EFFE Awards 2015-2016

European Festivals Association

12 Trendsetting Festivals from across Europe


The EFFE Festival Award recognises the excellence of a select number of trend-setting festivals chosen by an international jury. Winners will be recognised inside and outside their countries as standard setters for quality. The award also focuses on festivals with a serious commitment to Europe within their programming, and encourages them (and other festivals in the future) to deliver a positive image of Europe and its values.

The following 12 festivals were presented with the EFFE Award in 2015.



For more than 30 years, the world-renowned media art festival Ars Electronica has provided an annual setting for artistic and scientific encounters with social and cultural phenomena that are the result of technological change. Symposia, exhibitions and performances carry these inquiries beyond the confines of conventional cultural venues and take them out into the public sphere. The international audience makes the biggest contribution to the festival spirit – a “fruitful state of emergency”.

"A hugely significant and established festival, Ars Electronica makes great use of the city of Linz for its duration, with a strong involvement from the local community. The field of arts and science is one of the most innovative and contemporary, and this is the pre-eminent festival for international professionals in this field."

- The EFFE International Jury



BIG BANG is an adventurous music festival for young audiences (4–12 years) created by Belgium’s Zonzo Compagnie. In 9 major European cultural centres venues are transformed into a musical labyrinth for a colourful programme of concerts, installations and workshops. There is a strong focus on contemporary and improvised music, and children get fully involved to explore diverse genres and styles. The festival is part of the European BIG BANG network as an exchange and co-production platform.

"An innovative and accessible festival of music for young audiences, Big Bang takes place in 11 cities throughout the year, giving it a particular international dimension. Each edition of the festival takes over a venue and occupies a range of spaces with unique music and music theatre performances, creating a programme in collaboration with local partners and artists. The jury was delighted to include a festival which focused on young audiences in the list of festivals to receive the EFFE Award, and to bring attention to this festival which may be under-recognised due to its decentralized nature."
- The EFFE International Jury



Every year since 1948, the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence has been boasting a programme of great variety: opera productions, Mozart works, major creations, rediscovery of Baroque masterpieces, chamber orchestra operas and exceptional series of concerts. The Festival has opened resolutely new horizons in the domains of artistic creation by fostering young talents coming from all around the world, thanks to its Académie. It thus wishes to see its opera productions thrive in our contemporary world and travel widely to prestigious national and international venues.

"A major established artform-specific festival which attempts to innovate with tradition, revitalizing the genre of opera by bringing in new directors and approaches. It’s Academy and the process of developing new artists is at the core of the festival’s current mission, and it works closely with diverse communities in Aix-en-Provence as well as a considerable international audience."
- The EFFE International Jury



Malta Festival Poznań presents some of the most interesting contemporary cultural phenomena from all over the world and co-produces theatre shows. The programme combines disciplines, media and high and popular culture in 2 main sections: Idiom, in which the Idiom curator, a distinguished artist, chooses a theme and invites established artists and emerging talent to explore it; and Generator Malta, a project which involves urban communities. The festival celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2015.

"The jury considered this to be the most innovative festival in Poland: having begun as a theatre festival, five years ago it began inviting leading artists to curate specific programmes around a particular theme or idea. The festival also makes an important political impact in a city which is socially conservative. It’s extremely accessible with cheap tickets and a strong presence in the public realm, and combines large-scale popular music events and a nightly silent disco with contemporary international performance, a show case of Polish work and an annual new opera production."
- The EFFE International Jury



Manifesta is an influential roving European biennial of contemporary art that investigates emerging developments in the field by establishing a close dialogue between its respective cultural and artistic settings and the broader international fields of art, theory and politics. Each Manifesta’s range of activities extends over 2 years or more, such as publications, meetings and seminars, in diverse locations in Europe and the neighbouring regions, ending in the final exhibition in the host city.

"An established visual arts biennale which is unique in that it changes location and curator with each edition. The jury noted that many major visual art festivals and international exhibitions did not apply to EFFE, but the format and programme of manifesta continue to be innovative. The 2014 edition in St Petersburg faced controversy due to Russia’s repression of the LGBT community, but presented a strong artistic programme, bringing innovative contemporary art into the venerable halls of the State Hermitage Museum."
- The EFFE International Jury



Founded in 1986 by the Finnish Directors Aki and Mika Kaurismäki as well as Peter von Bagh, the Midnight Sun Film Festival boasts one of the most unusual atmospheres of any festival in the world. Top Directors, rising talent, an international audience and curious visitors come together in Sodankylä to share their love of cinema under the midnight sun. Sodankylä is in the heart of Finnish Lapland, 120 km above the Arctic Circle, where the sun never sets in summer. Films are shown 24 hours a day.

"Created by leading artists in the field (acclaimed film-makers the Kaurismäki brothers), this is a distinctive and surprising film festival, from a genre which was not strongly represented in the application process. It takes a fun seasonal approach, inspired by the idea that it is almost always daylight in the summer in the far north above the Arctic Circle – so if you want to experience some darkness you have to go to the cinema. It invites a range of leading practitioners to present their work and discuss the artform, and engages significantly in the community in this remote part of Europe."
- The EFFE International Jury



NEXT is the international performing arts festival for the cross-border Eurometropolis Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai, created and organized by 5 French and Belgian culture and arts houses. The programme focuses on referential work and new developments in contemporary theatre, dance and performance. Every November around 35 international companies present their work in some 13 cities and 18 venues of the Eurometropolis. A network of festival buses take spectators around the region to watch performances.

"The innovative concept of NEXT festival takes place in three cities and across international borders, in the 'Eurometropolis' of Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai. This cross-border, cross-language approach is very innovative and unique, and the jury noted that other festivals could learn a great deal about collaboration from this model, especially across borders. The festival’s core programme is artistically very strong, and the festival produces and co-produces a large amount of innovative new work."
- The EFFE International Jury



Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival Groningen is the somewhat curious combination of a cutting edge international arts festival and a large-scale summer festival for 135,000 visitors. The heart of Noorderzon is the idyllic Noorderplantsoen, a city park, where, for 11 summer days, a freely accessible festival village appears almost out of nowhere to provide a setting for theatre, dance, music, literature and visual art in combination with eating, drinking and social encounters.

"A festival which presents a good mix of contemporary experimental art and more inclusive approachable art, in the setting of a city park which make it extremely accessible for the public, where it feels like anyone can just walk in off the street and enjoy a performance. It is a festival where it’s possible to really discover new artists, and it has strong local support because of its inclusive nature."
- The EFFE International Jury



The Perforations Festival takes place every year in four Croatian cities: Zagreb, Rijeka, Split and Dubrovnik. The festival presents a variety of Balkan artists working in performance art, theatre and dance, whose diverse approaches to their art blur the borders between these genres. While their work touches upon issues of identity (public, political, religious and ecological), of redefining borders, of a collective past and of personal histories, most of all their work talks about the present.

"An innovative new festival of live art with a strong and provocative aesthetic, from a country with a vibrant festival scene. Its focus on queer artists and issues is politically and socially significant in a country that does not promote equal rights for its LGBT citizens. The festival takes place in three different cities, engaging with different communities and bringing the work to wider audiences, and has developed an innovative performance art platform Night of Performances which has showcased Croatian artists around the world."
- The EFFE International Jury


(Prague, Czech Republic)

The Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space is the largest scenography event in the world, exploring a wide range of scenographic practices such as stage, costume, lighting and sound design and new scenographic practices such as site-specific, applied scenography, urban performance and costume as performance. The programme includes experimental exhibitions, performances, lectures and workshops and is attended by 5,000 professionals from 80 countries and 50,000 members of the public.

"Another hugely significant international gathering in its field, the Prague Quadrennial has identified a specific area of artistic practice and made a great impact. Its programmes for students and young professionals are an extremely important aspect of its programme, making it a vital gathering for young artists and designers where they can come together and invent the future of stage design."
- The EFFE International Jury



Santarcangelo dei Teatri is one of the main international performing arts festivals in Italy. Over more than 40 years, it has contributed significantly to the development of contemporary performing arts and new audiences, and built a strong international reputation. Every year in July Santarcangelo becomes a city-theatre, transforming its architecture into venues for performances, installations, workshops, lectures and debates, and welcoming many international and national artists and audiences.

"A long-established festival with a strong national and international programme, in a country where the presentation of experimental contemporary performance is difficult. The jury discussed whether a festival which is undergoing a change in artistic direction should be awarded at this time, but it was felt that the festival’s track record and current programming were strong and innovative, and the award was deserved."
- The EFFE International Jury



SICK! Festival is the first in the UK to confront the physical, mental and social challenges of life and death. It bears witness to the realities of our lives, shining a light on urgent issues that often remain misunderstood or taboo, through an outstanding programme of performance, theatre, dance, literature, film, visual art and public debates, and a year-round conversation between the arts, science, healthcare, charities and individuals. Venues are across Brighton, Manchester and Salford.

"A small and recently established festival whose innovative programme focuses on issues of physical and mental health, delivered in partnership with leading arts organisations, medical and academic institutions, charities and community groups. The festival takes place in two different cities, creating mobility for artists and ideas, and presents challenging European work which would not otherwise be seen in the UK."
- The EFFE International Jury

Credits: Story

EFFE is a European Commission pilot project for a European Platform for Festivals in the field of culture initiated by the European Festivals Association (EFA).

EFFE and EFA would like to thank all the festivals that applied for the EFFE Festival Label for making this project possible and our 12 EFFE Festival Award Winners, supported by the Google Cultural Institute, for setting festival trends across Europe.

This exhibition was curated by Opera Director Tom Creed with Zachery Bishop, EFFE's Content Manager.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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