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Want to influence youth theatres all over Europe

The Faculty of Fine Arts has been given the leadership role of a NOK 20 million EU project for young people in theatres in 10 European countries.

Merete Elnan and Terje Sæten, photo
IN BRUSSELS: Head of Department and Project Leader Merete Elnan and Project Controller Terje Sætan were Monday in Brussels to learn more about project management and finance control of large EU projects. Here, they are outside Hotel De la Poste in the suburb Laken just before the meeting. In the new year, they will lead the youth theatre project ConnectUp – one of the large-scale cooperation projects supported by the European Commission.

For four years, the theatre community at the Department for Visual Arts and Drama will lead ConnectUp – The Life of the Others, a large cooperation project with fourteen partners from Hungary, Portugal, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, Italy and Norway.

The project is part of the European Commission’s Creative Europe Programme and was awarded the maximum funding of €2 million. The grant covers about 50 percent of the project costs, and the rest comes from the participating organisations.

Strengthening integration 

“A main focus for ConnectUp is to contribute to bridging the social and cultural divides that are widening in Europe today. To achieve the ambition of increased cultural inclusion, it is important to give young people the opportunity to cooperate with people from other national, cultural, social, physical and mental backgrounds. Doing this through theatre, while examining new ways of involving a young audience, is a good way of achieving that.” 

Says Head of Department Merete Elnan, who is also project leader of ConnectUp, and whose main task is to steer the project and the cooperation between the participating institutions over the four years the project lasts.

Will reach thousands of young people

“When we are done, I hope we can look back at around 30 theatre performances around Europe which thousands of young people have taken part in creating and seeing in cooperation with hundreds of artists – where they have had the chance to tell each other, the audience and us adults what they are concerned about today”, she says.

Meeting in Brussels

Monday this week, Merete Elnan and Project Controller Terje Sætan from UiA visited Berlin to take part in the first gathering for everyone who received funding for cooperation projects during the final round of Creative Europe. All in all, 346 project proposals were submitted and 19 accepted. One of them was ConnectUp.

“The purpose of the first meeting was to learn about the rules and regulations for projects in EU’s Creative Europe Programme, both project management and finance control. It is very exciting to lead a large project such as this, and the meeting and the information we received was helpful”, Merete Elnan says.

Shown at the Sand Festival in Kristiansand

The ConnectUp project will start in the new year 2020. Then, all 14 partners will meet to get to know each other and present their respective sub-projects.

“During the project, 29 professional productions will be presented at 22 festivals around Europe. In Agder, the first results will be presented at the international Sand Festival for children’s and youth theatres in Kristiansand”, the project manager explains.

New theatre education

At UiA, the Faculty of Fine Arts will be affected by the participation in ConnectUp throughout the project period. In addition to leading the project, the theatre community at the faculty will also develop and establish an online theatre education for its European partners. Theatre professionals will here be able to track all the productions and ongoing processes in the included sub-projects, not least to make sure the institutions turn into places where young people from all social and cultural backgrounds feel welcome.

“To reach new audiences and to harmonise relations with the existing audience, special skills of mediation are required. We therefore want to offer an eighteen-month certified Dual Education ‘Theatre Mediation’ which combines formal e-learning with peer-group learning and practical work”, Merete Elnan says.

Originates from a previous EU project

Merete Elnan also explains that the ConnectUp project which is starting now originates from a previous EU project which the theatre community at UiA took part in, PLATFORM shift +, where UiA was one of nine international partners working with digital aspects in connection with theatre performances and production.

“This was a successful project with an exceptionally good cooperation, where we in the end tried to see if we could do more together. This led to ConnectUp. Honestly, it wasn’t easy to find a good project. We applied twice and were rejected. But the third time – and after solid preparations – our application was accepted. And now we are about to start. I really look forward to it”, Merete Elnan says.

Facts about ConnectUp

  • ConnectUp – The Life of the Others is an international cultural initiative for the target group 12 + to counteract the process of increasing social and cultural division across Europe.
  • Under professional guidance, young people of all social classes, cultural backgrounds and abilities will share experiences in theatre processes under the theme “The lives of the others”. Several hundred children and youth will contribute, and several thousand will see and take part in the performances. 
  • The participating theatres have various distinctive features and combine their different skills in a European “union of diversity”.
  • 29 cross-over productions will be developed, enriching the repertoires of the theatres, combined and separately. An app, supporting translation and evaluation, will also be developed to facilitate the presentations at 22 festivals which will be visited by the theatres in the project over the next four years.
  • ConnectUp is one of 19 projects receiving funding from Creative Europe in this round, and one of two Norwegian-initiated projects receiving a leadership role. The other project is Identity on the Line. It is led by Vest-Agder Museum and explores migration processes in Europe over the last 100 years.