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Crossing Bridges








FINAL REPORT 2001 , Date 26 September, 2000


Contact Information

Crossing Bridges Collective Kosova Center for Human Rights Kosovar Youth Council
Casey Cooper Johnson (festival coordinator) Dr. Neshad R. Asllani Kushtrim Sheremeti (festival co-coordinator)

In Autumn of 2000, the founding members of the Crossing Bridges Collective began serious discussion over the idea of the then unnamed multi-national, multi-cultural, multi-dimensional arts festival for the summer of 2001 to be held in Pejë, Kosova. We aimed to create a forum of exchange between artists of different forms, styles, and ethnic backgrounds throughout the Balkans and Europe, and then the world beyond, and to bring them together in Kosova for a one week festival tour. Post-war Kosova holds a unique mixture of strong traditional culture with a growing influence of modern culture and lifestyle amongst the wide generation of youth. Rather than rigidly protesting the modern world which holds opportunity for economic growth and positive social progress; rather than discard the century old traditions and religion and music, all of which hold a rich value for family and life, in exchange for a newer image more resembling Western nations, Kosova carries a possibility to bridge and unite the old and the new, the traditional with the modern, and furthermore to unite people of different nations, even of those who have in the past warred with each other, to unite us around the common need to gather and release our spirits through artistic expression. This was the utopic vision of the Crossing Bridges Festival.



Organization was made between several individuals representing various organizations and institutions. Making a general coordination of the festival was Casey Cooper Johnson, an American resident in Pejë. Coordinating foreign groups to participate was the role of the Playground Collective from Frankfurt, Germany. In charge for promotion, public relations, and volunteer support was Kushtrim Sheremeti of the Kosovar Youth Council. The Kosova Center for Human Rights, Pejë took the role of administrative oversight and logistic support for the festival. The Pejë Department of Culture arranged official authorizations, security, and accommodations for the visiting artists. The entire body of organizers became unofficially known as the Crossing Bridges Collective.

It was decided that the festival, which needed considerable funding itself, would also be utilized as a fundraising event for the continuation of the Crossing Bridges summer camp in the Rugova Mountains of Pejë, which is put on each year by the KCHR and Pejë Municipality. All organizing members took on the challenge of fundraising. This began in Spring 2001 with Playground Collective selling a compilation CD in promotion and benefit for the Festival. Revenues were minimal but useful in gathering attention of other donors, such as the City of Frankfurt, which supported travel costs of German artists. Throughout the summer, several international and local NGOs were approached as well as government institutions and local businesses with project proposal and budget request.

Our financial support for the first Crossing Bridges Festival was provided by Kosova Foundation for Open Society, Pejë Beer Factory, Kosovar Initiative for Democratic Society, Radio/TV Dukagjini, Premium Internet and Siguria Insurance Company. Exact donations are shown in the financial report. The total amount of sponsorships for the festival was about one third of our projected budget request. Our general failure to gather more support is due in large part to our making fundraising efforts too late in the process, something which should be done 6 months prior to the festival. Also, as this was the first festival of its kind in Kosova, many potential sponsors were hesitant to take such a risk and preferred to see how this year's event succeeded. We give a special and deep thanks to our sponsors for investing in the dream of a rich multi-cultural world through their support of this festival.


Supporting groups
The festival received additional support from several groups. KFOR provided bus transportation for the artists traveling throughout the 5 day tour after the Pejë event. THW provided support with generators for the festival and tour. Pejë Video Teens made TV promotion for the festival and film documentation of the festival and tour. Lone Wolf Studio made video and live projections for the festival. Balkan Sunflowers organized children's activities for day festival in the park and made exhibits of art and photography. Coopi organized sanitation and cleanup of the park and festival area. The Cooper Family provided spiritual and emotional wisdom and support throughout the process.

For promotion of the festival, Nekra Art Studios was hired to design posters, tickets, and t-shirts. Dukagjini provided printing of posters and tickets free as a sponsorship. Ylber Magoni of Prishtine was hired to distribute all posters around Kosova. Meanwhile, Dukagjini assisted in production of a radio advertisement for the festival, which was played on several radio stations for one week. The Peja Video Teens produced a TV advertisement, which was also shown on TV stations such as RTV 21, RTK, and Dukagjini. Kushtrim Sheremeti oversaw promotion aspects. Members of the band, Petrof, were hired to oversee distribution and selling of tickets in cafes throughout the major cities of Kosova.


The festival was established on 25 August in the Karagac Park for the day program and the adjacent Karagac Camp for the evening program. MMC Kosova was hired to build the stages for the festival and to design stage scenery. Three stages in all were used for the festival. Geza Music Man Live and Studio company was hired to provide all sound and technical support. Lone Wolf Film Studio donated live video projections for the night concert.

Volunteer staff was organized using members of the Kosova Center for Human Rights, The Kosovar Youth Council, the international members of the Crossing Bridges Collective, and members of the Balkan Sunflowers. KPS police officers provide security for the event. ElectroKosova power company allowed electricity to stay on for the entire duration of the festival, which lasted 18 hours in full.

The day program ran from 12 noon to 6 pm, and consisted of several venues. At the lakeside stage, the festival was opened by the Peja Department of Culture and was followed by performances by Rugova Ensemble, Mic Sokoli (Gjilan), Dodona Theater, Shropshire Music Foundation (Gjakova) and several youth dance and music groups. The Peja Video Teens made a film exhibition and interviews with people at the festival. Balkan Sunflowers organized art and photo exhibitions and activities. Vendors were on location selling local made crafts and refreshments. An information tent distributed tickets, t-shirts, and useful program information. The French puppet theater group, What's This Circus, made live puppet theater show at a special side stage location. At the end of the day festival, a performance parade was made through the main streets of town with the theater performers and jugglers from Germany and Croatia.

The evening program began with live musical acts from Petrof, Urban XXI, Zanziband, and Geza with Friends. Dance performances were made in between the bands' music sets. The Passion of Birthfire, an original theater play made by the Cooper Family with Kosovar actors and musicians, was premiered on the theater stage at 10pm. Following the theater performance, Faton Macula Band, Blla Blla Blla (Skopje) and Mescla (Italy) performed on the main stage. At 1am, a live fire juggling performance was made by the Dubrovnik crew. For the rest of the hours, Lava 303 and the Playground DJs performed.

The turnout of the croud was approximately 1200 people. The show was filmed and covered by RTK, RTV21, TV Dukagjini, and Kohavision. The most powerful moments of the festival came near the end of the Blla Blla Blla music set, as the lead singer of the multi-ethnic music group sang out resounding messages of the festival, "No War!" and "Fuck the Borders" to a cheering and energetic crowd of youth and adults.

In the week following the festival, 35 of the international artists embarked on a 4 day tour around Kosova, making workshops and performances. The tour began in Mitrovice South on Wednesday, 29th August, then progressed to Donja Gusterica, Mitrovice North, and finally Camp Ereniku, Gjakova on Saturday, 1st of September. Each day, The Gates from Prague and a group of theater performers from Italy led creative workshops in drumming, digeridoo, and improvisational acting. Later, the program would bring Mescla, Lava 303, the DJ's, and Casey Cooper Johnson (American folk songwriter) before a small crowd of a few hundred people for afternoon and evening performances. These gatherings turned out to be intimate and interactive, always bringing local youth and artists to the stage to share the showcase.

The host organizers for the Mitrovice shows were the Multiethnic Youth and Childrens Peace Center. In Donja Gusterica, Will Be Better youth club, supported by Children's Aid Direct made local coordination. At Camp Ereniku, Gjakova Balkan Sunflowers hosted the events. Each night, the traveling artists ate and slept in accommodations arranged by the host groups. KFOR assisted the tour by providing bus transportation for the artists.


After every major effort or project, an organizer is left with the hard self reflective question, "Did we achieve our goals?" With the Crossing Bridges Festival, so many lessons were learned about how we could have made it better. Fundraising was made much too late and many potential donors were unable to support the project. Specific roles and responsibilities could be more clearly outlined to avoid confusion and crossover, which is important when working with so many collaborators. Some works, such as poster art design and distribution, were paid for in full price which could have been made much cheaper, while other elements which needed professional teams, like backstage catering and management, were made by volunteers and came up lacking. The program could have been simplified, which would have eased the time strain of the performance stages. With a smaller budget and little more than half of the available tickets sold, there is no leftover funds for the summer camp benefit this from this festival. As the mistakes and lessons add up, an organizer easily forgets the whole purpose of the festival entirely. Then, a few days after the show, someone stops you on the street, or calls you on the phone, or writes you an email, and says, "Hey, I don't think you know what you made last Saturday. It was historical. Thank you!" To bring a humanistic consciousness to the public through music and theater is a difficult thing to measure. We have received considerable positive feedback from the participating artists, the media, and individuals from the public. Only those who experienced the festival can give a personal account of what inside them may have been changed from this brief and memorable event.

The Future
It seem inevitable now that the Crossing Bridges Festival will become a yearly tradition in Peja. All of the guest artists have expressed interest to return. All of the organizing groups are eager to make it better next year. The public of Peja would like to have the sequel next month. But what is the future of Crossing Bridges? A deeper exploration into the connection between art and human understanding. Could rock concerts stop the next war here? We'll try. Tasting the passion of artforms from different places and cultures reminds us that diversity is delicious. Japanese and Native American groups are interested to join the festival next year. We would like to expand the range of artistic styles, extend the length of time of the festival, and bring a more diverse group of artists. We trust that from this strong beginning, a great future will grow. We thank all who supported Crossing Bridges in this test run, and hope to see you all next summer at Crossing Bridges 2.

Crossing Bridges Festival 2002

Crossing Bridges Festival 2002 deutsch

more pictures about crossing bridges and tour story 99