[This is an edited version of a previous post….]

I’m on a mission. Actually, i’m on multiple missions….people who know me would understand that this is my m.o. and that, yes, I do love missions….

Over the next 18 months i’m moving through europe, africa and asia, seeking connection, discussion, sharing, understanding…. there’s a number of projects cooking in my mind’s eye, some more tangible than others, and i would love your support in collecting the ingredients, devising the recipes, understanding the cooking process that relates to the location, the culture, the time….

The formal part of my travels involve meeting with festival producers to discuss the way in which their events can and do incorporate social change discussion and action. As an event producer,  project manager and planner, i’m particularly interested in the way in which we can empower ourselves and our communities to organise and connect with decision making, whether that’s on a formal level, through elected government, or, more pragmatically, to just  the things that need to be achieved.

People everywhere are continually seeking to respond to this ever changing world, the Tea Party politics of appropriation and miss-communications, while simultaneously defining their own journey, within a cultural context. How do we bridge the past with the present and extend this into the future? How do we empower ourselves to feel that we can actively influence the world around us and not feel like victims in a power vacuum of corporate and government control?

There can be no denying that amidst this world of sanctioned mass consumption and black holes of “democratic” political engagement there are real impacts to the way people express themselves, and the connections between these expressions and the way decisions are made by those who claim to govern for us. While the connectivity of our global village may continue to expand, and there are positive aspects to this that connect us and increase outlets for being active, there are growing and indisputable indications of the negative effects of particularly economic globalisation on individual and community empowerment and the associated ways that people participate in society.

Traveling through Hungary at the moment, where there has been a gradual transition from communist to some form of capitalist-democratic governance, it has been interesting to hear many people I have talked with suggest that things were better, in many ways, in the past. This isn’t because democracy, as a concept, is failing, tho it too has it’s downside, particularly if you are part of a disempowered minority group. It’s primarily, from my discussions anyway, because the form of democracy that exists here and in all western nations is corporate controlled and mostly offers people the chance to choose between product A and product B, rather than providing real means of participation and cultural exchange.

So, the meets I intend to have with a number of festival producers through Holland, the UK, France, Spain, Morocco, Mali and Sri Lanka are focused on discussing how we can have the types of discussions that are required to create a vision for a new future through celebratory spaces such as festivals. While the Sziget Festival, held in  Budapest annually, wasn’t initially on my list of festivals to include in the research, i found out that it’s a great example of ways that larger scale music festivals can incorprate messages and discussion about social change. The photos below show some examples of stalls presenting information and facilitating discussions about homelessness, domestic violence and alcoholism. I wish I’d  had more than one day to go….

“Island Vibe Festival is held annually on Stradbroke Island near Brisbane, in Queensland Australia. The Island Rythms program is a significant part of the festival. Festival patrons are able to experience a dynamic and culturally informative combination of workshops, talks and artistic performances which generate understanding and dialogue; providing opportunities for celebration while bringing an increased awareness of the aspirations of Indigenous people and the challenges and successes that the first peoples across our region have met in maintaining culture and connection to country.” [This is from the festival’s website – www.islandvibe.com.au] I am part of the festival’s Board and am involved to support local people on the island connecting with their own stated cultural and social objectives, while providing those who come to the festival with a chance to experience this expression and to discuss ways in which it can be supported, as well as thinking about ideas for empowering their own communities and connecting this to broader struggles. It’s subtle, but it’s strong.

As producer of the first two Shockwave Youth Arts Festivals in Central West Queensland, one clear objective, among many, has been to use the celebration space of the festival to create a chance not only for young people to showcase their talents and gain skills, but also to integrate discussion about local issues, responses and the types of values that people, young and otherwise, wish to embed in their communities. The festival is also a chance to talk directly with young people about these values mean and represent, and the types of issues they deal with every day, including creating links between the issues and their preferred vision for a future. This is the potential of community-based festivals, wherever the community is empowered to design, direct, participate in and evaluate the event and associated programs.

While traveling and meeting with festival producers, I’m also looking to meet with community cultural development practitioners to discuss the way in which they work, to share innovation and to create a set of tools that can be distributed to all culture workers to assist in the sector’s growth and development.

These discussions are both work and play. They are part of the culture I wish to be part of and to create. It is part of my vision for a new future, true democracy, where people directly dictate their futures and the growth of their communities, how resources are created and distributed.

During these travels I’ll be writing about this work as well as some general pieces about my travels and experiences, my perspectives on social, cultural, political, environmental and economic issues. I’d love your feedback. I know I have the potential to rant off-the-cuff and am happy to be corrected where i’m wrong! It’s about the discussion, the journey toward a new future. As a friend said recently, we don’t know what we don’t know, we just need to be open to the possibilities and the chance to actively influence the world we want to create.