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Tartu 2024 crosses borders: project developers set to expand their international scope

November has been a key month for culture managers involved in Tartu 2024. The fourth seminar of the ongoing development process, titled Kellega? (“With Whom?”, 13 November) was followed by the international forum Kultuurikompass: How to Address Europe? (26 November). These two events helped the Tartu 2024 project developers get new ideas and methods to expand the international scope of their planned events.

Jalmar Vabarna giving a speech on stage.
22. Dec William Lagache

In a time when travelling is difficult, finding new ways of speaking to a large public is not easy. This was nowadays the task of the Tartu 2024 programme team, which brings together former ECoC managers and developers to talk to the project developer in an online discussion about international relations.

An important interest

Every European Capital of Culture project has to include international partnership in their activities: It is not only a possibility to mix international and local, but also an opportunity for organisations to develop long-term and viable relations in their own cultural and artistic fields.

Thanks to a good partnership, every person involved in a specific domain of culture can see his activity radiation, and sometimes notoriety, increased. According to the musician and singer Jalmar Vabarna: “There are approximately 750 million people living in Europe currently. Which means that if I think of the Estonian context: I have a band, and of course, the segment that actually listens to you is maybe a few percentages of the whole. But if you could multiply that small percentage by seven hundred times then I believe it becomes obvious that we should think bigger. And Europe is right here.”


Jalmar Vabarna. Photo: Mana Kaasik

Finding the good partner

Then comes the question “how to do it”. Many cultural operators from the development process for the Tartu 2024 programme and experts from previous European Capitals of Culture gave us their good practices and ideas.

Dominika Kluszczyk, project manager and curator of WRO Art Center (Wroclaw, Poland, European Capital of Culture in 2018) shared her experience during the 13th of November online Seminar: “The process of finding meaningful partners and building strong connexions is impactful only when you define exactly: what are your goals and purposes, what are the topics you aim to raise, what are the methods and means you want to implement.”

The approach can be different depending on the specialities of the projects. Then, in some projects, some partnerships have to be more advanced and precise than others. In that case, “Finding the right partners, who share the same values and interest, might seem hard to find in the beginning”, explain Liisa Nurmela, in charge of the Tartu 2024 Arts of Survival Documentaries project. “Each activity in our project needs a different partner, and analysing these activities separately gives us an overview: who we have to include. I think it is essential to see our international partners not only as organisations but that there are people behind it and interact with them as you would with a friend.”

Engaging relations

Dorian Celcer, partnership and protocol coordinator of Rijeka 2020 ECoC (Croatia), suggests not trying to search for a partner randomly in Europe, but first to count on the existing relations: “Minimise wasted effort: look first on what you have and then fill the gaps.” He mentioned various ideas, and amongst other finding local partners: “We sometimes can forget that the answers can be right under our noses, but we just have to know where to look. For example, I had not looked into Tartu’s partner cities and networks; they are members and to my surprise, I found many potential partners from that list,” explained Liisa Nurmela.


Dorian Celcer presentation at Kellega? online seminar.

Celcer also shared the advice of attending or hosting events, an idea also put forward by Jalmar Vabarna: “In the music world, we have events called showcase festivals, where everybody of a certain scene comes together in one place. They gather there, and you as well, no need to go through every country one-by-one, they are all already gathered in one place. An excellent opportunity for all musicians to start their journey.”

Another idea is to use the power of networks, a method planned in the Tartu 2024 Postmarket Street Festival, in Aparaaditehas culture factory: “Aparaaditehas belongs to the network of Trans Europe Halles, which is one of our main international partners. It is an umbrella organization that unites cultural factories around Europe which gives us a platform to approach and co-create program parts for Postmarket together,” explains Jaanika Siiroja, one of the developers of the project dedicated to alternative urban lifestyle.

Another recommendation was linked to the specific situation of the COVID pandemic restrictions: while travelling is complicated, dating online a potential partner was of the solutions evoked during the seminar. According to Jaanika Siiroja: “Using current times to engage in online networking and using the endless possibilities of connecting with any relevant organization with the aim of partnering.”


Jaanika Siiroja. Photo: Mana Kaasik.

Expand into other countries

Once the contact is engaged, developers are able to gradually imagine and create concrete activities with advice coming from a large diversity of European countries: “We hope to find people to conduct remarkable workshops for our artisan festival. We have established the first contact, now we are discussing their recommendations,” explain Ants Siim, curator of the educational programme of the Tartu City Museum. 

The museum will be involved in a project called Sharing Generations, which will be an exchange of skills and tricks between older and younger generations : “Our partners are mostly organisations that unite certain craftsmen and artisans in certain regions.” Partners from Sweden and Georgia are involved. 

Liisa Nurmela’s Arts of Survival Documentary project is focusing on Bulgaria and Latvia: “They are our counselling partner because they have done a similar project before during a European Capital of Culture. And a German partner is planning to curate outdoor movie evenings in different parts of Tartu.”

As the Seminar (13th of November) was attended by 100 participants, and Kultuurikompass (26th of November) was watched by over 600 people from 18 countries, we can confirm this observation from Jaanika Siiroja: “The world and all the colorful people are just one click away.”