Bruno Costa

Glocal festivals: Bridging the European and local perspectives through outdoor arts

Bruno Costa holds a PhD in Cultural Studies from the University of Aveiro and a master’s degree in management for Creative Industries from the Portuguese Catholic University (UCP). His research focuses on constructing a European identity, emphasising mechanisms for internationalising artistic projects and European cultural cooperation. He is a guest lecturer for Partnerships, Networks, and Internationalisation in Creative Industries at UCP and has relevant experience in strategic cultural management, conception of cultural/artistic projects, financing, project management, international cooperation coordination, artistic mobility, and European cultural policies. As co-director of Bússola, he is currently involved in several projects, including the LEME festival, Outdoor Arts Portugal platform, and BETA CIRCUS cooperation project.

Today’s Europe is a complex landscape, where the integration process often clashes with the cherished ideals of “united in diversity” supported by human rights and democracy. Despite these aspirations, political and social challenges, rising polarisation and extreme viewpoints persist. In this milieu, outdoor arts can serve as potent agents of change. The complexity of European integration brings together antagonistic perspectives aiming to coexist within the ideal of European cultural identity. On one hand, European integration through institutions promotes common values, co-operation, and political unity across borders. This global aspect of Europe fosters a sense of belonging to a broader European community. On the other hand, Europe is a patchwork of local cultures, traditions, and languages that contribute to its rich tapestry of diversity. Local identities, shaped by historical legacies and regional differences, often resist homogenisation.

European identity, as referenced in the EU treaties, is indeed not about uniformity but rather tolerance, mutual understanding, and the creation of a European ambiance where different cultures, traditions, and customs coexist harmoniously. European identity is seen as a mosaic of local identities, each contributing to the rich tapestry of European heritage. Tolerance – a controversial word – is a fundamental principle underpinning European identity, fostering an environment where individuals from diverse backgrounds can live together in harmony. The creation of a European ambiance involves cultivating a sense of belonging and shared identity among Europeans, while also celebrating the unique characteristics of each member state. This ambiance serves as a unifying force that transcends national boundaries and fosters solidarity among Europeans.

Facing this challenge, we can envisage the concept of glocal as the intersection of the global and the local, where global trends and influences interact with local cultures and identities. In the context of Europe, understanding the concept of glocal can shed light on the complexities of European identity. The concept of glocal Europe challenges traditional notions of identity, inviting individuals to embrace their multifaceted and complex identities as both Europeans and members of their local communities. It highlights the importance of striking a balance between European integration and local distinctiveness, fostering a sense of belonging that transcends borders while celebrating diversity. But how can a festival be active in this critical dichotomy?

Outdoor arts embody plurality, openness, and cultural democracy, contributing to European values by fostering inclusive spaces for diverse expressions. They create shared spaces that encourage empathy and connection, fostering solidarity across diverse groups. Outdoor arts serve as tools for engaging with local communities, inspiring civic engagement, and collective action. In this context, I work for Bússola, a Portuguese cultural organisation that navigates the global-local limbo sustainably by aligning with EU/international visions and partnering locally for community engagement and impact. We connect with public and private organisations for strategic development, fundraising, and the design of cultural projects. In close connection with public spaces and unconventional presentation contexts, Bússola is a key player in the development of outdoor arts and contemporary circus arts in Portugal, promoting a continuous sectoral development programme: Outdoor Arts Portugal. Our understanding conceives a festival as a decentralised event spanning time, space, and networks, deeply connected with a long-term vision. Embracing outdoor arts creation reinforces our mission, transforming the festival into a strategic artistic intervention. It transcends a mere showcase of artists, provoking multiple meanings that resonate locally and globally. By stimulating audience imagination, it ignites discussions about present realities and future possibilities, enriching perspectives on local and global issues.

Foucault, the French philosopher, introduced the concept of ‘heterotopia’ to describe spaces that coexist with, yet differ from, everyday environments. He posits, “the heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible” (1967). Unlike utopias, heterotopias are tangible, real locations with unique functions. Festivals exemplify this concept by transforming conventional spaces into heterotopic environments. The researchers Brownett and Evens (2020) suggest festivals reimagine mundane spaces, creating permeability within perceived boundaries. For instance, a harbour, shopping centre, or pub can host cultural experiences, inviting participants to momentarily transcend their ordinary selves. By immersing in these festival-generated heterotopias, individuals confront activities challenging reality perceptions. These illusory spaces prompt reflection on the partitioned nature of human life (Foucault, 1967).

Annually, Bússola, in collaboration with 23 Milhas (the cultural project from the Municipality of Ílhavo, Portugal), promotes LEME, a festival that places significant emphasis on unconventional spaces, fully embracing the intersection of local dynamics and European networks. Anchoring its innovative mission in this dynamic interplay, this festival was conceived as a pioneer of outdoor arts in Winter, challenging conventions and embracing new challenges. With a deliberate focus on emerging artists and burgeoning social issues, LEME disrupts traditional boundaries, creating spaces for innovation and creativity.

In the future, festivals will face increasing local challenges, particularly in promoting wellbeing and acknowledging their potential contribution to placemaking. As Brownett & Evens (2020) suggest, festivals can facilitate wider and more equitable participation, fostering togetherness and facilitating collective transformation within multiple communities. Moreover, festivals are poised to evolve into catalysts for placemaking, revitalising spaces and nurturing vibrant communities through community building, creative inspiration, and collaborative endeavours. Festivals have the potential to redefine the interactions with our environment, shaping cultural landscapes and fostering stronger communities.

Brownett, T., Evens, O. (2020). Finding common ground: The conception of community arts festivals as spaces for placemaking. Health & Place, 61.

Foucault, M. (1967). Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias. Translated by Jay Miskowiec. Journal Architecture/Mouvement/Continuité, October 1984.

Festival Life creates shared moments of audiences and artists, eye-to-eye

© International Theatre Festival KONTAKT