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Leader seminar "Challenges and methodology of transnational Cooperation"

2-6 April 1997, Dieulefit (Drôme), France

 

Case study

 

The DIE East-West Festival

The action

The East-West Festival has been organised each year since 1989 in the small town of Die (4,000 inhabitants). Devoted each year to a different Central or East European country, it has little by little developed to become an event that for two weeks draws nearly 30,000 visitors to the different parts of the Festival: music, literature, theatre, cinema, fair, etc. The organisation involves the local community to a very large extent, be it through the lodging of 250 visitors from the countries concerned or through the involvement of numerous associations in the implementation of the various actions.

The challenge today is the professionalisation of the organisation which until now has been run mainly by volunteers and the structuring of a network within which there can be more regular and diverse exchanges.

Key elements

  • Since the beginning of the action, the organisers have as a matter of priority sought to involve the local community in all the levels of organisation.
  • The project has evolved from the simple hosting of guests from Eastern Europe to the establishment of a genuine network with numerous activities. The Festival is no longer an isolated event but is becoming a permanent action.
  • A mosaic of associations is today involved in organising the Festival.
  • The project is encountering serious problems of management and professionalisation of what since the beginning has been a volunteer activity.

 

Context

The East-West Festival is based in Die, a small town of 4,000 inhabitants. It is a remote geographical area that belongs to the "dry Pre-Alps". It has the lowest population density of the Rhône-Alpes region (4 inhabitants/km2 in some places of the canton of Luc-en-Diois). The population is very proud of its identity and the fact that it is part of Diois.

The economy is traditionally an agricultural one based on winemaking and walnuts. There has been a certain rebound in the economy with the diversification to aromatic and medicinal plants, the development of rural tourism and one-person businesses. The unemployment rate is slightly less than the national average, but young people do not remain in this region and leave to find work. It is essentially a population of retired people.

 

Point of departure

A Dutch emigrant, teacher of gymnastics and French, moves to Die in 1979. He discovers mountain running but realises that the Die race is going to disappear following the desertion of its organiser. He decides to take over the organisation and succeeds in obtaining the organisation of the World Mountain Running Championship in Die, which creates an event of international dimension. The concern for greater involvement of the local community leads the organisers to add a cultural element to the event. This enables diversifying the type of public, heightening the effect on tourism and seeking other sources of funding.

 

Implementation

The organisers decided to focus the Festival's actions on a specific country: Czechoslovakia, which has both an interesting culture and top level runners. The first "Foot Festival" was organised in 1989. At the same time, the collapse of the Berlin Wall marked the beginning of the process of democratisation of the Central and East European countries (CEEC). For these countries it was also a time for a cultural revival which the Festival's organisers planned to support.

 

The Festival's organisers were particularly concerned about involving the local community:

 

  • They contacted a series of local associations to co-organise the Festival, which enabled increasing the activities, including for example the projection of films from the countries selected in the local cinema;
  • the trip for preparation on location was done with students from the Die secondary school;
  • the CEEC visitors were from the start given lodgings in homes: over 100 host families throughout the region provided accommodations for nearly 80% of the visitors.

 

Gradually, the Festival became diversified and longer. Beginning in 1993, a Book Fair was organised in parallel: 3000 books from the CEEC translated or written in French are presented there. Round Tables and signing sessions are organised in parallel, and writers from the selected country are invited.

Today, a real mosaic of organisations cooperate in putting on the Festival:

  • the operator of the local cinema schedules the films, the local bookshop manages the Book Fair;
  • the Diois Judo Club manages the 1000 Country meals served at the fair on Sunday evening;
  • an association of young Maghrebins manages the refreshment stand;etc.

In 1996, the Die East-West Festival generated about 30,000 admissions, all activities combined:

  • 250 guests came from the CEEC;
  • 8,000 people visited the different exhibitions;
  • the cinema attracted 1,200 people and the theatre 900;
  • 2,500 people participated in the musical events;
  • 3,000 people visited the Book Fair;
  • 900 people participated in meetings and debates;
  • 2,000 people took part in the fair;
  • 1,000 children participated in the specific activities organised for them.

The total budget of the operation is FF 2.5 million, including volunteer work. The following funding is provided: State (foreign affairs, decentralised cooperation, etc.), FF 800,000; Region, FF 60,000; Conseil Général, FF 180,000; Municipality, FF 40,000; and the equivalent of FF 40,000 in the rental of rooms and equipment; Council of Europe, FF 30,000. The rest comes from volunteer sources (family hosting, for example), without which the Festival could not be organised, and admissions to the different activities. The Soros Foundation also provides a substantial amount, making it possible in particular to finance the travel expenses for the East European guests.

Organising the Festival mobilises twenty people throughout the year, over two hundred volunteer workers from the end of July to mid-October.

In 1996, the desire to increase the effects for the local community led to the organisation of a programme of parallel visits for the CEEC guests: craftsmen visited local federations of craftsmen, thereby stimulating direct transfers of working methods and trade.

The Festival is scheduled until the year 2000 (when the theme will be "landless people"), but its survival is called into question because of its success. The large amount of volunteer work and the modest financial means mean that the Festival is running out of steam. The volunteer workers who have been at the head of this organisation from the start also have a professional and family life, and the growth of the activity is becoming impossible to manage on this basis: professionalisation is necessary. Requests for information, contacts, the organisation of particular trips (farmers, etc.) are growing: farmers from Moldavia would like to organise training courses on the production of goat's cheese, artists would like to extend their stay to conduct projects with the local population, Albanian bakers would like to train in the bakeries in Die, etc.

The course being followed is that of developing a genuine partnership with the CEEC correspondents, by giving them specific responsibilities in the organisation of the Festival. This network would conduct actions that go beyond the organisation of the Festival.

One particular priority is the exchange of know-how, technologies, complementary products in the area of farm and non-industrial structures, the organisation of agricultural development and its administration. In fact, the transition from the State enterprise to the private company requires the opening up of farmers and craftsmen in Eastern Europe to organisation and management techniques that are still unknown to them. LEADER should intervene to help structure the project as a whole.

 

Contact

Mr Ton Vink

Festival Est-Ouest

Place de l'Evêché

F-26150 DIE

Place de l’Evêché :

F - 26150 DIE

Tel: +33.04.75.22.12.52

Fax: +33.04.75.22.22.47



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