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Photo: Suzanne Alibert

What's it's like to leave your home behind and spend months visiting very nearly every country in Europe? E&M editor Rosamund Mather speaks with Suzanne Alibert about her project "Europe Next Door" and how it helps promote European values and reach out to young people in Europe.

E&M: Hello Suzanne! Could you briefly explain what exactly the project "Europe Next Door" is?

Suzanne Alibert: It’s a tour of Europe to meet young Europeans. I will be visiting 26 countries in the EU, plus Turkey and Iceland. During my travels, my aim is to see what the situation for people is like in each country and what they think about the European Union. I’m writing articles on my website during my trip, and when I’m back in France, I will write a book and do some conferences and photo exhibitions.  

Published in Sixth Sense
Friday, 01 May 2015 09:00

Europe on the move

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They say a picture paints a thousand words, so we've set out to discover what photography might be able to tell us about today's Europe and are pleased to announce the winners of our March / April competition.

With the holiday season just around the corner, we asked E&M readers to show us what our continent looks like when it's on the move. We were prepared for anything from joggers to galloping horses, but in the end it was a more sedate scene, quietly capturing the hustle and bustle of an al fresco evening, which most impressed our judges this time around.

Rynek Rhapsody was taken in Wrocław and praised in particular its attractive blue-yellow colour contrast. The photograper behind the image, US-based Magdalena Noga, will be interviewed on Sixth Sense about her work and invited to contribute a piece of photojournalism to E&M. We are very much looking forward to seeing and hearing more about Magdalena's photographic endeavours; in the meantime, feel free to visit her website.

Published in Europe Through a Lens
Thursday, 01 May 2014 00:00

Road trip to a new Europe

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It's a sublime and sleepy spring afternoon in Słubfurt, and Michael Kurzwelly is pontificating from a tree stump in the central square of the city he founded. "I am not German, French or Polish," he says, "but European. When you have lived in many cultures, you cannot stand to exist in only one."

Kurzwelly lives in a picturesque university town that conventional maps know as Frankfurt an der Oder. The river that marks the eastern edge of the city is also the limit of the German state: on opposite bank sits the Polish town Słubice. As a sworn transnationalist, Kurzwelly did not feel at home in either Frankish Frankfurt or Slavic Słubice. His own identity, he says, was '"the identity of being in between." And so he dreamed up a polis of his own: Słubfurt, "the first city located half in Poland and half in Germany."

Published in Contentious Europe
Friday, 14 June 2013 16:09

The things we do for Europe

Remember the "Agora" that took place about a month ago in Mannheim? Let us show you some of the fun, interesting and diverse topics which were covered during the event – from healthy eating habits to fighting xenophobia, from entrepreneurship and start-ups to nationalism in school books, the Agora covered a diverse range of subjects through workshops and actions. Have a look at some of them below.

I put off writing about the last day of the ETC Spring Tour because I didn't want to do it. I knew it was going to be nostalgic and mushy, and it was going to confirm what has already happened – the tour is over and so is our time together in the Driving Jail. Until reaching that point of sobbing though, I'm going to take the Eastern European dignified-and-unmovable position and write about the full, productive day we had on the way to and in sunny Zagreb.

While on the bus, we gathered as we had gotten used to in the previous days, to discuss our future projects. As you might remember, a large part of the group decided to work together on an artistic project after being inspired by what we saw and talked about during our travels. Also, we had reached a point of frustration because of the packed, fast schedule that didn't fully allow us to absorb what we were going through and give something back to our wonderful hosts in the eight cities we visited. Therefore, we wrote a manifesto with the massive help of Ivor and agreed to think about concrete steps towards our goal.

When we saw the programme of the theatre tour – the eight cities, seven days deal – we started thinking about a deadline when everyone would explode. Most of us thought day three was a sensible day to explode on as it was the hardest: the group attended two plays in two different countries (Germany and Switzerland). However, we turned out to be unexpectedly disciplined and the exhaustion only took over on day five. And even then, we managed to turn it into something creative and positive. Here's what happened.

On the way to Maribor (Slovenia), two of our travel buddies staged a short play on the bus. Anne, who is a playwright in Berlin, wrote the script and Gina, an actress from Romania, performed as one of the characters. The moment was particularly inspiring because it was the first time that a part of the group came together to create something after witnessing all the big talks and seeing all the different plays. The topic of the play was borders and how they influence people's lives – especially when borders separate a family. This is something quite common nowadays in Europe, with free movement enabling people to go from one place to the other. However, what does this do to the individual? How does it influence his/her ties to family and origins in general? This is one of the social realities that European theatre could and should address. Everyone on the bus felt quite strongly that the moment Anne and Gina created was one of the most relevant and debate-prompting of the whole tour. Everyone was also left speechless for a number of minutes as we thought about what we should do or say next.

And on the fourth day they staged a play on the bus and it was good.

The ETC group left Zurich early in the morning and had a long drive to the Tuscan town of Prato. Given that the members of the caravan already feel like family after travelling together for several days, the bus activities on Sunday became more dynamic. Therefore, after our Italian friend Gherardo – a theatre critic – gave us a few details about the play we were about to see that evening, The Belle Vue directed by Paolo Magelli, part of the group decided to have a dramatic reading of the English version of the text. The impromptu play brought everyone to life and channelled the team's focus, making us forget about the sleep deprivation and the long distances we covered. Later that evening, we saw the show at the Teatro Metastasio di Prato – as lovely as it was, we were better.

Another special moment during our journey to Prato was spoken-word poetess Deborah Stevenson's performance for the group (you already know Deborah from the interview E&M published on Day 2). Deborah performed two poems - one in which she brilliantly impersonated an American pastor - and showed us clips from her earlier artistic experiences in London. The mini-show made us fall in awe with the talented poet and ended in tears and applause. We strongly recommend you keep an eye on Deobrah and her passionate work.

I don't know about your weekend, but we on the ETC Spring Tour managed to see two plays in two different countries in just a few hours. Day 3 was exhausting, but then again it gives us many tales to share with you.

After leaving Liege, we went back to Germany in the small town of Karlsruhe, near the border with France. There we visited the Badisches Staatstheater and saw an endearing short play for toddlers at the Children's Theatre. All I can say is that I never thought plays for under five year olds could be so lovely – the two actors on stage used body movement and dance to take us on a meteorological journey, from cold lands to warm beaches. Us grownups might have been more excited than the target audience, I'll admit.

Time flies when you’re on tour. Day 2 of the ETC Spring experience brought us to the coquette town of Liege in Belgium, discussing how young students can access the theatre industry and find work.

Nathanael Harcq, director of the ESACTA School of acting in Liege, talked about what his institution does to facilitate the transition from theatre school to work. According to him, the school is already part of the profession of acting, as the students are given the chance to stage their own productions and work. In this respect, the ESACTA functions like a workshop where rules are created collectively by the students and their teachers. The youngsters are thus encouraged to get to know themselves better and find out what conditions they need in order to flourish as professionals. They are even given electronic keys so that they can go in and out of the school at any time.

Taking this theme further, E&M spoke to one of the young artists on the ETC Spring Tour, namely spoken-word poet Deborah Stevenson. The 23 year-old wunderkind from East London is the founder and director of The Mouthy Poets in Nottingham, a group in which young people learn how to express themselves in verse. She worked with Chanel 4, The Roundhouse in London, The British Council and has been published by Louis Vuitton. Here’s a short interview with Deborah on our busy tour bus.

You may be looking for Europe in many cities, but right now I’m reporting from the heart of Europe, currently assigned to Mannheim, from the AEGEE-Europe event  - Agora Rhein-Neckar - taking place between 2.-7. of April.

What is this thing called “agora”? A meeting of roughly 600-800 students from all over Europe coming together for the general assembly of the European Students’ Forum (AEGEE). Besides the internal matters included in the programme of every general assembly of any registered organization, the event includes a variety of workshop topics ranging from the origin of homophobia in sports to nationalism in Europe and living healthy. Check the blog every other day for updates.

The Agora takes place twice a year, every time in a different city, hosted by one or more local AEGEE groups. This year it is organised by the seven local groups that reside along the Rhein and Neckar rivers and takes place in Mannheim. The name of the event comes from the Greek “agora” (literally translated as “market”), where ancient Greek philosophers and proto-politicians would make their voices heard and where most of the important decisions concerning the polis were taken.

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