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The morning Session of ‘The Rights of Children & Young people to Culture: 10 Years Later’ kicked off early this morning, with a full programme that is due to last through until the afternoon.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the conference was Diana Kržanić Tepavac, President of ASSITEJ Serbia, who pin-pointed that marking the opening of the conference on World Children’s Day was deliberate.

“I would like to remind you that in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is the most ratified document concerning human rights, one of the principles is that a signatory country is considered to fully respect the Convention only if it equally respects all the rights highlighted in the document. However, we have almost never heard of the lack of children’s access to culture and cultural contents. It is somehow always taken for granted. For years, we have been following the newspaper articles and reports about celebrating World Children’s Day, and we almost always see well-dressed and smiling children standing behind a speaker, singing and dancing, as the perfect occasion decor. Some exception, and there are certainly some, will only confirm the rule,” said Tepavac.

Diana Kržanić Tepavac, President of ASSITEJ Serbia

Speakers at the opening ceremony included Proffesor Miloš Pavlović, Dean of the Faculty of Dramatic Arts, Belgrade Stanko Blagojević, Assistant Minister of Culture for International Relations and European Integration in the field of Culture and Nataša Mihailović Vacić, Secretary for Culture of the City of Belgrade.

“The key takeaway that I would like to share with you today, as the leitmotif of this conference, is that the change can happen only when we unite, in our voices and actions across different fields and continents,” added Tepavac “When we were discussing how to outline the title for this conference, we could have placed the focus only on the right of children and youth to theatre and performing arts that are in the essence of our work. But we decided on purpose to reach out for a wider focus, precisely because theatre in its core provides a mirror which reflects the overall state of societies in which we live, with all the struggles that we as individuals, communities, and society face. Theatre is a joint, common act, and as such it should act as a uniting factor which illuminates the path to transformation. Today I know that we were on the right track, as this message resonates all around is – among other it also came back to me as a good omen, in a wonderful book that I received from our Australian colleague, and it states simply yet powerfully: When many voices are joined together, change can happen.”

The opening ceremony was followed by a Keynote entitled ‘When the Shadow Becomes Collective, Will There be a Place for Mine?’ by Irena Ristić, Professor at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts, University of Arts in Belgrade, Department of Theory and History, Co-founder of the micro collective Hop.La! and followed by a Panel titled ‘UN Convention for the Protection of Children’s Rights: Significance and Realities’ that was led by Jelena Stojanović, Ombudsman Deputy, Anna Sofia Erasmie, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Sweden Belgrade, Serbia, Irena Ristić, Professor at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts, University of Arts in Belgrade, Department of Theory and History and moderated by Prof. Emerita Dr Milena Dragićević Šešić, Faculty of Dramatic Arts, Belgrade.

Panel titled ‘UN Convention for the Protection of Children’s Rights: Significance and Realities’

As the opening conference of the ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering 2023, Tepavac concluded: “We are at a turning point at this moment in time in multiple ways, facing manifold crises in our own societies as well as a global community. We hope that gathering all of these wonderful voices will enable us to think jointly, inspire us to find new ways to face these challenges, and illuminate the path forward together.”


Melissa Hekkers is a freelance journalist and author.
Her most recent book, Amir’s Blue Elephant, a creative non-fiction based on her experiences working in the Moria refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece and Cyprus. In 2018, she launched the My Cyprus Mandala Series, colouring books inspired by the natural and cultural heritage of Cyprus. In 2007, she published her first children’s book in both English and Greek entitled Crocodile, which won the Cyprus State Illustration Award. In 2012, she launched her second children’s book Flying across Red Skies (in English and Greek), using an experimental approach to literature, for which she was nominated for the Cyprus State Literary award. Her third, similarly well-received children’s book was Pupa (Greek and English), published in 2014 and was adapted as a theatre play in 2019. In between her last two books, she published her first free-verse poetry book entitled Come-forth. In 2019 she was contributing author to the anthology Nicosia Beyond Barriers: Voices from a Divided City, published by Saqi Books, London.


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