Next Generation cohorts – in Kristiansand, as always, the shiniest feature – gather young artists in a genuine melting pot, thanks to the money paid by the inviting festival and ASSITEJ’s members. And for those who can participate, the Project group of the Executive committee, responsible for preparing the sessions of Artistic encounters, deploys the finest methods of collective thinking, in order to give everyone a voice.
Yet, so many efforts to encourage plurality and spontaneity have consequences. In this respect, the 4th and last part of the Artistic encounters, dedicated to sustainability, went beyond our expectations, as the participants, including a group of teenagers from the Nordic-Baltic network, mischievously reminded us of the very contemporary nature of TYA. Young people: our audience, the talented ones who stand up for the climate by the millions around the world, to as far as the United Nations General Assembly. Young artists and producers, asking for a theatre reconnected with the ecology and social responsibility. “Let’s create a bank for re-using settings, props and costumes”. “Let’s organize rationalized tours”. “Let’s play outdoors”. “Let’s do yoga at work”. “Let’s address the place of arts in urban planning”. Suddenly, there was a new topic, and we all felt it had to be handled seriously, and over the long term. Sustainability isn’t just cool. It is a big question mark over all our professional practices, and as theatre-makers we are generally more used to addressing the issues with all other people, apart from ourselves.
Needless to say that the carbon footprint is an even deeper challenge for ASSITEJ, a global association with members in 100 countries, preparing a world congress in Tokyo. Of all the European delegates in Kristiansand, only one dared to come by train.
We have new questions and no answers, and we love it.