NJME: Luhovaný Vincent

Magdalena Petráková is the director and organizer of the festival Luhovaný Vincent in Luhačovice. She and her team that still grows and gets professional have been working on the festival for eight years. In the interview, I ask about their personal motivation and I watch for the changes brought about by various ways of financing including international grants. I was interested also in the way the organizers themselves perceive the festival, how they see its status and what are their thoughts about its organization but also future.

Barbora Ševčíková

01 Festival Jingle 2016

02 Interview with Magdalena Petráková

How has your “vision” – the idea of the festival and reasons for its realization – changed over time?

Our initial idea of the festival is clear: we are trying to “enjoy” Luhačovice and bring in the contemporary art. At the same time, we perceive the potential this place has, which is by itself very attractive and as if created for the presentation of art. The spa has been historically associated with culture also due to the way it was built and its infrastructure. The places for the presentation of art and culture are already there – we are just filling them with content. Vincent is a moment in time when we – to the best of our abilities – appropriate the city using art and transform it into a place of joy we want to share.

And where is it now?

That’s different for every member of the team, so you would have to ask all of them. I am responsible for the theatre and performance, and what I find to be the most interesting thing, is the enlivening of the public space and making the festival open to the general public. Although with its history, it already has some prestige and fan base, in the last three years, the festival has significantly refined its identity.

 

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In comparison to similar festivals, Vincent boasts quite a heterogenous audience – the residents of Luhačovice, out-of-town visitors, tourists and spa guests, as well as the performers themselves, organizers and their friends – how does their feedback vary?

The most interesting reactions come from the local residents who were very sceptical at first. They are not used to concerts taking place directly in Luhačovice; one usually goes to a neighbouring city to see a concert. Therefore, initially, they didn’t put much trust into our musical programme. But things have changed this year and the local residents represented the majority at our night events. The spa guests appreciate our free of charge open air programme, the out -of-town guests coming not just from Zlín region attend also the lectures and movie screenings.

Luhovaný Vincent is promoted as a multi-genre festival – what does it mean for you?

What we strive for, are crossovers, hybrids and other not so easily classifiable art forms. Since the beginning, the multi-genre aspect can be explained not just by the fact that there are quite a lot of us, organizers, but also because we come from various walks of life and, drawing from them, we want to offer the best.

How do you put together the programme?

In the last two years, we have worked with clearly defined subdivisions headed by “guarantors” who are open to new ideas and have the last say. In the beginning, the work wasn’t as structured; it was mainly me who compiled the programme. It was only later on that I have learned to delegate more, which is, of course, more effective, and we have more fun that way. By preparing the programme we get more and more professional and bring order to the things.

This year must have been different also because of the Visegrad Fund’s support. I’d like to know what sort of influence this grant had on the festival.

It was a bit more challenging because Visegrad Fund doesn’t support the sustainability of the project but helps rather with the one off well-promoted events. We wanted to meet with the heads of culture organizations operating in other spa cities. The idea came by itself when we were invited to participate at PechaKucha Night in Mariánské Lázně and Karlovy Vary. Each one of these invitations provided an opportunity for a discussion; we have found out we have much in common and thought it to be a good idea to organize a conference in Luhačovice as well. But I dare to say that content-wise, Visegrad Fund didn’t influence the festival in any way. Without the grant, there would be no conference this year, but it doesn’t mean that there was money first and then the idea of the conference. First, we came up with the idea and then we got the money for it.

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What is your long-term strategy for funding?

The basic rule of funding amounts to a diversity of sources; we don’t rely on a single source. Our funding comes from public budgets; we apply regularly for funding from city and region. This year is the first time we have money from the Ministry of Culture. Every year, there is a new source that helps us substantially. In the previous years, the budget used to total around 120.000-150.000 Kč. The main source, though, is the voluntary, relentless work of people.

At the same time, the city and the spa profit hugely from this festival. Because thanks to Vincent, even the young people who wouldn’t otherwise come, find their way here. That’s why we see a potential in Luhačovice – and, luckily, both the city and the spa are slowly starting to realize that.

A lot of support came from Lázně Luhačovice, which is a corporation that takes care of the spa area, and from the city of Luhačovice, too. Originally, we wanted to eliminate the difference between the city and the spa; our goal was to organize the festival in such a way that the spa guests would mingle with both residents and out-of-town guests. And it, actually, goes quite well.

Do you think that it is due to the fact that Lázně as a corporation is capable of seeing more clearly even the long-term commercial potential that could come out of the collaboration?

It’s all about the people, really, and with its 5000 residents, Luhačovice is actually a village, so I guess a measure of parochialism is in order. We don’t blame them for not being able to understand what we do. But it needs to be said that in many things the city is very accommodating and there is a few those who has been rooting for us since the beginning. We knew from the very start we are in for a long haul.

 

What is the structure of your organization and how do you collaborate?

A larger part of our agenda takes place online, unsurprisingly. We see each other when working on other projects, too. Among the members of our team, there are professional programme managers etc., so we collaborate over the whole year organizing other festivals, be it the documentary film festival in Jihlava or Summer Film School in Uherské Hradiště. I organize Divadelní Flóra in Olomouc together with Vašek Hruška, before that I worked in Divadlo na cucky. There are Prague and Olomouc subdivisions in the Vincent team, but Czechia is small and many of us like to leave the rush of the cities and come back to Luhačovice (to see our moms) and rest.

How would you describe the social role of Luhovaný Vincent? According to your own description, all of your activities aim for this role.

That’s a hard question. Although I am a native, just like most of the team members, I don’t live in Luhačovice. I don’t want to overestimate our role; it is a four-day festival that  has some effect but concerning any long-term impact, I don’t know… If there is any palpable success then it consists in a change of the perspective and the image of the city but also in a chance to have a different experience – that is important. It doesn’t lead, of course, to a systemic change; it’s just refreshing. We create some sort of experience and that can obviously have some transformative and inspirational effect. Vincent is no doubt important as a place of encounters, and since it is a small and informal festival, it is much for the visitors to feel at ease in terms of icebreaking.

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What did you get from this year’s festival conference? How would you sum it up, what was its aim and why?

We have invited the representatives of culture organizations operating in various spa cities. Some of them work over the whole year, some organize a festival, and others do events on weekly basis. There were particular ideas of intensive collaboration and communication suggested in a discussion with Czech and Slovak organizations during the conference. It was particularly pleasant and inspiring to meet the representatives of Bohdaneč Spa, Kyselka Spa, Jablonec nad Nisou, but also with the representatives of Trenčianské Teplice or Budapest. We have invited also the organizers of OSA and Polish Artloop, the festivals we find very inspiring. In four years they have managed to produce very professional festivals with a great system of funding based on narrow collaboration with municipal institutions. They are great in making the best of their locality. They enter the public space, occupy it and, at least for the duration of the festival, they transform the city.

The discussions focused on three topics:  options of common funding, options of programme management collaboration and the visions of the future of the spa cities.

Are there already any thoughts on the next year’s festival? What are the future aims of Vincent?

Our goal is to maintain this year’s level of quality that has significantly raised the bar which is, for example, the case of international collaboration. There is still a lot of places in Luhačovice that call for enlivening and that’s luckily something we agree on with the spa management. We would also like to do more projects tailored to our specific context. And we hope that the performers will come to like to travel to Luhačovice so much that they will come pro bono in order to be inspired and that they will take it as holidays with medical benefits – an exclusive added value of spa. Just like it used to be in the past.

03 Luhovaný Vincent 2016

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04 NJME: Not Just Marginal Entertainments

“Not Just Marginal Entertainments” (NJME) present the situation and standing of various cultural organizations. Beside the big institutions Artyčok deals with intensively and critically, the attention shifts to places that difference in their functioning, activities and financing in common. NJME explore the roles of contemporary institutions, their visions or the lack of them, and the reasons for their operation. They look for changes or, conversely, stagnations and the reasons for them; a stigmatization by past as much as following tradition and history.

The original project by Barbora Ševčíková will focus, for example, on a private museum of radios, a graphic design show or an independent gallery. It shall take a closer look at the situation they find themselves in, the ways of their financing, as much as the approaches to the management of a cultural organization. The selection of videos and photographs is left to the individuals in the question and their judgment in presentation of their work.

05 Exhibition credits

Author of the Project / Curator: Barbora Ševčíková
Author of Texts: Barbora Ševčíková
Photo: Luhovaný Vincent 2016
Online Exhibition Concept: Lenka Střeláková
Realization: Lenka Střeláková and Janek Rous
Translated into English: Palo Fabuš
Published: 5. 12. 2016