The selected city will host events and be twinned with another metropolis, reports Nick Awde
The International Theatre Institute is launching the World Performing Arts Capital, a partnership with Unesco that sees cities selected annually to programme events that raise global awareness for the performing arts.
“The accent is on the software – the artists – and not on the hardware – the venues,” says Tobias Biancone, ITI’s director general. “This means that everyone has access, from marginalised groups to international collaborations, and our goal is to include all genres.”
The World Performing Arts Capitals twin a major metropolis like London or New York with a smaller city or town, similar to those selected for the European Capitals of Culture, or a major city with limited budget as found in Africa, Latin America, Asia and parts of Europe. “Our advisers include organisers of projects like the capitals of culture for Europe and ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations],” says Biancone. “But unlike the ECoCs, which get some funding from the European Union, the World Performing Arts Capitals are self-funded, with support mainly from host cities plus a small administration budget from ITI.”
The successful applicants will be named on March 27, 2020, at ITI’s World Theatre Day celebrations at Unesco in Paris and events will kick off on May 21 the following year (UN and Unesco’s World Day for Cultural Diversity).
Another recent ITI innovation is the European Regional Council, which brings together centres from Europe and neighbouring regions. The fourth ITI European Regional Council meeting took place in October at Slovenia’s Maribor Theatre Festival. “The major challenge facing Europe’s ITI members is to strengthen the collaboration between centres,” says Fabio Tolledi, head of ITI Italy and ERC convenor.
“We need to increase information on the centres’ activities and to have stronger connections with other European cultural networks.”
The conference highlighted differences in practice, such as between Germany and the UK – both rich countries yet with very different funding availability. “There is a sense that funding structures, which have propped up European arts organisations for years, are crumbling and different nations have adapted in different ways,” says theatremaker Fin Ross Russell, who was in Maribor as co-director of ITI’s recently formed UK centre.
“This has led to a sort of class divide in European theatre. The UK centre has led by example by working with no budget to achieve a fantastic amount in a short space of time. As a result European centres want to collaborate with us because they want to tap into the drive, energy and initiative that we put into our work.
“The UK centre collaborates with partners on a local level from our venues in London and Morecambe, on a national level from both our English and Scottish bases, and on an international level where we have recently coordinated a seven-nation emerging artist exchange programme.”
A national level project is re-VIEW, a playreading showcase of black playwrights in the UK launched by ITI at London’s Draper Hall. Launched at the end of Black History Month in association with Afridiziak Theatre News, the UK’s only website dedicated to African-Caribbean theatre, the inaugural event featured a six-strong cast directed by Kaleya Baxe.
Excerpts came from plays that mirror UK society through the migrant or colonial experience. “The discussions that followed the readings were a revealing window into the themes of race, class, family, identity and migration in the UK today,” says Stefania Bochicchio, re-VIEW producer and co-director of the ITI UK Centre.