Perform Europe: A Report

Perform Europe: A Report by Dana Rufolo

The report on the European Theatre Forum in the Winter 2020 issue of Plays lnternational & Europe introduced the mechanisms by which Europe-wide theatres and performers — alongside their buildings, institutions, and organizations — are encouraged to apply for grants with the goal of providing support during and after the pandemic as well as of augmenting their viability and visibility in European — and even international — culture. The following is a second report in the series, this time focusing on Perform Europe, a parallel work group in the Commission of the European Union.

This report is based on a compendium of sources that are readily available but take considerable time to piece together. I consider it important that Plays International & Europe presents these cultural activities of the European Union to readers who may well be surprized to learn about the diversity of recent European cultural initiatives.

With a similarity to the European Theatre Forum, Perform Europe is a project initiated by the European Commission and co-funded by the Creative Europe programme. It is devoted to encouraging and fostering European performing arts companies and productions to tour – or, to use the official objective as defined on the Idea Consult website, it is a “project for the performing arts sector which will support experiments to find more sustainable ways for international — physical and digital — touring of performing arts works in all the 41 Creative Europe countries”. On 15 March it was disclosed that the UK is included in Perform Europe despite Brexit and “will be able to participate in the upcoming Perform Europe open calls and distributions actions.”

The Perform Europe project was launched on 28 January 2021 on Zoom and I was invited to attend as the editor-in-chief of Plays International & Europe. Two-part, the first meeting presented the “project’s guiding values and vision and the opportunities it will provide for performing arts professionals from all backgrounds and horizons in Creative Europe countries”. The second part was talks on “imagine the future” where “80 sector representatives and policy-makers” were invited “to envisage some elements for a future support scheme for the distribution of the performing arts in Europe.” The participants were enthusiastic and appeared deeply committed to the project.

The ongoing 18-month project to explore the needs and possibilities for touring in the Creative Europe countries was won, after a tender, in July 2020 by a Consortium composed of IETM (the International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts); EFA (the European Festivals Association); Circostrada, a European network of circus and street performers; EDN (European Dancehouse Network); and IDEA Consult.

The following is a description of the five members of the Perform Europe consortium taken from their webpages and other Internet sources:

IETM the International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts is in Brussels. Its members are “festivals, companies, producers, theatres, research and resource centres, universities, and institutional bodies”.

The European Festivals Association (EFA), also housed in Brussels, promotes “music, dance, theatre, and multidisciplinary arts festivals”. It aims to enrich the festival landscape “in Europe and beyond.”

Circostrada is the European Network for Circus and Street Arts. It is based in Paris. Circostrada promotes recognition of these performance art forms at the European and international level. The European Dancehouse Network (EDN) has as members European dance houses. Its home is in Barcelona. The EDN fosters the “development of dance art across borders and wishes to secure a sustainable future for the dance sector.”

Idea Consult, based in Brussels, “provides independent advice to organizations and governments with the intention of using their research-based knowledge to find practical solutions for actual societal challenges”.

The Perform Europe values

The values of Perform Europe are a model of democratic and humanistic social goals. There are three primary values: sustainability, inclusivity, and balance.

Sustainability was used for the first time in 1987 as a term embracing its current meaning of “fostering co-dependencies between all recognized social and physical (eco) systems of the globe so as to maintain development and equitable growth”. According to Perform Europe’s statement of values, achieving sustainability will be through “the prism of five value frameworks: artistic, human, social, economic, ecological.”

Inclusivity, as defined by Perform Europe, is “the principle of proactively reaching out to provide equal access to art professionals and audiences from different social backgrounds, colour, gender, class minorities (colour, gender, class, physical abilities, sexuality) and citizens living in rural and peripheral areas”.

Balance involves sensitive and constantly shifting fair and equitable distribution of resources. Perform Europe’s distribution scheme will achieve “more balance in the cross-border distribution of performing arts works. It will do so by mapping current imbalances and creating a more balanced situation with regards to the equal representation of various players within the whole project: the artistic disciplines, the size of the organization, the balance between emerging and established artists, gender balance, geographic origin, the balance between urban and rural touring destinations”.