The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Presenter Interview
The IETM network, contributing to the promotion of collaborative commissioned works and tours in Europe
*The TPAM-IETM Satellite Meeting, IETM’s first satellite meeting in Japan, held jointly by Tokyo Performing Arts Market and IETM from March 3 to 5, 2008, has provided a platform for information exchange, communication and networking, and contribute to activation of cooperation among participants. The complete records of the TPAM-IETM Satellite Meeting are now available on the TPAM website:

TPAM-IETM Satellite Meeting

*Tokyo Performing Arts Market (TPAM) 2009 will be held from March 4 to 7, 2009 at Tokyo’s YEBISU The Garden Hall/Room. “TPAM Showcase” will also be held from February 28 to March 8 in Tokyo along with TPAM.

Dates: March 4 – 7, 2009 [TPAM Showcase: February 28 – March 8, 2009]
Venues: YEBISU The Garden Room and others.

Tokyo Performing Arts Market (TPAM)
Would you tell us about the administrative structure of IETM, such as budget and number of staff? Also, why you have your office in Brussels?
    The financial turnover which goes through our office is between €350,000 – €500,000 per year. But that’s doubled if you think of the income and expenditure which go through the accounts of our meeting co-organizers. So IETM’s global turnover is about a million euro a year.
    The first eight years were, as I mentioned, were organized spontaneously rather like a rave party: Someone would invite everyone: Come to my festival! Let’s be here, let’s go there. That period was the beginning of the Belgian-Flemish Wave: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Wim Vandekeybus, Jan Lauwers and Jan Fabre, all those artists were emerging – and Flemish professionals were organizing themselves, firstly into a Flemish performance circuit which then became the Flemish Theater Institute. The Founder-Director was one of the founders of IETM. He said, “I will give you a corner of the office and some time of one of our employees so that we can take care of the network.” A lot of people think we are in Brussels only because of the European Commission – but we are there purely because of that background.
    We have a Board of Directors with between 20-25 people from different countries. They delegate most of the work to six people, our executive committee, which we call the “Daily Board.” The six prepare the meetings for the 25, and the 25 prepare the things for the whole network. Including myself, we have a staff of five at the moment – three permanent posts and two posts for 1-year apprentices. We also have interns, so we can be up to eight people at any one time. It’s a small number but enormous compared to what we used to be: we were only one or two for many years! We are small – that is why we have to do everything in partnership with co-organizers for our meetings.

How did you come to assume the position of executive director at IETM?
    Before IETM, my specialty was mostly in contemporary dance, with some ballet and music theater – touring, programming and presentation. Then I started to work for the Arts Council in the Southwest of England, in-charge of developing dance and experimental performance arts. At that time I was doing a Masters Degree in European cultural policy. I wanted to look at the phenomenon of co-producing in Europe. All the people I interviewed for my thesis who were making interesting co-productions were members of IETM. So I thought, “It must be interesting.” I became a member myself. When the current position, “Secretary General” – we don’t call it Executive Director because of the European background – came up, I applied and was selected.

You had a Satellite Meeting in Tokyo last March (2008). And there was a meeting in Seoul last year. Before Seoul, it was in China. IETM is primarily for European countries, so why these meetings in Asian countries?
    Although we call ourselves an “international” organization, we know that 85% of our members are from Europe (both EU and non-EU countries). Obviously that means 15% are from some other world regions. So we try to make bridges between the European situation and the rest of the world. We try to set up opportunities for our members to more easily find out who to meet, what to see, what is happening and what to discuss in Asia - and vice-versa for Asians or others wishing to collaborate with Europe.
    Meetings are quite expensive to organize as you might imagine. Fundraising for the costs of the meeting is done by our partner in the country where the meeting takes place. Most of the partners that co-organize the meetings with us, like TPAM (Tokyo Performing Arts Market) – are our members. They make an offer to host a meeting, they have to bid, and our Board makes a selection. We try to maintain a balance concerning the locations – but somehow we have rarely had to approach a city or coutry and ask them to be a local partner. Normally, the member organizations express their interest to invite us. Sometimes smaller, younger organizations are ambitious and express their interest to co-organize a meeting but we have to say, “You are not ready yet. Let’s work together and wait for a few years until you become strong enough.”

Do you involve yourself in the decision-making process concerning what kinds of performances or productions to show during the IETM meeting?
    No. For both our Plenary Meetings and our other smaller meetings such as Satellite Meetings, we always leave artistic choices to the local partner/organizer. We only say to them, “Please include people in your selection committee who have an international outlook,” because it would be useless if the pieces to be shown are not appropriate for international presenters. We also ask the partner to show full length performances – not excerpts – because that is what IETM members prefer. But artistic choices are left to the local partner.

What kind of reaction did you get from your members on the IETM meeting in Tokyo?
    The interesting thing from an inter-cultural point of view was that Europeans are used to talking a lot and asking a lot of questions, whereas Japanese are more apt to listen and be quiet. We thought that perhaps Japanese don’t feel it would be polite to challenge a speaker by asking questions. So the Europeans talked all the time, and were surprised that the Japanese didn’t! After this experience, we decided that if we co-organize another meeting in Japan, we should break up the meeting into much smaller groups, so that both the Japanese and the Europeans can be more comfortable about discussing things together.

Besides co-organizing network meetings in many places, what other kinds of activities does IETM involve itself in?
    We are very politically active and do a lot of advocacy work at the European level. We do a lot of lobbying for the conditions to help performing arts improve in Europe.

What exactly do you mean by “politically active” and “lobbying?”
    Participating in a lot of committees is one of our ways of being “politically active.” Sitting on boards of organizations, or working with national or European-level cultural policy think-tanks are other ways. For example, I was one of 12 people chosen to give recommendations to the European Union to improve the international mobility of young people, students, researchers and artists over the next 10 years. We worked on the recommendations for six months and delivered our report yesterday.
    We also look at all the different arts support programs, at legislation that exists but is not being implemented, at different national policies which do or do not improve the situation for contemporary performing arts. We observe different kinds of subsidies and partnerships with business that would make things easier. For example, we’ve seen in Central and Eastern Europe that conditions have not improved as everyone thought they would do after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now in the new liberal-capitalist economies, public subsidies are decreasing and sponsorship is not growing. We are very concerned about that.
    We write reports and discuss these issues during our meetings. Sometimes we commission studies which go into greater depth to see what the problems are. And then we may make recommendations for the different political levels, foundations and business, etc.; then we will go out to see politicians, big foundations or companies, knock on their doors and say, “Look, this is a vision for Europe. Do you agree with it? Do you want to be a part of it?” So IETM is not only at the point of sale. It’s really much more than that.
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