Seven projects will be delivered as part of the Cultural Bridge Pilot Programme, which aims to promote cross-border cooperation between the four UK nations and Germany. FF have been selected alongside Fine Arts Institute Leipzig (FAIL), Leipzig, & Alchemy Film & Arts, Hawick, to deliver BRIDGET 'Building Better Bridges'.
With investment from Fonds Soziokultur, Arts Council England, Arts Council Northern Ireland, British Council, Wales Arts International, Creative Scotland and Goethe Institute in London. The programme will build new relationships to support intercultural exchange and dialogue in the field of participative arts and culture between Germany and the UK.
Building Better Bridges intends to share learning, exchange expertise and develop new approaches to socially engaged practice.
Our collaboration with Alchemy Film & Arts (Hawick, Scotland) and FAIL - Fine Arts Institute (Leipzig, Germany) through the Cultural Bridge platform, is rooted in our communal commitment to strengthening communities and working to expand understanding between them, through the recognition and breaking of both tangible and intangible borders. Our ongoing weekly virtual meetings have been a strong source of nurturing these ideals, through exploring each other's practices, and the different ways our common goals are carried out in different spaces culturally, politically and geographically.
The virtual meetings, which have been taking place since November have also served as an opportunity of getting to know each other as art organisations in a purposeful way. Thus far, these encounters have included exploring each partner's town, topography and work spaces together through navigating Google maps and sharing hand drawn sketches, as well as through the exchanging of music, games and recently discovered ideas, insights and experiences.
The possibility of meeting and engaging with each organisation's projects, within the town they are based, is something we are extremely keen to actualise and work towards, while still being mindful and realistic of the restrictions that exist because of Covid 19. This has led us to explore multiple outcomes of the Cultural Bridge collaboration that we can all engage with and be a part of, remotely.
FAIL - Fine Arts Institute has shared with us their most recent collaborative project with JSA Regis-Breitingen - a prison for adolescents - where they are working on the production of a magazine, entitled, ‘Standhaft’. They have invited the Cultural Bridge partners to contribute to its production in a way that aligns with our shared ideals and each organisation’s own practice.
In addition, Alchemy Film and Arts have commissioned artist Sophie Lindsey to facilitate a workshop on methods and modes of play, partnership and critical engagement in a digital context - which can serve as another outcome for the Cultural Bridge collaboration. Both partners visiting our friends in Scotland when the twelfth edition of Alchemy Film & Moving Image Festival (28 April - 2 May 2022) will take place, is also on the cards.
Folkestone Fringe’s sound festival event, 'Profound Sound' - which is scheduled to take place 22 - 24 April 2022 - is an opportunity for the FAIL Institute, who are free within this time frame, to visit the town and witness some of the work that we do and respond to an invitation to present work from their artist’s network. FF have also invited both partners to respond with their own Signals response. Developed through lockdown to present day, Signals is messaging project using international maritime flags as a regenerated form of visual communication that celebrates Folkestone’s rich maritime culture, whilst encouraging communities to come together again to engage in new forms of communication.
Another potential outcome includes the continued hosting of virtual gatherings by each organisation via zoom, in the next coming weeks. These are opportunities for the partners to invite their full teams as well as associate artists and collaborators, allowing each organisation to experience a fuller picture of how individual networks operate. The aim of this is to continue nurturing the relationships and knowledge exchange with each other, and it allows the host of each gathering to further expand on their specific practice and findings in an accepting, safe, and often playful space.
Our collaboration with Alchemy Film & Arts (Hawick, Scotland) and FAIL - Fine Arts Institute (Leipzig, Germany) through the Cultural Bridge platform began November 2021, and was rooted in our communal commitment to strengthening communities and working to expand understanding between them, through the recognition and breaking of both tangible and intangible borders. Through the platform, we were invited to get to know each other, and so weekly virtual meetings were organised; connecting Hawick, Folkestone and Leipzig, as well as the individuals behind the practices each organisation is involved in. Our zoom meet up sessions functioned more like workshops - the openness and comfortability created through this space served as a strong source of nurturing these ideals we all associated our work with. Every week was an opportunity to explore each other's practices, and the different ways our common goals were carried out in different spaces culturally, politically and geographically. In spite of the purposefulness and intention cultivated through each encounter, it was equally accompanied by a light playfulness that allowed us to connect with each other in the ways that we did. Virtual parties packed with fun world games and riddles, hosted by each organisation became a theme, and really laid the foundation for the way we approached learning from one another when we were finally met with the opportunity to meet in the flesh.
In April 2022, FAIL - Fine Arts Institute travelled from Leipzig to Folkestone to finally meet the Folkestone Fringe team, as well as perform in and experience Profound Sound 2022, our experimental sound and music festival. We had been anticipating this meet up for months, and so it felt particularly special to host them in our own town, and witness the energy and perspective that they contributed to the festivals happenings. Their performance at DIY4Folke was truly one of a kind, as their motives of embracing fear while engaging members of the community to partake in an epic drumming session (complete with fog, balloons and flashing lights) demonstrated what their work is all about, and just how meaningful it is. Getting to know them further, while introducing them to the town within the frame of it’s public artworks allowed for so much conversation around the ways our practices differ as well as reflect one another. Though we were sad to say goodbye after their visit, our trip to Leipzig to see them again, and finally meet Alchemy Film & Arts for the first time, was well underway.
Not much more than a month later, we all found ourselves in Leipzig - our plans from the very beginning of our collaboration had at last been actualised. We spent our time lounging in re-purposed public spaces, exploring the town Thallwitz (where FAIL had done tremendous work, and formed meaningful relationships with its community) witnessing, interpreting and discussing various exhibitions around Leipzig - and of course playing word games and twister in the FAIL space, where many of the most fond memories for the trip had been cultivated. FAIL’s hosting was truly spectacular - we were able to learn so much about one another, and find an even more meaningful connection to each other’s work, than our online sessions allowed. With each organisation bringing their own perspectives and practices to the table, we truly feel that we were able to eliminate some of the intangible barriers that often separate us from each other, alongside crafting the space to interrogate, and candidly discuss our differences. The similarities between Leipzig, Hawick and Folkestone allowed for us to find so much of ourselves within each other and our separate practices.
Simultaneously, there was an openness that allowed us to connect in spite of the ways we differ, and broaden our perspectives through listening, engaging and sharing. An abundance of meaningful activities, encounters and conversations have left us wholly grateful for the opportunity to connect with the wonderful people from FAIL and Alchemy Film and Arts, as well as those we met along the way. We are forever thankful for the new friends we’ve made, as we anticipate our next encounters with one another.
We currently meet digitally every 3 weeks to connect, and discuss our future plans.