Venues From the Future - Tool Kit

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Venues From The Future

Toolkit For The Future




content &  Credits

This publication is realized with the amazing support of: Contributors Janpier Brands Iñaki Otalora Laura Ferrero Frank Kimenai Ken Veerman Arkadiusz Półtorak Koen ter Heegde (editor) Design Maurice Corbesier (visual identiy) ST–DUO (publication) Special thanks To all participants, venues, artists, volunteers, visitors and other souls that contributed to sustaining experimental communities around the globe. ® All rights reserved. Rotterdam April, 2022

Venues From The Future is funded by:



01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13

Opening words Value of small venues Project context & goals Timeline Resilience of music ecosystems The Try-angle Work methodology The growth dilemma Facts & figures Results & future cooperation Policy advice & recommendations The future of VFTF Participants

p 6–7 p 8–9 p 13–27 p 30–31 p 34–35 p 36–37 p 38–39 p 40–43 p 46–47 p 48–51 p 52–53 p 54–55 p 56–57



Janpier Brands General Director WORM. April ‘22

VENUES FROM THE FUTURE represents a European network of seven small, experimental music venues and art spaces. Since February of 2020, we have had weekly exchanges of knowledge and experiences, hosted several work-conferences and circulated artists and cultural workers between the participating venues. We are living in complicated times, which seem to be defined by war, pandemic, ecological crises and extreme social and economic inequality. When we started with Venues From The Future, the vulnerable position of small venues was central in the project. A vulnerability caused by the threat of monopolization of the acts by larger, institutionalized venues, an audience that has more leisure-alternatives than ever and governments that show a lack of interest in alternative, non-mainstream culture. 5.


Then, just after the start of our cooperation, the pandemic struck, and everything changed. It made evident the strength and resilience of small venues and art spaces in Europe, which proved to be able to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances much faster than their larger counterparts. They are a crucial element in social cohesion in times of strong polarization. They provide agency, solidarity and spaces to local communities, artists and cultural workers and are often part of international networks. This Toolkit wants to inspire like-minded venues, community spaces and artist-run organizations. Our organizations are fundamental in developing new narratives and perspectives, upholding common values, supporting social-artistic communities, and connecting them across Europe. Notes on Covid-19

Covid-19 has a major impact on small music venues. The nature of the impact differs per venue and per region, and depends, among other things, on government measures and (the absence of) financial support. That led to worry and stress, and at the same time to transformation.

In addition, the Venues develop alternative possibilities for the international circulation of artists and cultural workers. The core of this is: not touring, but exchanging, in multi-day residences of kindred spirits. The work produced in the residencies is then distributed on the network of internet- and community radio.

The fact that the Venues from the Future still exist after two years of the pandemic is an indication of their adaptive capacity.

In this way, the Venues have an artistic-social function for their environment and for the international development of contemporary art and culture. This has become very visible during the pandemic. Recognition of this position by (local) governments is something that has to be fought for.

Venues are transformed into production spaces for artists, meeting spaces for local residents, classrooms for audio engineering students, meal facilities for the elderly, construction sites for skate ramps, studios for community radio, AV studios for internet broadcasting, and studios for artists.




Value of small venues – European local infrastructure

Traditionally, small music venues are versatile laboratories for new cultural developments. For decades they have been a vital source of urban subcultures, nurturing new artistic forms and cross-overs. These developments were organically facilitated by the small-scale context and through the humane, individual approach of these venues, often working with various project-groups and volunteers. The lack of institutionalization of small venues became a distinctive advantage in changing societies towards the turn of the millennium. GOALS

Exchanging best practice and experiences between participating venues Developing new strategies and methodologies for small European venues ww ww ww ww

Building sustainable relations between venues and underrepresented communities Facilitating social dialogue and interaction with the venue as catalyst and forum



Because right now, large venues are taking advantage of this situation, using their scale and efficiency in institutionalized, professional structures, to benefit in the field of artist-fees, catering & hospitality, marketing and ticketing. As a consequence of this, we currently see a monopolization of programming by a decreasing number of curators in cities, which can eventually lead to a more generic, homogenous and monocultural program. It can also result in a ticket sales-based approach, in which programs become less adventurous, booking established acts catering to more privileged audiences. Cultural diversity becomes a fringe-program for festivals and the focus is on consumption and spectacle. The urban communities aren’t challenged into participation or to showcase their own potential in venues. Contemporary developments in society demand a different approach: participation, inclusivity, experimentation, fresh voices and views on cultural production. Going against dominant mainstream discourse and the urban status quo. Precisely where traditionally the relevance and strength of smaller venues was found: urban laboratories for society, experimental community spaces. If small venues aim to return to their experimental position in the cultural infrastructure, giving agency to underrepresented artistic expressions, they should not attempt to do so by adapting to the business-approach of larger venues. Instead they need to aim for a radically different, and inclusive, way of creating their programs. They need to thoroughly reboot and reinvent themselves, to adapt to the dynamics of contemporary society, find new audiences and connect to local communities. By rebooting the organization, and reinventing the way they create their program, these venues also become more competitive in the local cultural infrastructure. Small venues should not compete with mainstream larger venues on audience numbers, amount of events or financial balance. Instead, they can use their versatility, low threshold, horizontal structure and diversity as principal strengths in connecting with new audiences. With an improved methodology, new connections with the local communities and by creating program with (instead of for) these communities they can become a catalyst for new crossovers and developments again. Small venues could once again become the crucial pivot of a changing society. 8.


In the last decade, urban audiences have fragmented into a myriad of interconnected subcultural identities. Potential visitors have more alternatives to choose from, and communities aren’t as exclusively connected to specific venues. Newer generations have a much more dynamic identity and choose venues that showcase a similar versatility in its program. In this context, we see many smaller venues ‘ sticking to their old guns’, clinging to their traditional cultural niches, whilst their audiences simultaneously shrinks to a small bubble of likeminded people. This hermetic structure of small venues is restraining the influx and participation of new audiences, young artists and forms. We feel that the versatility that once characterized small venues as the urban catalyst for new artistic languages, can and should be revitalized in today’s urban infrastructure.



venues from the future


Studenterhus Aarhus

(Aarhus, Denmark)



(Rotterdam, Netherlands)


VK — VaartKapoen

(Brussels, Belgium)

E Elementarz dla Mieszkańców Miast

(Krakow, Poland)


Kvaka 22

(Belgrade, Serbia) D


(San Sebastian, Spain) T


(Pristina, Kosovo)





venue#01 WORM (NL) “WORM is socially involved, committed and artistically innovative. Always looking for what is relevant. WORM sets an example in the field of inclusivity; a place where communities come together; where everyone is taken seriously. All this makes WORM a very valuable place, right in the heart of the city.” Said Kasmi (Vice Mayor for Education, Culture and Tourism in Rotterdam)

WORM is a space for the production, presentation and distribution of alternative culture, in the center of Rotterdam. In WORM, a sound studio, a photochemical lab, and various other facilities are available to people who want to produce artistic work. The WORM program is based on co-creation with dozens of partners and communities. Productions and programs are distributed in an alternative circuit of like-minded venues, in the Netherlands and abroad. The core of the mission is our interest in what our fellow human beings come up with. In WORM more than 60 employees work on this mission, together with volunteers, communities and artists. WORM is supported in this by financial contributions from governments and funds, in addition to its own income. They aim to become a venue reference for the public sector by setting standards for other experimental / live music venues in the Netherlands and in Europe.



venue#02 Dabadaba (es)

Dabadaba is a meeting place for music fans and people looking for a different space and experiences, always ensuring inclusivity and respect. The venue opened its doors in 2014 in Donostia - San Sebastián with the intention of hosting all possible musical proposals on its stage. Since then, constant evolution has characterized Dabadaba, adding the night-club facet along the way, and consolidating itself as a reference venue and club in the Basque Region. Music live shows and support to local artists is the DNA of Dabadaba and this is why it exists. Concerts any day of the week, first class artists, both historical and new local talents, with the whole range in between. At the same time Becoming

a reference club, betting on less obvious music, getting out of the marked lanes and getting all of Donostia to enjoy it is one of its greatest prides. Premium sound to dance to top-level international DJs and a rich local scene that has its home in Dabadaba. In addition to music, Dabadaba hosts theater, exhibitions, projections, presentations. Over time, many of the parallel activities that emerged under the umbrella of Dabadaba have acquired their own entity, from the Mercadabadillo (flea market) to the record store and label Elsa Records, all promoted by the company, Guajira Sicodelica. 15.


“ The Dabadaba was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stuck live-music venues community in San Sebastian. It rapidly became the reference for live-music alternative programming not only in the city but in the broader scenario of the Basque Country. Dabadaba successfully bridged the gap between a local cultural community thirsty of new sounds and experiences, and the need that bands had for new venues with the ambition of being disruptive. And Dabadaba was and still is disruptive, always walking on the edge of creativity, combining both an eclectic and high quality programming with a social approach to its business model. Quality music for all no matter what it takes. As a citizen of San Sebastian and a member of its local administration I cannot but thank the men and women that helped create what has become a center of social innovation in our city, bringing together diversity around music. You cannot ask for more to a music venue, can you? ” Borja Corominas Fisas (City Councilor of Donostia-San Sebastian)



“ In the past years, I have gotten to know the VK as an open space where I can come with questions and help to develop my music. I have had the chance to test a live performance there, did a week of residency with another artist and have recorded a live video. VK has a very open position towards artists and is the first place where I go to ask for technical or content related questions about my music. The big hall and technical facilities for lights and sound are great, and there is a nice, cosy atmosphere which always makes it great to work there.” Fleur Khani (Musician, theatre maker and actress based in Brussels)



venue#03 VAARTKAPOEN (bE)

De Vaartkapoen is a concert hall and community center with artistic missions, founded 37 years ago in Molenbeek. Our baseline is “Muziek, Maatschappij, Molenbeek” or “Music, Society, Molenbeek”: we aim at connecting everything we do to these 3 M’s. As a concert hall, VK has a long and rich history in promoting underground music and continues to do so by collaborating with different partners, festivals and local event. VK promotes genres that don’t always get attention in big venues and provides rehearsal space and residencies for musicians, workhops, ... The community center has a very strong local anchoring and supports social exchange and

artistic creation through community work and social practices. Engaging the needs of their community, especially women in their close neighbourhood, is one of VK most valuable assets. VK proves that art and social work can and should go hand in hand. The concert hall and community centre experiment on creating crossovers between these two functions. We do this by creating more accesible events and other ways of hosting concerts. VK is an open and accesible house, reaching different audiences and communities that represent Brussels.



venue#04 kvaka22(RS) “ All the legendary gigs happened in a small venue like Kvaka. Warm, relaxed atmosphere, as well as the absence of the “tampon zone“ is something you do not experience in the arena. Small venues like Kvaka provide close contact with the audience and an energy exchange in High-Fidelity.”` Ana-Marija Cupin (Bass player of Belgrade-based rock band Repetitor)

Kvaka 22 – The idea of creating a unique space that would bring together and promote Belgrade’s contemporary art scene is uniting Kvaka 22’s collective since 2015. At the beginning, this multimodal platform was open both for the local scenes and local audiences. It was created by artists for artists. Soon, it became a place where everyone can feel at home - and still is to this day - regardless of your socio-economical background, origins, gender, culture or prefered art field.

They can also use the space as a starting point to collaborate with other artists, bands or collectives from Serbia, the Balkan, Europe and the world, thus developing their artistic practice and their audience abroad. Through the activities carried out in our center, both international and national art-dwellers are encouraged to deeply connect with one-another despite obstacles assigned to a given cultural group.

The program is based on the realization of exhibitions, performances, music concerts, club nights, karaoke, screenings, conferences, eduIn Kvaka, emerging artists get acquainted with the importance and role of an independent cational and practical workshops. Our interdiscicultural and artistic system, in order to actively plinary program, is co-curated with the audience take part as bearers, builders and workers of an as a meeting point of different genres and uncompromised and uncompromising art scene. generations thanks to residencies and events." 19.




“ Volunteering at Studenterhus Aarhus paved the way for me to establish a social and professional network around music and the professional skill set necessary to navigate and work within the music and culture sector. It was also an opening to a network of friends and like-minded young students and an important gateway to working with other related institutions in Aarhus and the rest of Denmark. By offering these possibilities, Studenterhus Aarhus made a definitive impact on both my social and professional life.” Jonas Lundquist, former volunteer & now Cultural Consulent in Aalborg Municipality.” Jonas Lundquist (Former volunteer & now Cultural Consulent in Aalborg Municipality)



venue#05 Studenterhus Aarhus   (dK)

Studenterhus Aarhus is a partially publicly funded venue, set into the world to support an engaging student environment. The venue mainly promotes upcoming artists, supports creation and promotes diversity such as the LGBTI+ scene. They are thriving to develop their audience engagement thanks to strong internal organization supported by volunteers, themselves assisted by dedicated employees. They are inserted in an environment that allows them to develop strong relations with civil society organizations and partnerships with private companies as well as public institutions. Studenterhus Aarhus is financially sustainable thanks to the above-mentioned partnerships but also thanks to an effective system of memberships. 22.


venue#06 Elementarz dla MieszkaNców Miast(PL)

Elementarz dla Mieszkańców miast (Primer for City Dwellers) was created as a relation-driven venue as opposed to a demand-driven venue. Collaborating artists are engaged in the venue’s everyday life and are able to use it as a platform of experimentation. The name of the initiative comes from Bertolt Brecht’s series of poems, Aus dem Lesebuch für Städtebewohner. In dialogue with the writer’s oeuvre, the curators of Elementarz encourage socially conscious and aesthetically challenging production in visual arts, electronic music and beyond. Upon its founding in 2016, Elementarz was one of numerous small-scale project spaces scattered

around Kraków. Currently, it remains one of only a handful, sustaining itself on the basis of irregular donations as well as partnerships with similar organisations and public institutions. The venue’s mission is to support artistic creation by providing makers with a presentation space where they can collaborate with artists from other disciplines. Transdisciplinarity is one of the key aspects of Elementarz. Their identity is also defined by their sense of hospitality: welcoming artists is not just about providing them material assets but also by accompanying them in their creative journey. 23.


“ I collaborated with Elementarz dla Mieszkanców Miast a number of times. Each time the place was open to the initiative, hospitable and helpful. I also noticed that their generous attitude towards both the artists and the audiences has led to the emergence of a new creative community in the city. Certainly, an important function of the Elementarz is the integration of artistic circles in Krakow among representatives of various fields of art and culture at every stage of their professional development. I greatly value the acquaintances and friendships which I have been able to form thanks to the events organised there - as well as the fruitful moments of inspiration I experienced in the particular space on Adama Asnyka 7” Aleksandra Korzelska (Intermedia artist based in Krakow)



“ The continuous application of self-governing through a horizontal structure (means) is intimately linked to a possibility where those means are put into practice in a wider social context (ends). The values of egalitarianism, common practices of responsibility and accountability, inclusivity, accessibility, diversity, are ideas that brought me to Termokiss, and are what keep me there still, regardless of the many hustles we continue to face. Termokiss is an important seed out of which practices of self-governing and community lead projects spread through the social consciousness, and it does so not by aiming for a future end, but by practicing those ends in the Argnes Ahmeti (Fiction writer and community here and now.” member at Termokiss in Pristina



venue#07 termokiss   (XK) Termokiss is a community-run center in Prishtina with the mission of urban, civil and cultural exchange, reflection and change-making. After revitalizing an abandoned and forgotten building, the social center is open to a range of activities, which can be linked only by being non-profit and educational. Activities and organizing processes are managed by the community. Termokiss activities develop towards the need to give equal space to all voices in need for free space. Some of them include: concerts, art exhibitions, discussions, and workshops. Termokiss is not a disciplinary driven center, it is open to all sorts of activities that respond to the contextual social struggles and needs and it does so by providing support on infrastructural as well organizational and community needs. The center applies an intergenerational approach where exchange among various participants and ages running Termokiss throughout years can support one another. Its horizontal structure, experimental ways of knowledge production and distribution, as well as their commitment to inclusive practices make Termokiss unique among other social and cultural centers in the region. Termokiss is supported financially partially through local and international funds which are gained through applications based on the program and space needs, identified through discussions with the community. A long-term goal is self-sustainability, currently achieved through selling drinks from the bar located in the space, especially during musical events. 26.





28–29 June @ VK, Brussels | First (digital) conference 27–28 September @ Dabadaba, San Sebastian | Second (physical) conference 1-4 February @ Kvaka 22, Belgrade | Third conference 25-26 April @ WORM, Rotterdam | Final conference


28-29 June @ VK Brussels First (Digital) conference Online tours of the venues of the project partners, and presentations of their goals and activities. During the first sessions, participants and partners took the opportunity to formulate concrete goals for the project. Afternoon lecture by researcher Frank Kimenai on musical ecosystems. In the evening a streaming festival ‘Music from the Future’ with performances in each of the participating venues.

27–28 September @ Dabadaba San Sebastian Second (Physical) conference Further development of a functional methodology to work toward our project goals. Several round table sessions and smaller working groups focusing on further reflection, community building and potential future cooperation. Founding of a common brand identity within the framework of Venues from the Future, sharing common values and ongoing exchange of cultural workers.



1-4 February @ Kvaka 22 Belgrade Third conference Presentation of the participants representing Termokiss (Pristina) on their horizontal, plenary system of programming. Development on the follow-up and future projects, and forthcoming exchange residencies of cultural workers. Lecture by researcher Ken Veerman on Tri-Angle methodology on audience building developed for LiveDMAs. Development of Toolkit and project-documentary. Filming discussions and topical one-on-ones. Launching of VFTF25-26 April @ WORM brand and meeting local organizers Rotterdam from Belgrade and Final conference the region. Live event with DJs Final gathering off all the partners in from Brussels, Rotterdam. Finalization the docuRotterdam, mentation of the project results into Pristina and Krakow. documentary. Discussing future cooperation and projects between the venues. Brainstorming about upcoming and potential exchange residencies. Thorough evaluation of the current project. Reception with local venues and cultural workers and presentation of Toolkit. Final performance night with musicians representing the partnering venues.


Theoretic models


Resilience of Music Ecosystems

Resilience of Music Ecosystems. Frank Kimenai

The music sector is often conceptualized as an ecosystem. However, the use of this analogy is mostly metaphorical. Ecosystem-theory on the other hand, goes beyond the level of the metaphor and investigates ecological principles that lie at the basis of the ecosystem and shape its structure and dynamics. Adopting and working with these principles can help music venues become more future proof and innovative. It allows them to enhance and strengthen the system they are part of. This requires a different approach, both conceptually and in language. The following list of shifts in concepts and language proposes a first step towards this new way of thinking. 33.

Resilience of Music Ecosystems

Going From:





Multi-dimensional / Idiosyncratic







Carefully balanced

Dynamic equilibrium

The value chain

A / Multiple value chains

Then, just after the start of our cooperation, the pandemic struck, and everything changed. It made evident the strength and resilience of small venues and art spaces in Europe, which proved to be able to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances much faster than their larger counterparts. They are a crucial element in social cohesion in times of strong polarization. They provide agency, solidarity and spaces to local communities, artists and cultural workers and are often part of international networks. This Toolkit wants to inspire like-minded venues, community spaces and artist-run stages. Our organizations are fundamental in developing new narratives and perspectives, upholding common values, supporting social-artistic communities, and connecting them across Europe. For music ecosystems to be future proof and capable of dealing with crises and change, they must be resilient. Resilience can be built in several ways. Music venues can play a proactive role in this, for example by fostering diversity, providing a place for experimentation, foster awareness of the music sector, becoming a hub for connectivity of sector actors, allowing people to participate in the music sector, or getting involved in governance of the sector on local, regional or (inter) national level.

Frank Kimenai is an independent consultant, researcher and cultural professional, specialized in the creative industry. His current PhD research focuses on the resilience of music ecosystems.



The Try-Angle, a tool for audience development by Live DMA.

The Try-Angle, a tool for audience development by Live DMA. Ken Veerman

The European audience is rapidly changing yet a lot of existing music venues struggle to bring in a new crowd. Audience development is deliberate work, not something that happens automatically. But how do you start? And what can you learn from other venues? After studying a series of best practices during the 2017 and 2018 Live DMA working groups on Audience Development, we found that there was an abstract structure underlying most best practices. In short: venues operate inside the triangle between audience, artist and setting. If you want to change the audience, you need to change either the artistic programme or the setting (time, location, context, …) of the event. 35.

The Try-Angle, a tool for audience development by Live DMA.

This triangle became the Try-Angle, a tool for audience development. It helps venues discover new ways of building audiences, not by telling them what to do, but by helping them see new opportunities within their own work. The Try-Angle is a flowchart that guides venues through a set of questions and invites them to re-think the dynamic between the three elements audience, artist and setting. The tool starts from the belief that venues can reach new audiences not by following a uniform cookie-cutter method that is the same in every venue, but by finding unique strategies fit for their organisation. The Try-Angle is developed by Live DMA together with European music venue professionals and it is still a work in progress. In 2022 Live DMA will issue a call for venues to test-drive the first version. Based on results and feedback we aim to develop a second improved version.

Live DMA is a European non-governmental network supporting live music associations. It is composed of 21 members situated in 17 countries. The members are regional and national live music associations that represent over 3800 music venues, clubs and festivals located all over Europe.

Ken Veerman is a Belgian cultural advisor who specialises in European live music venues and their new roles in tomorrow’s society. He spent over fifteen years running music venues and cultural organisations. Ken is a frequent speaker and writer on topics such as European live music policy, venue management, audience development and customer-driven perspectives for value-driven organisations.



VFTF – Toolkit Timeline

toolkit &  Timeline


• Step 1 / Introduction stage [ ① Meeting & set-up teams ][ ② Prepare production planning ][ ③ Announcement project through › "Music from the future"] ☐ milestone: 1st Conference @ VK

• Step 2 / Preparation stage [ ① Ideating ][ ② Theorizing ][ ③ Planning Toolkit & Documentary][ ④ Drafting ] ☐ milestone: 2nd Conference @ DABADABA

• Step 3 / Realization stage [ ① Peer Learning ][ ② Writing up Toolkit] [ ③ Drafting collective 'Creative Europe' application] ☐ milestone: 3rd Conference @ KVAKA 22

• Step 4 / Deepening stage [ ① Dividing tasks for Toolkit & Documentary ] [ ② Writing up 'Creative Europe' application] [ ③ Final Review][ ④ Deadline] ☐ milestone: Final Conference @ WORM

• Step 5 / Presentation stage [ ① Finalizing Toolkit & Documentary ][ ② Final Review][ ③ Deadline][ ④ Dissemination] ☐ milestone: Project Completed


VFTF – Work Methodology

Work Methodology

Our working conference hosted different individuals, representing distinct organizations united by the fact they defend art space as a place of learning through exchanges, of creation through experimentation and of building communities. Even though we were sharing these fundamental visions and their related values, our context differences could appeared as a limitation to build long-lasting collaborations with various activities. Thus, during and in-between working conferences, we experimented also on ways of working together, physically as well as remotely, taking aforementioned differences as an incentive rather than a limitation. As the Music and Performative sector requires flexibility, we created team dedicated to one results/ activities, yet interconnected with each other thanks to our weekly meetings and the conferences workshop. Responsible W D V K S


WORM DABADABA VK Kvaka 22 Studenterhus Elementarz Termokiss

D K Team Documentary








W General Organisation

Conference organisation K V


® Laura Ferrero

Team Toolkit





Team Creative Europe Application D




The growth dilemma — Notes on networking beyond clusters

The growth dilemma. Notes on networking beyond clusters Arkadiusz Półtorak, PhD

Arkadiusz Półtorak, PhD Cultural studies scholar, curator and art critic; works in the Department of Performance and Performativity Studies at the Faculty of Polish Studies of the Jagiellonian University; co-founder of the independent platform for contemporary art and music Elementarz dla Mieszkanców Miast in Krakow; graduate of De Appel Curatorial Programme, secretary on the board of the Polish Section of AICA. His recent curatorial projects include the workshop Adaptations with Marysia Lewandowska (Kraków 2021), the group exhibition Rozspojone (Out of Joint) dedicated to Polish art after martial law and Egyptian art after the Arab Spring (Warsaw 2021) and the group exhibition While I Kiss the Sky dedicated to the relationship between art, cybernetics and ecology (Vienna 2019; co-curated with Goschka Gawlik; part of the curated_by festival)


The growth dilemma — Notes on networking beyond clusters

While working on this toolkit, we were meeting in various places in Europe – Brussels, Rotterdam, San Sebastian and Belgrade. It was on the roof of one of the Belgrade buildings – namely, the former military quarters where one of the partner organisations, Kvaka 22, is located – that I became vividly aware of the stakes of the project, which I joined as a co-founder of Elementarz dla Mieszkańców Miast (Primer for City Dwellers) in Krakow. In a city where old architecture mixes with modern buildings – often filling the void left by NATO’s 1999 bombing – we talked about solidarity across political divides and possible ways out of the precarious work conditions that affect artists and cultural workers in all of our home countries. The tone of our conversations that day was decidedly affirmative. We shared ideas about how to develop the ongoing project, focusing on concrete possibilities for exchange between member organisations and expanding our network. In short: we became interested in growth. Our project, however, was founded on a rather different premise. Reflecting on our position in the European cultural ecosystem and possible futures of the latter, we were aiming to probe ideas for a distributed, participative and 'contained' cultural economy. 40.

The growth dilemma.— Notes on networking beyond clusters

After all, it is the unbridled will for profit, resource accumulation and sprawl that underpins many of the problems facing contemporary societies - from their overwhelming carbon footprint to the growing inequality of opportunity, also felt in the cultural sector. The perceived need for constant growth inevitably sets the big fish against the smaller ones. From the rooftops of modernising cities like Belgrade itself, it is easy to recognise this very risk. And yet here too it is difficult to shake off dreams of additive development, which in our case did admittedly nurture a lot of promising ideas for collaboration. I would therefore define the stake of our project in an aporetic way, as an attempt to find an answer to the following question: how to expand without growth (understood as a modus vivendi of accumulative and extractivist economies)? In our – self-appointed – Venues from the Future, the rationale behind harnessing available resources (and, if possible, their multiplication) is very clear. Many – if not most – of the talents we feature do not make their living off their creative output. They classify not as artists but as cultural workers, shifting ever so flexibly between their day jobs, night jobs and sporadic opportunities for creative fulfillment. While the authors of the EU-funded report The Future of Work in the Media, Arts & Entertainment Sector (International Federation of Actors, Euro FIA European Federation of Journalists, EFJ International Federation of Musicians and FIM UNI Europa, 2016) dubbed this ‘atypical work’, we approach the pattern in question as the epitome of gig economy normalcy – far from atypical, precarity defines the norm in our immediate environments. This is why, in setting up our network, we wanted to learn from each other how to provide better opportunities to our collaborators and, eventually, to share our findings with the general public. It was not to confirm ourselves in the habit of precarious – or, if you will, ‘atypical’ – flexibility that we set out, though. Rather, it was to imagine a future in which our dynamic, 'flexible' relationships with the communities we support could be maintained without spending most of our time caring for mere survival – and effectively forcing community members into ever more cruel choices: work a night shift at our bar or better drop the idea of showing your film in the screening room; take care of the AV equipment yourself or, else, it will be hard to organize your workshop, and so on. The initiative and creativity of volunteers is a great asset that sustains and enriches our venues. However, by replicating the exploitative mechanisms inherent in today's labour market, we risk wasting their potential. Certainly in this toolkit we have not lived up to even half of our initial ambitions. Fortunately, however, we can count on our voice being heard as a contribution to a much wider discussion that has already been unfolding for a few years. Reports from a number of recent EU-funded research projects show that resistance to the precarious and unsustainable gig economy is growing within the cultural sector. A good case in point is the report Supporting Relevance: Ideas and Strategies for Inclusive, Fair and Flexible Arts Funding, published in 2021 by IETM International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts. The authors of this paper, Milica Ilić and Fatin Farhat, argue that “designing and administering a fair funding scheme require a deep understanding of artistic processes and the conditions of work


The growth dilemma.— Notes on networking beyond clusters

and life of the artists, as well as the audiences and communities they address”, while participatory grant-making – in which “those that need the funding decide together the best way to distribute the funding, in a democratic process” – could relieve some of the impact that the competition-driven cultural market exerts on its minor (and minoritarian) participants. In other papers – such as IETM’s report Arts in Rural Areas (2020) or Live DMA’s contribution to the 2021 conference Diversity and Competitiveness of the European Music Sector organized by the European Comission – the policy proponents insist on rethinking the deep-seated predilection of sponsors, lawmakers and administrators across Europe for cultural clusters, usually set in metropolitan areas, operating on the basis of unfair competition and draining human capital out of independent organisations, rural territories and minor cities. We share the sentiments of these papers’ authors and, while we have grown accustomed to the ‘atypical’ face of cultural economy, we are willing to contribute to its systemic transformation. We perceive the development of participatory funding schemes and partial de-clustering of the cultural ecosystem as priorities. Confronted with the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global environmental crisis and ongoing humanitarian crises, we maintain that the European cultural economy can benefit from a boost coming ‘from below’ more than ever before. This document is a toolkit in a twofold sense. On the one hand, by offering insights into different organisational models embraced by art, music and community centres, it shows ‘in vivo’ how such venues adapt to the neoliberal gig economy in a variety of socio-cultural contexts. It gives an account of how each of participating organisations has stood up to the confrontation of their social ideals and artistic ambitions with the reality principle – and the hardship of mere survival. On the other hand, the kit also includes questions that we see as tools for critical transformation. Addressed to ourselves as well as to the associated partners, sponsors, and policymakers, these questions are meant to open a space for debate on a broader, systemic adaptation that would stretch beyond the strategies of individual actors competing for resources and attention in the growing cultural sector. While working on the toolkit, we made a few attempts at constructing a common vocabulary that would reflect our position in the cultural ecosystem. Despite the shared belief that we act mainly within and upon its margins, we quickly came to understand, though, that what is shared in our languages are primarily negations (“we are not x”; “we do not want y”) and question marks (“is z really what we want?”). We offer a survey of these as an insight into how (cultural) strength might be built despite (economic) weakness; beyond the principles of competition, accumulation and unbridled growth. Adapting to the world that favours the latter to a large extent, we have learnt to avoid resentment. Our questions are therefore not indicting – rather, they hint at germinal propositions for different futures.



VFTF – Graphic Chart of Venues 375 ity ac p ca

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Facts & Figures

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Studenterhus Aarhus

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VFTF – Graphic Chart of Venues


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(Rotterdam, Netherlands)



VK — VaartKapoen

- Capacity of main hall: 375 - Number of activities/year: 500+ - Visitors per year: 100.000 - Funding / budget: 900k local funding + Annual turnover: 2,4 million - Employees: 60+ / Volunteers: 40 - Price of a beer: €3,25


Studenterhus Aarhus

(Brussels, Belgium)

(Aarhus, Denmark)

- Capacity of main hall: 500 - Number of activities/year: Concerts = 60-80 / Community work + other programs: 40+ - Visitors per year: 20.000 - Funding / budget: Fixed budget for community centre / No structural funding for concerts - Employees: 20 / Volunteers: 50 - Price of a beer: €2,40

- Capacity of main hall: 150 - Number of activities/year: 40 concerts & 350 activities - Visitors per year: 5.328 - Funding / budget: bar 24,64%, municipal support 13,66%, universities 21,28%, memberships 5,46% Business 10,82%, project funding: 18,54%, other 5,91% - Employees: 24 / Volunteers: 95 - Price of a beer: €5,-


Kvaka 22

(Belgrade, Serbia) - Capacity of main hall: 200 - Number of activities/year: 250+ - Visitors per year: 20.000+ - Funding / budget: National Funding until 2019 / annual turnover ? - Employees: 0 / Volunteers: 5-15 - Price of a beer: 200RSD / €1,70



(Pristina, Kosovo) - Capacity of main hall: 300 - Number of activities/year: 350 - Visitors per year: 5.000+ - Funding / budget: Municipality, Ministry of Culture and a few European projects + Bar - Employees: 8 / Volunteers: 25-30 - Price of a beer: €1




(San Sebastian, Spain)

- Capacity of main hall: 298 - Number of activities/year: 320+ - Visitors per year: 34.510 - Funding / budget: Subsidies 6,3%, ticket sales 28,4%, beverages 54,9%, other incomes 10,3% - Employees: 24 / Volunteers: 0 - Price of a beer: €3,E Elementarz dla Mieszkańców Miast

(Krakow, Poland)

- Capacity of main hall: 50-70 - Number of activities/year: 8 - Visitors per year: 1.000 - Funding / budget: Incidental project subsidies by municipality, university or other funders - Employees: 3 / Volunteers: 0 - Price of a beer: €0,- / €2,-


Results & Future coörperation - words by Koen ter Heegde

Results & Future cooperation Koen ter Heegde

Koen ter Heegde Independent promoter, agent & all-rounder, active in local and European underground for two decades, and co-founder of label Subroutine Records. His platform Yugofuturism introduces acts from Central and Eastern Europe in The Netherlands and vice versa. He initiated the first 24hr festival in Paradiso Amsterdam, highlighting the Dutch scene. Currently, he is program-curator for Welcome to the Village and Peel Slowly and See-festival, and external promoter at WORM & OCCII (Amsterdam). He is a frequent speaker on European music conferences on the abovementioned topics.


Results & Future coörperation - words by Koen ter Heegde

After almost two years of digital correspondence and preparation between the project-partners and an online ZOOM-conference hosted by Vaartkapoen, the first physical meeting and conference in San Sebastian in the Autumn of 2021 was a turning-point. Not unlike the grassroots, horizontal way of working with audience, organizers and local communities in our venues, the unique dynamic of meeting each other personally made a fundamental difference. During two days of discussion, panels and working groups, the participating venues devised a topical methodology to work towards our common goals. Focusing on topics like inclusivity, staff & volunteering, local community, promotion and working with artists, the participants reflected on individual positions, strengths and weaknesses, best practice, and potential goals. Each topic was explored from different levels; from both an in- and outsider perspective, audience & community levels and an artist-perspective. Several delegations present during the conference, have performing artists in their teams that could share valuable experiences. On the final day of the conference, we cemented our cooperation into an inclusive Venues from the Future-network; a sustainable partnership highlighting common goals and values, future projects, exchanges and long-term cooperation between these small European venues. Many of the concrete results of the conferences were distilled into a series of exchange residencies between venues, local artists and cultural workers. They reflect our project goals and commitment towards exchanging best practice, more sustainable ways of touring and focus on innovative interaction between artists, audience and underrepresented communities. Finally, our cooperation propelled a future long-term project within the Creative Europe framework, reflecting our results and vision towards a European infrastructure of small venues. 48.

V.F.T.F. – Results Belgrade Confrence

Results Conference Belgrade

In February 2022, representatives from the venues travelled to Belgrade in Serbia for a two-day conference hosted by venue & exhibition space Kvaka 22. Here, the Kosovar representation from Termokiss, first joined the physical proceedings and discussions. Their intriguing presentation, and specifically the horizontal structure they operate Termokiss on, sparked discussion, food for thought and new perspectives for exchanging best practice. This time, using the methodology that was developed during the previous conference in San Sebastian, the structure of the conference was streamlined into plenary discussion, one-on-one dialogue and topical working-groups. Topics included ‘Slow and sustainable touring’, ‘Fostering longterm relationships with artists’, and ‘Volunteering, participation, and inclusivity’. Special focus was given to formalize more concrete plans for future cooperation and opportunities for mobility of cultural workers within the framework of exchange residencies between these venues. These plans are reflected in a follow-up project within the Creative Europe framework. During a reception with Belgrade-based cultural venues, institutions and local press, a commemorative plaque was unveiled in Kvaka 22 highlighting the ongoing partnership, common values and goals of the seven participating venues. A very crowded “Venues from the Future”-closing festival featured performances by artists from four countries. Finally, in Belgrade, preparations were set in motion for a forthcoming documentary-film about the project, and the development of this Toolkit. Both would help share results, opportunities, and potential future policy-recommendations; aimed towards use by like-minded venues, cultural and community workers and local governments. 49.

V.F.T.F. – Exchange Residencies

Exchange Residencies

From the start of this cooperation, all partners in this project have showcased local artists during and after the conferences. Even the first digital conference, hosted on ZOOM by VK from Brussels, had a full and adventurous live program curated by the various venues, and filmed inside them. The three follow-up conferences hosted public live events as well. Even in-between our official meetings, the partners were circulating local cultural workers between their venues. The project was a catalyst for new exchanges, cultural mobility and more sustainable ways of touring. Our focus on ‘slow touring’ leads to more and durable interaction between artists and the local, underrepresented communities within the venues’ ecosystems. Below some examples of upcoming ‘exchange residencies’ in 2022. Examples

On May 13, WORM Rotterdam hosts a take-over of Basque-venue Dabadaba, during which several performers from San Sebastian and the larger Basque region will visit The Netherlands for a first time, and connect with local organizers and communities in Rotterdam. In May 2022, Dutch band The Homesick travels to the Balkans, where they will perform in Kvaka 22 in Belgrade and spend three days in Pristina, hosted by Termokiss. During their stay, they will connect with musicians, organizers and communities in Termokiss’ ecosystem, cementing future connections. In September 2022, Rotterdam-based band Tramhaus performs in Dabadaba in San Sebastian. They will connect with local musicians, and the visit will be documented by Basque regional television. The band is joined by Rotterdam-based organizers, that simultaneously connect with Basque counterparts.

In October 2022, Basque group Vulk embarks on a tour, during which they will spend several days exploring and connecting with the ecosystems in Belgrade and Pristina. This tour is a tangible result of connections made during the project, after which they were invited at a festival in North Macedonia.

In October/November 2022, Belgrade group Klotljudi makes a first European tour across Central Europa, visiting the venues in Krakow, Rotterdam and Brussels. With the band consisting of several organizers from Belgrade, building new connections between Serbia, Central and Western Europe.



Policy advice for the future

policy advive

Policy Advice & Recommendations

Volunteering Create a robust framework for volunteering, in which volunteers have clearly defined tasks, hours and access to perks for the time they invest. Ideally, volunteers join into specific program groups, that resonate with their personal interests, potential for learning and existing skills, for instance film-group, technical and production group and bar-group. Possible perks for volunteers are free access to activities, discounts and / or regular group activities. A free monthly dinner, with volunteers and staff, helps built a strong community, breaks social barriers, brings fresh ideas and empowers those present. There must be a staff-member responsible for safety, assistance, and coaching of volunteers, that is present whenever volunteers are working in the venue. This person is guiding the responsibilities and learning process of volunteers, makes schedules and answers questions as a first line of contact. There is another person in/outside the organization that is available for personal guidance and mental health. Community It is fundamental to include staff members reflecting the local context, specifically concerning underrepresentedand marginalized groups. Lowering the threshold for people in the neighborhood and direct vicinity to visit, contact, connect and suggest concrete program-ideas helps cement the venues’ central position inside the local context and community. It can potentially help in breaking generational barriers, participation of underrepresented communities, and fighting social isolation. Using the music venue as experimental community spaces. Notable examples are the open-air film nights of WORM in Rotterdam, for which the neighborhood residents decided the program, screened on a wall in a local com51.

Policy advice for the future

munal garden. Or the cooking and dinner-events hosted in the multicultural neighborhood of Vaartkapoen in Brussels, that involve members of the local Moroccan community. Or the free outdoor Summer events hosted by Dabadaba in San Sebastian on the city beach. Or the variety of presentations and workshops for the local community hosted inside Termokiss in Pristina. The preservation efforts, film-screenings and permanent exhibition in Kvaka 22 in Belgrade, the children’s activities in Studenterhus in Aarhus. Or… Relationships with artists A focus on hospitality and a personal, longterm relationship with artists and performers, distinguishes small venues from larger institutionalized venues. Performing on our stages or

exhibiting within our galleries doesn’t begin nor end on the night of the concert or opening. The Venues from the Future stand for sustainable long-term relationships with artists, focusing on hospitality, artistic growth, accompanying them on their process, providing space, materials and experience, connecting them with the community and other artists active in different disciplines. A relationship built on reciprocity. An example of this proactive way of connecting with artists are visible in the exhibitions in Elementarz Dla Mieszkańców Miast in Krakow, where the creative journey of artists and transdisciplinarity is one of the key focus points. The exhibition spaces within WORM and Kvaka 22 have a similar focus on connecting artists with the local artistic community and the hosting of multidisciplinary events. 52.


The Future of – Venues From The Future

future of v.f.t.f The future of Venues From The Future. During each conference in this project, both online & physical, the hosting venue organized an event showcasing artists from the visiting countries. Electronic artists from Rotterdam, Brussels and Krakow performed in San Sebastian in the weekend before the conference. On the final day in Belgrade, a similar VFTF-festival was organized in Kvaka 22. 53.

The Future of – Venues From The Future

The dynamic of our work resulted in a more sustainable infrastructure, focused on ‘Slow Touring’, mobility of cultural workers and the involvement of underrepresented communities and artistic scenes fostered within the venue’s ecosystems. By circulating cultural workers, we shift concentric circles, generate new narratives, developments, and opportunities. Because we don't want to return to the pre-covid situation. Instead, we aim to revitalize our venues, communities and ecosystems, strengthen the resilience of our sector and continue to develop alternatives to the heavy burden that touring bands have on the climate.We create situations where touring artists spend extended periods of time in one location, connecting with the local community. Where they work together, learn from each other and get energy from each other's inspirations. ’Slow Touring’ happens in 'exchange residencies', where artists perform, make new productions, share their skills and give workshops to kindred spirits. One of the tools we are using to achieve abovementioned goals, is a growing network of internet radio stations across Europe. An exciting, innovative, and accessible form of music distribution and a source for new sounds, which expanded enormously during and post-Covid. The content created during exchange residencies will be distributed through these networks. With Venues From The Future and various networks of internet radio stations, we are developing a post-Covid alternative for music distribution (live and 'recorded'). By introducing and implementing our concept for 'slow touring', we are contributing to a continuous exchange of best practice, more sustainable ways of touring, and a focus on innovative and informal interaction between artists, audience, and underrepresented communities. In addition, we are contributing to distribution of European music via a booming alternative circuit of internet radio. We’re developing a practical, inclusive model, that’s easy to set up and to follow. We strongly believe this model can stimulate necessary climate changes in local European ecosystems. We believe this is something fellow European venues and cultural workers can all get behind. 54.


VFTF — Venues & Participants


VFTF — Venues & Participants

Venues & Participants WORM




De Vaartkapoen (VK)


Kvaka 22




Boomgaardsstraat 71, 3012 XA Rotterdam, The Netherlands Email: Website:

Mundaiz 8, 20012 Donostia San Sebastian, Spain Email: Website:

Rue de Manchester 13-15, 1080 Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, Belgium. Email: Website:

Ruzveltova 39, Belgrade, Serbia Email: Website:

Nordre Ringgade 3, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark Email: Website:

Elementarz dla mieszkańców miast

Adama Asnyka 7, 33-332 Kraków , Poland email: www:


Ilaz Kodra, Prishtinë 10000, Pristina, Kosovo Email: Website:


Khalil Rhyahi / Janpier Brands Koen ter Heegde

Iñaki Otalora / Alex Lopez Sebastian Sallaberry / Sara Zozaya Jon Ander Soto / Markel Alonso Arkaitz Villar

Rrita Jashari / Walter Salender Marlies van Wielendaele Maurice Corbesier

Laura Ferrero / Nikola Hajduković Luka Mihajlović

Heidi Nannberg Sigrun Schaumburg-Müller


Leona Jacewska Arkadiusz Półtorak


Blendi Bytyqi / Miranda Mehmeti Shpat Shkodra / Ismail Myrseli Toska Salihu

Venues From The Future Toolkit For The Future

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