Angry cultural agents with no answer about the continuation or end of 365Algarve

Ministry of Economy answered the question posed by Sul Informação…and the news is not good

New circus was one of the usual proposals of Lavrar o Mar

"Disrespect", "indignation", "inconsiderate", "unbelievable", "absurd". It is with these words that the representatives of about half of the cultural projects supported by 365 Algarve this past season classify the lack of information about the future of this program.

The 365 Algarve, which started in October 2016 and reached four seasons, was launched in August of that year, jointly by the State Departments of Culture and Tourism, with a budget of 1,5 million euros, with the objective of «combining culture and tourism to curb seasonality in the Algarve».

Four years later, after more than a thousand shows and other initiatives, the cultural agents promoting the activities have been waiting for months to know if 365Algarve is to continue. In fact, they are even hoping that they will at least be told clearly that the program is not going to continue…and why.

O Sul Informação was in conversation, via zoom, with 11 cultural agents who actively participated in this most recent season of the program and the general mood is one of revolt in the face of silence.

Giacomo Scalisi, from the Cooperative Cultural Lavrar o Mar, sums up everyone's sentiment: «it is important not to let this lack of responses by the Secretaries of State for Culture and Tourism pass in silence».

“It's a lack of consideration for us, who are in the field and unfortunately already a little used to this issue of being a bit disposable. Of being a bit of servants to the guardianship, which, almost at the cash register, tells us: “Please organize yourselves”; “We don't need you anymore”; “See you next time,” adds Nuno Pereira, from LAC – Laboratory of Cultural Activities.

Alexandra Santos, one of those responsible for the Forgotten Food Festival (Qrer Cooperative), stresses: “we have so many projects that we want to continue, but without any information, we are all a little bit unsure of what to do with them”.

For José Laginha, from Encontros do Devir (Devir-Capa), the 365Algarve «was not perfect, but that doesn't justify its disappearing, just for no reason».


Forgotten Food Festival, in Giões (Alcoutim) – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação

On October 26, on a trip to Faro and questioned by Sul Informação, Ângela Ferreira, Secretary of State for Cultural Heritage, considered it "very important" to continue with the "work" from 365Algarve. About a month earlier, the same person responsible had promised for "November" a decision on the program. Only that November passed, December is already more than halfway through, and nothing is known about the decision.

And the news is actually not good. The program is actually in charge of the Ministry of Economy (which oversees the Secretary of State for Tourism and Tourism of Portugal, where the money that financed 365Algarve came from). For this reason, our newspaper questioned this Ministry, to find out if there is already "any decision about the continuation or not of the program".

The answer, rather laconic and by no means direct, was the following: “the abrupt interruption of tourist activity that we witnessed had a significant negative impact on companies in the tourism sector. And, in this strongly negative context, micro-enterprises and SMEs that organize events are among the companies that face the greatest difficulties and challenges. Turismo de Portugal is working on a measure aimed at granting financial support to enable micro-enterprises and SMEs to resume their activity, through the organization of new events with the resulting positive effects for them, for employment. and for the national economy, including the economy of the Algarve».

In parallel, adds the Ministry of Economy in its response to the Sul Informação, «within the scope of State Budget 2021, a program to support artistic and cultural work was created, aimed at performing arts, visual, cross-disciplinary and alternative cinema exhibitions. The artistic areas covered by this new support program will include, namely, architecture, plastic arts, design, photography, new media, circus, dance, music, theater and cinema, areas found in the Algarve 365 representativeness».

In other words: support is announced for micro-enterprises and SMEs for the «organization of new events» throughout the country, namely in the Algarve. And support is announced for «artistic and cultural work», precisely in the areas that were represented at 365Algarve.

To the concrete question of whether the program continues, there is no concrete answer. But, between the lines, you can see that it's over.

And it is precisely against the “lack of consideration” of not having an official response or communication, that the Algarve's cultural structures manifest themselves.


Ventania Festival

Lavrar o Mar, Forgotten Food Festival, Encontros do Devir, Summer Azul Festival, Olhão International Film and Literature Festival (FICLO), Festival Out (In)Verno, Ventania – Algarve Performing Arts Festival, LAMA/À Babuja. These were some of the projects that, during the fourth season, interrupted (first), conditioned (later) by the pandemic, presented themselves throughout the Algarve, even in the most remote places, outside the tourist peak season. Even in a completely atypical year, they attracted Portuguese and foreigners, from the region and beyond. And now they are bumping into a wall of silence.

“This silence is really strange. Because a program cannot end like this, At least there should be some communiqué saying that “we are going to end the program”, stresses Débora Mateus, from FICLO (Cineclube de Tavira).

“I am very angry that there is not even a decision. Because a decision allows contestation or acceptance, while this silence breeds indifference. And indifference is a form of abuse, that's what I feel. I think it is time to prove that we do not deserve this mistreatment and that our work is, in fact, vital for the region. Because, since there is no 365, we all know that the Algarve falls asleep in low season», defends Elsa Santos Mathei, from Questão Repetida, who organizes the Festival Out (in)Verno.

Mónica Samões, from the casaBranca association, which promotes the Blue Summer Festival, stresses that, «although we knew, from the beginning, that this would be a program to last x years, there was an expectation that it would exist, no longer I'm not even talking about a satisfaction, but a kind of evaluation». For that assessment, event promoters spent many hours writing reports and filling out surveys, which are now useless.

«It is very easy to destroy, isn't it? Building is the most complex. And it's a job in time. And things often need time to settle down, all of us, all the structures, in our relationships with entities, communities, municipalities. All of this is a construction", which took a long time and which now, apparently, "goes down the drain", adds Mónica.

João de Brito, from LAMA Teatro, recalls the "transversal" importance that 365Algarve had for all structures, with "more specific projects, more continuous projects, sedimentation of things that were in the drawer and that came out", but also for the «link with the communities, with the Town Halls, with the Parish Councils». How is all this now?

Madalena Victorino, from Lavrar o Mar, in line, asks where is the «continuity of a cultural dynamic that has been established across the Algarve, with such diversified and quality projects, which printed throughout the region, during the low season, a dynamic that had never existed before?”

“Or do we always continue to do the same? When someone is in power, he pays attention to a certain issue, he puts it to work. Then the guardianships change and everything ends?”, he asks.


Becoming Encounters

José Laginha is not surprised by the silence of Culture, but he is concerned about Tourism. Although, deep down, it doesn't surprise him. Since the beginning of 365Algarve, in 2016, there have always been voices from the tourism sector, in the Algarve region and beyond, questioning the validity of “spending” 1,5 million euros in tourism to finance culture. Above all, this culture, made not of great shows bought abroad, but produced in the region, by groups and artists who live here.

“I've always heard the argument that all tourism money goes to tourism. In other words, the money from tourism is only invested in culture if this means that there will be a direct benefit for tourism», admits the choreographer.

The 365Algarve, recalls José Laginha, «was sold» from the beginning as something to fill hotel beds in low season. «If the beds are empty and there are no prospects that they will be occupied, I don't think it's very strange» the silence. However, he warns, what is needed is for the entities in charge to think “if we are going to have a future” and if, in order to have that future, “it is not necessary for the Algarve to remain a region of interest”.

Elsa Mathei tries to deconstruct the idea that tourism is tourism and culture is culture. "Culture also brings economic dynamism to tourism agents, to hotels, to restaurants."

Giacomo Scalisi agrees and refers to the example of Monchique that, with the new circus shows brought by Lavrar o Mar and that marked the past four New Year seasons, received «more than 7 visitors» on those days. And the municipality of Monchique only has 4 thousand inhabitants. Many of these spectators stayed in accommodation in the county or in neighboring municipalities, ate in Monchiquense restaurants, and stayed for several days. Furthermore, most were people who would not have visited that municipality if it weren't for the cultural activity.

Alexandra Santos does not understand why «we are going to throw down a lot of money, work, energy, thought, and then start again».

«A great economic investment was made this year, in these four years, we are talking about millions of euros, we created dynamics, we created a public here in the region. And now what happens?”, asks Giacomo Scalisi.

José Laginha adds: «we are not asking for anything that has not been generated here, in the Algarve. I think this is a point that, normally, tourism forgets, when it tries to treat us as if we were any other region». No. The Algarve is the biggest Portuguese tourist region, the one that generates the most money for the whole country. Therefore, consider the cultural agents, it is more than fair that he receives what he is entitled to.

But, says Débora Mateus, «once again, perhaps, the Algarve, in this country so centralized, always ends up being one of the poor relatives. This happens in many areas, obviously, but it happens exaggeratedly in culture».

And, without the support for the production of 365Algarve, can the Algarve's cultural structures survive or are they, too, in danger?


LAC Street Art Lab


Candela Vara, from FICLO, had already put her finger on the wound, saying that, with the lack of definition caused by the lack of a formal announcement of the program's survival or death, “the precariousness of cultural agents” is being accentuated.

Berna Huidobro, from TEL-Teatro Experimental de Lagos/Festival Ventania, recalls that the program helped «create employability in the low season». “Our festival, annually, used to employ 60 artists, 20 technicians. So, it's an event that attracts people, but it also gives something to the local economy».

With the (un)announced end of 365Algarve, Bern says that the his Festival Ventania, “which took place for two weeks, will now only last for three days. Without the 365, the volume and quality are reduced».

Elsa Mathei reveals that Out (in)Verno is already “planned for next year, but on a scale of one third. We were in three councils, we were reduced to one, we couldn't make the festival itinerant». This cut, he laments, "will penalize a number of people involved in the projects."

Giacomo Scalisi admits that, in some cases, the survival of structures may be in danger. This is not the case with the Lavrar o Mar cooperative: «we have funding that the Councils continue to give us, a minimum funding, obviously, because we are talking about small Councils, such as Aljezur and Monchique. But so far they have been following ours and are showing their willingness to continue to do so. Because they realized that the work we are doing is important, for people who live in the Algarve, who live in Aljezur, who live in Monchique, and also for the economy of these two villages».

José Laginha announces that, after having been «90% international», bringing important names in the world of contemporary dance to the Algarve region, the next Encontros do Devir will be little more than an «online platform» «to promote young people». «The festival doesn't end, but it's turned completely around».

Andrea Sozzi, from casaBranca, admits that the Blue Summer Festival will be the target of «a very strong reduction».

Alexandra Santos disputes how «the financial investment made by the tutelages can be thrown away», as well as «all the work done and that it is necessary to sustain, with energy, so that it can then, in a more solar moment, that one thinks that will come with the vaccine, gain another breath». "Are we going to start all over again from the beginning?"

“What we question is why the investment of so much time and so much money ends up like this, without having an answer, without having an assessment that, probably, was even made”, concludes Giacomo Scalisi.


Participated in this press conference:

Giacomo Scalisi and Madalena Victorino – Lavrar o Mar Cooperativa Cultural CRL
José Laginha – Becoming-Cover | Becoming Encounters
Alexandra Santos – Qrer Cooperative | Forgotten Food Festival
Nuno Pereira – LAC | Creative Activities Laboratory
João de Brito – Lama Theater Association
Mónica Samões and Andrea Sozzi – CasaBranca | Blue Summer Festival
Débora Mateus and Candela Vara – Cineclube de Tavira | PHICLE
Elsa Santos Mathei – Repeated Question | Festival Out (In)Verno
Berna Huidobro – TEL-Lagos Experimental Theater | Ventania Festival



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