Dukakis Center hosts webinar on the future of festivals in the era of COVID-19
In late March, Dukakis Center faced a difficult decision: either cancel the big symposium it had been planning for over a year (a two-day event that would have taken place on April 28-29) or hold out for a few more weeks, in the hope that the coronavirus pandemic would not affect Greece too drastically. As the government-mandated lockdown took hold and was then extended, Dr. Wisner, the Executive Director of Dukakis Center, watched ACT and other organizations big and small announce cancellations seemingly daily. After reading that the International Documentary Film Festival would be canceled, it was inevitable that he would soon have to do the same. And so the Public Affairs Symposium fell victim in turn to the virus.
David Wisner did not actually cancel the conference; rather he postponed it in the hope of being able to reschedule in the fall. The thought soon came to him that in the meanwhile, the Dukakis Center could host online events with fellow event organizers to share ideas about the future of event management in the coronavirus era. Thanks to the alert collaboration of Anatolia College’s Marketing and College Relations departments, in short order two Zoom webinars with leading cultural and scientific organizations, were planned and scheduled to take place in late May 2020. The first, convened under the gavel of Prodromos Monastaridis of the Thessaloniki Concert Hall, featured Maria Tsantsanoglou of MOMUS, Dimitris Savvaidis of AddArt, host of the annual Thessaloniki Animation Film Festival, and Tasos Tzikas, President of the Thessaloniki International Fair.
The three panelists, all of whom had collaborated previously with the Dukakis Center, sounded similar themes as the discussion ensued. How could they and their organizations make sense of the crisis and the lockdown quickly enough to turn the novel circumstance to their advantage and promote cultural activity as a pillar of social support? How could they remain engaged with their public even as they planned for a return to “normalcy?” What precautions should they take to resist the temptation of over-reliance on digital technology? Should they prepare a Plan B?
Mr. Tzikas put it best when he insisted that organizations prioritize maintaining the “chemistry” inherent in successful event planning with a “physical” public. All three concluded optimistically that the future could be better than ever, despite the temporary privations occasioned by the lockdown, and that the coronavirus crisis could be what Mr. Savvaidis aptly called “a new beginning” with an enhanced role for cultural organizations.
That beginning does not appear to be too far ahead on the horizon. MOMUS is planning to open facilities to the public in mid-June, while the International Fair is scheduled to open on schedule in September. Mr. Tzikas noted enthusiastically that the TIF might actually be the first such fair anywhere in post-COVID Europe to host fairgoers. With the annual appearance of the Prime Minister and of opposition leaders tentatively confirmed, the corner will surely have been turned, the curve flattened.
The second webinar, on academic and scientific conferences, took place on May 27 and featured Epaminondas Christofilopoulos of the Millenium Project, Dr. Anna Damaskou '96 of Transparency International Greece, Angelos Kaskanis of the Navarino Network, and ACT’s own Anestis Anastasiou, host of the annual “Tourism of Tomorrow” conference. Dimitris Diamantis, Director of ACT’s Career Services & Alumni Relations office, will moderate.
Elsewhere, the Dukakis Center will be one of 65 think tanks from around the world to participate in a working group, coordinated by the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, Milan, and the European Policy Centre in Belgrade, whose task it is to consider challenges to think tank operations posed by the coronavirus crisis. David Wisner was a featured panelist in a webinar on “Reinventing Events” on the afternoon of May 27, mere hours before the Dukakis Center webinar. This latter initiative is part of an even larger movement spearheaded by James McGann of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, with which the Dukakis Center has collaborated on multiple occasions since April 2018.
Video of the May 20 webinar is available here, on the YouTube channel of the Dukakis Center.
Further coverage of the webinar in this article by Maria Ritzaleou for ethnos.gr.