Day 2 of Eurosonic and I’m already a Europhile.
What makes Eurosonic charming is that it does exactly what it says on the tin. The remit of celebrating EU music is writ large by its festival programme, which I was lucky enough to sample last night. Ten Fe are a new act I discovered on Spotify on Monday, and last night, I was thrilled to see them play in a low-lit boudoir in Groningen central. Opinions were mixed, but I thought their music had the polish and satisfying mix of contemporary influences you’d expect from a truly established outfit. Think The War On Drugs or the Barr Brothers with a little more of Future Island’s infectious electronica; in other words gorgeous, and exactly my cup of tea.
Then, a wander across the town brought me to a rip-roaringly awesome, Zef-style set from Da Chick, Portugal—the perfect warm-up for London’s own Stormzy, who recently picked up several awards to rapt applause at Leeds’ own Mobo awards. Last night it was a thrill to see him perform to an equally rapt, but far more intimate crowd.
At Eurosonic, underpinning the simple pleasure of discovering new music across the town is a broader, and much more fundamental emphasis on the sharing of knowledge and contacts across music businesses within the EU. This also creates a platform for EU artists to sell themselves to non-EU businesses too.
This angling is underpinned by an ideal matched by EU cultural policy: that the internationalisation of EU projects, businesses and culture has huge potential in creating jobs, unlocking markets and developing nations, not to mention adding intangible value to quality of life for its populations. This project is not without its challenges. As we are regularly informed by the British media, the broad sweep of EU policy and the application of its principles to member states may not address the nuanced challenges each one of them is facing. There will always be issues with casting homogenous directives across areas that are culturally and economically diverse.
Yet focusing on this really does muddy the waters insofar as we forget the great potential in working together. If nothing else, the Eurosonic experience has created a feeling that Britain is (ergo, I am) a part of a community that is far bigger (and frankly, more exciting) than our little island. There are opportunities within this great swathe of humanity that are there for the taking, if one is willing to look and aspire beyond the local—this perception is a direct result of the interactions and discussions that have unfolded here.
Let me give you a concrete example. Yesterday I attended ‘a New EU Strategy for Music’ with Karel Bartak, the head of the Europe Commission’s programme for funding culture in the EU. This year, over 1 billion Euro’s worth of funds will be made available to support culture. This has included the creation of a scheme for applicants wishing to deliver projects that support the circulation of artworks within the EU (the Creative Europe Culture & Media programmes).
The purpose of this money is to encourage partners (such as festivals) to join forces, and to programme collaboratively in order to support the development of artistic talent across borders. Among other reassuring statements, Karel referenced the foundational rationale for the fund in terms of an intrinsic value in culture. Implicit in his discussion was the idea that innovation and co-operative projects should be supported. The last funding programme that ran in the ‘Culture’ category funded 45 projects to the tune of 25 million.
The strange thing about this scheme is that it seems to work. Surprising perhaps, given that it is administered by politicians and bureaucrats. The reality is that the creative industries are so fraught economically that the promise of funding support really does encourage collaboration and a forward thinking approach to arts programming.
With all of these rather hopeful thoughts in mind, all that remains is to create a strategy around these new learnings. Most certainly I will be exploring the potential for accessing some of this funding – but what for, and to what end?