“Cities can become forerunners of solidarity and a pan-European notion of sharing”
In our series of interviews with Culture of Solidarity Fund grantees, meet Clubture Network:
Who are you?
We are Ana Abramovic and Domagoj Savor, program coordinators from Clubture Network, based in Zagreb. Our native organization, Clubture network is a participatory platform with membership of over 50 cultural organisations from Croatia, which range from non-governmental, artistic organisations to non formal initiatives all around the country. Since 2002, the network focuses on strengthening and innovating the independent cultural sector, first and foremost through the program “Clubture-HR: program exchange and collaboration” that in the last twenty years has gathered over two hundred organizations from all over Croatia in implementation of their cultural activities, has visited over hundred different urban communities in Croatia, and over the years has become a force of cohesion in the sector. This presence of the network in the cultural domain has capacitated the platform into developing a functional model of transfer of knowledge and experiences, not only between member organisations but also in the region of South Eastern Europe. As well as taking actions towards the strengthening of the sector through program exchange and raising its public visibility, Clubture has been involved in numerous efforts in ensuring institutional innovation and stability for local organisations and platforms in independent culture, lately in the development of socio-cultural centers based on civic-public partnerships and participatory governance in culture, and has been one of the initiators and founders of the national Network of socio-cultural centers in 2020. In the past fifteen years, Clubture was actively taking part in various public actions in the fights for the common and public spaces and goods, that also include culture in the broader sense and has continued to address and adapt to any given circumstances in recent years, with special attention to the recent developments during the Covid crisis and the earthquakes that struck central Croatia. The latter has become the driving force in envisioning the project “Community, Culture, City: Collectively Transforming the New Normal”.
What made you think of the project?
At the beginning of March 2020 we were lucky enough to hold our annual General Assembly where among the usual administrative agenda, organisations jointly evaluate and select the projects that are implemented throughout the year as part of our long-term program for collaboration between independent culture organisations. The Assembly was held just before the introduction of lockdown in the whole country, nevertheless projects were chosen for realisation, covering the areas such as do-it-yourself culture, online arts, queer, literature, urbanism, land art and so on. Instantly, it was clear that we will be soon dealing with unusual and uncertain scenarios that will tackle not just the implementation of our program, but the culture system as whole. Shortly after the lockdown, we have put the effort to systematically analyse the independent cultural sector in Croatia in order to predict the effects of the crisis caused by the pandemic. In order to protect the valuable part of the cultural sector, this analysis was a preliminary step to comprehend the scale of the crises and propose possible policy measures to donors and especially to The Croatian Ministry of Culture. Beside the pandemic, our work and the work of the organisations in our field was also affected by the earthquake that struck Zagreb on 23rd March, which has left many organisations without space for work and presentation of activities, either permanently or temporary. Therefore, following our previous experiences in initiatives and collaborations in the sector of civil society organisations, particularly in management of common goods and public resources, we decided to consult with our immediate and close organisations Alliance Operation City, Right To The City and Kurziv to imagine a project that would address all of our joint endeavours on the national level and expand them from culture towards specific needs of Zagreb and earthquake-affected areas. Both Operation City and Right To The City have been involved in monitoring of Zagreb earthquake aftermath and already were in active communication with their local and regional networks about managing the new-found situation, regarding the spaces for culture as well as the prompt reconstruction of the city in general. Since we all share the same collaborative practices and backgrounds, and were drawn into similar circumstances, it was obvious that we all were in need of strengthening local advocacy activities and envisaging new tactics in tackling two threats that go beyond anything we have been accustomed to. Together with Kurziv and their expertise through Kulturpunkt.hr, media portal and an important online reference in terms of independent culture, we have formed the team that will aim to reimagine and rebuild the narratives in both culture and the city with the broader community in mind.
What will your project contribute to Europe, post-corona?
Looking back on a year passed in the pandemic, we can be certain that it has changed our lives to a significant extent and that coming back to our old standards and lifestyles will take a great deal of adaptation and patience, which is specifically visible in the cultural sector where closing of spaces, rigid (but necessary) measures for public gatherings and subsequently, cuts in funding on local and regional levels, have numbed down the artistic participation and production, forcing it online and/or tailoring it for smaller and more “distant” audiences. On that notion, through the project we intend to keep the values of solidarity and participation alive for the coming period of recuperation and revitalisation, and we will strongly focus on sharing and distributing future developments in the cultural sector beyond our eco-system. Project’s core is the exchange of practices and experiences with various European experts that work in the field of democratization of public and common goods, on the topics of the new(old) cultural and spatial policies, that will mostly be implemented in Zagreb and its close surroundings, but will also serve for the members of national networks, their neighbour organisations and local communities, and will surely translate to our partners in regional platforms. The experiences that we gathered from Clubture’s first analysis in 2020 on the impact of the pandemic on independent cultural organisations have helped us to address the more urgent matters in the sector and communicate it towards the upper layers of the system, and we hope that we will have success with adding that kind of value to the project. With that in mind, Clubture has already sent a questionnaire to the organisations in the independent culture sector in Croatia which maps their activities in the coming period, and what will result in revamped proposals to decision makers in the cultural sector. It is our belief that through the project activities we will discover and implement new and innovative mechanisms of participation and document processes in rebuilding the independent cultural sector, cultural spaces and the city of Zagreb that can serve as examples of good practice and be beneficiary beyond our borders.
How do you envision it to grow from local to pan European?
As has been mentioned, the practices that we implement and discover anew will primarily take effect among the members of our networks and partners across Europe. In regard to knowledge exchange activities, we intend to engage various European experts that work in similar types of circumstances and are familiar with mechanics of networks, participatory models of governance, have been involved in innovative ways of transformation of urban and rural communities, but often operate in different political, economic and cultural contexts, which gives us a chance for a horizontal and mutual exchange of experiences that can (through online material) be distributed on an exponential scale. Also, the public actions which we will realise and that we jointly define in talks and lectures can have a multiplying effect and be a strong motivator to similar initiatives all around Europe, that involve not only local independent organisations and actors but also the communities as active stakeholders. In this regard, cities of today’s Europe truly can become forerunners of solidarity and true indicators of pan-European notion of sharing.
And – finally – how does your project help to make Europe an open and shared public space for everyone?
Through our project we want to imagine the renewal of the city, community and culture. In the face of a deep economic crisis that is sure to hit the weakest EU members, it is important to prepare for the restoration of social values. At one level, our project targets a community of organisations of independent culture in the city of Zagreb, but also nationally. Through assessing their needs we advocate solutions that are aimed at decision makers and thus have an impact on the course of policy and can give independent culture a prominent role in transformation of the city. We are interested in the monitoring of the process of adopting the law on reconstruction of Zagreb, with a special focus on spaces for culture and society. Related to that, we are organising actions and gatherings in Zagreb that aim at pressuring for just and solidary solutions for the renewal of the city. Our campaign targets all the citizens of Zagreb, puts those most affected to the fore, but also impacts all citizens in a sense that we campaign for the city where differences, multiculturality and solidarity are at the core of its life. Lastly, our international networks with whom we go through processes of knowledge building and imagining Europe as an open public space will be impacted by learning new methods of working towards just cities.
Granted: 40.000 euros