At Wuppertal main station, one can read the following words on the facade of the lost property office: “es ist noch nicht alles verloren!” [all is not lost!] With this sentence in mind, we are working during these highly unpredictable times on programming Klarafestival 2021. Multiple scenarios are in play. Each of them focusses on Belgian talent. We hope to offer you in a safe way intense live experiences, but we know that this won’t be easy. Therefore, digital innovation will be of crucial importance.
The previous edition of Klarafestival, reduced to a single day, was the starting point for a period of intense change. Our self-image, formed during the Enlightenment – that the human is a rational being, distinct from the rest of nature, privileged and free – took a severe knock. We were sent back into nature as an organism that is sensitive to environmental factors, totally dependent and inextricably connected with the great network of nature. Bad news for human vanity, as the German author Philipp Blom described the corona pandemic. But it could also be a shared experience, a communal resonance chamber that could form the breeding ground for a new way of behaving.
The crisis as an opportunity
“Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change,” was the adage of the American economist Milton Friedman. And it was true: for many, the first weeks of lockdown were a welcome break, a time to take stock, reflect, and question the lives that they were living. In many cases, this period of reorientation resulted in significant life choices being made.
Klarafestival also underwent a period of intense reflection. In which direction do we want to be heading over the coming years? How do we ensure that both the musicians on the stage and the audience in the hall represent our society better? Which projects do we want to undertake to put ourselves on the map? And, perhaps most importantly of all: what can we do for those people who don’t have the luxury of being able to reflect, but have to fight for their very survival?
A changing society
However, Friedman’s quote does not relate solely to individuals and organisations, but society as a whole. Recent history offers plenty of examples of moments of crisis leading to drastic social reforms.
In her book The Shock Doctrine, the Canadian philosopher, activist and publicist Naomi Klein examines how Margaret Thatcher only gained support for her neoliberal programme after winning the Falklands War; how the attacks on the twin towers led to the present American security state; and how the development of the Sri Lankan coastline into a tourist paradise only really got going after the tsunami in 2004 – when local fishermen were forced to rebuild their homes further inland.
The democratic vacuum that usually arises after a serious crisis is all too often exploited to push through agendas that are sensitive to public opinion, according to Naomi Klein’s analysis. In her view, we should be wary today of a further shrinking of the public domain, the fragmentation of our welfare state and a ‘no-touch’ future, which will be extremely profitable for only a couple of companies.
It is the responsibility of citizens to ensure that these crises do not catapult us backwards but forwards. Cultural events like Klarafestival can contribute significantly to the public debate: raising voices that would not otherwise be heard, adding to the cultural debate with sensory experiences, and reminding ourselves through the nurturing and ongoing development of our artistic heritage that the emotions we are experiencing now have been felt before.
Dealing with both the coronavirus crisis and the climate crisis
“Es ist noch nicht alles verloren” – relates not only to the current health crisis, but also to the climate crisis that we are experiencing today. A renewed focus on and care for our habitat is an essential part of a sustainable society. Music can reconnect us with nature. After all, compositions are often nothing more than the record of an observation of nature, an attempt to capture the rising of the sun in sound, or a musical translation of the sound of the wind.
While preparing for Klarafestival 2021, the word ‘connect’ came to mind, as we as people are ultimately all in the same boat, and only collective efforts can provide a solution to the coronavirus and climate crises. Sharing our experiences, whether or not they are sublimated in music or literature, can have a cathartic effect, offer hope, and maybe even solutions. A second word that came up over time, based on the observation that we are capable of huge collective efforts and that the human being is an incredibly creative creature, is ‘resilience’. After all, unlike animals, people are able to organise themselves in order to deal with the most difficult problems.
How does Klarafestival 2021 look?
Despite all this positivity, there’s no way of avoiding the fact that the last year has caused unprecedented suffering. Our personal freedom has been restricted, and a great many people have been affected by loss in various ways. This is why, first and foremost, we are planning a cleansing and comforting festival in 2021. Music has the power to comfort, to bring hope where darkness has fallen. Secondly, by selecting a specific repertoire and specific artists, we are focusing on the relationship between man and his environment.
A festival but coming but it’s still too early to announce a definitive programme. We are working with partners like Klara, BOZAR, Flagey, deSingel and Concertgebouw Bruges on plans for a series of performances from mid-March on. We are also entering into new partnerships, including one with the municipality of Molenbeek, and a great deal will happen online under the banner, “From our festival to your house”. Established names like the Belgian National Orchestra, Brussels Philharmonic, B’Rock and Ictus are working on projects with us which are more exciting than ever, simply because we have to respond to the ever-changing situation day to day. Klarafestival is also inviting young talent: we will host new ensembles, compositions are being commissioned and partnerships with both Muntpunt and the Passa Porta Festival will lead to exciting crossovers.
We will publish our definitive programme as soon as we can. Stay tuned.