Kaunas European Capital of Culture 2022 Youth Programme: Get ready to be taken out of your comfort zone

Photo by: A. Aleksandravičius

The city is its people. What will Kaunas look like in twenty or fifty years? The answer to this question can be found by talking, listening and simply spending time with young people. After hearing, seeing and feeling what they care about, we can predict how future Kaunas residents will live and what they will care about. The events of the Emerging Kaunas in the year of the European Capital of Culture will allow to peek through a keyhole into the future of Kaunas. 

“Emerging Kaunas is a programme for young people by young people. The central office of the European Capital of Culture even allocated a separate TEMPO space for us, where we can feel free and be ourselves, and talk about what concerns us in the language we understand best,” says Aurelija Prašmuntaitė, the Curator of the programme.

According to her, encouraging young people to participate in culture can only be done by providing them the opportunity to take the initiative themselves. Young people in Kaunas co-create quality cultural products in cooperation with Kaunas Chamber Theatre, Pažaislis Music Festival, Gamers Dance Studio and other partners. The Emerging Kaunas programme has several creative platforms, including the Kaunas Challenge and the More Tempo initiatives, which cultural community is constantly growing.

In 2022, the Emerging Kaunas programme in the European Capital of Culture year will explode with emotions, glow with impressions, it will tickle the senses and arouse curiosity.

Audra Contemporary City Festival – the central event of the youth programme

The central event of the youth programme is the Audra Contemporary City Festival, which will take place from June 29 to July 3, 2022. Contemporary art installations will emerge in various parts of the city, accompanied by concerts by different performers. Electronic, experimental, acoustic music will be performed at Kaunas Philharmonic, Mykolas Žilinskas Art Gallery, Kaunas Taxi Park, Pergalė Concert, Kaunas Confluence and other places.

The Festival team was joined by the Freimas International Association of Artists, which together with the team of the Lizdas night club creates the musical program for the Festival. The organisers assure all the lovers of quality electronic music: you can relax and wait for this unique event, which will shake Kaunas from the ground up and allow you to peek into its future.

Photo by: M. Plepys

Audra Contemporary City Festival is an event that reflects the lifestyle and values of the young people. This is a city festival that invites to discover the identity of Kaunas, of youth communities together with your personal identity. Audra summons curious people to enjoy the experience and bold discussions. There will be no participants in this festival – everyone will be its creator. The ideological leaders, guides and implementers of this festival are the participants of the Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 youth programme Emerging Kaunas.

There will be more action involving young people in the city on the same days. The Gamers City Battle 2022 street dance event will bring together participants of various street dance subcultures and nationalities from all over Europe. One of celebrities of the event is the French legend Salah, who will take his place in the judge’s chair. Hundreds of colourful and inventive dancers’ costumes, quality music, street dancers’ choreography – this is something definitely worth looking forward to.

Among the most prominent partners will be Inconvenient Films, which will invite the audience to explore the topics of psychological health and identity. Interestingly, these partners will bring the content of the audio documentaries, which will be designed with subtitle projections on Kaunas city buildings.

Also, we welcome the Diversion Cinema programme from our French partners. They will offer a unique virtual reality experience. During the festival, participants will be able to explore virtual reality not only through the possibilities of a stationary VR film, but while walking around space. We plan to bring a unique performance that combines VR and contemporary dance.

Audience is also invited to the premiere of the socio-political theatre – performances of the EYE NET 2.0 project about the experiences of young people will be shown, and creators from 7 European countries will come to Kaunas. The Lithuanian performance is directed by Rokas Lažaunykas, and the Mr. Stagey theatre troupe is participating. The Emerging Kaunas team is creating a performance with its partner Pažaislis Music Festival.

Photo by: M. Plepys

Tempo space for young people is teeming with life

The above-mentioned events are the result of the young people’s co-creation with the partners of the Emerging Kaunas programme. In 2022, we will see more of these.

The Kaunas Chamber Theatre Young Performing Arts Training Programme “Prodiusai Colab”, which aims to create conditions for young people to learn from performing arts professionals by implementing co-productions with foreign and Lithuanian artists, will stage two premieres for the 2022 programme. The sketch of “Jeanne”, the script of which is based on the archives from the court of Jeanne D'Arc and which is based on the principle of collaborative theatre, was shown already this year. At the beginning of the next year, we will see “Dance That Didn’t Exist” – a performance based on contact improvisation with the audience. Dancers’ duets, mass scenes, synchronization, change of rhythms will shatter the established opinion about dance.

“We’re creating something that’s never existed in Kaunas before, and we hope that the result of our work will help as many young people as possible to stay in both Kaunas and the Kaunas District, with which we’re also working quite a bit,” says Prašmuntaitė.

Indeed, the unique Tempo Space of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 dedicated for young people is teeming with life. The initiative More Tempo invites using the spaces to present personal initiatives, be it performances, exhibitions, installations, or other projects. Moreover, every September, young people are invited to join the Kaunas Challenge where they get the opportunity to implement their ideas for the city and the Kaunas district together with the Kaunas 2022 team. The graduates of the Kaunas Challenge programme can continue their activities in the alumni club, where they can learn from their experience and experiment with the implementation of their cultural ideas.

Tempo erdvės atidarymas

Cultural co-creation is a continuous process

The initiative inviting young people to join the Kaunas Challenge has already grown its alumni community. The projects developed by these young active people not only enrich the cultural life of the city, but also gradually change the cultural spaces of Kaunas, bringing new ideas, telling the stories from the young people’s perspective.

Among the initiatives born in this community are: PUOTA (Eng. feast), an audio-visual project that integrates the poetry created by the citizens into public spaces, MASS magazine, created by cultural youth and dedicated to such a reader, RANDAI (Eng. scars), a project that allows people to share their emotional experiences through photographs and personal texts, KOMODA (Eng. chest of drawers), which provides a platform for young fashion designers in Kaunas to organise their exhibitions, fashion shows, and performances in urban spaces, PUSĖS DAINOS FESTIVALIS (PDF) (Eng. half-song festival), an event that allows trap/rap music writers to perform their song to the public.

Photo by: M. Plepys

Through their projects, young people not only promote creative self-expression and the cultural life of Kaunas, but they also undertake education and look for the ways to spend quality leisure time. For instance, the video content created by SERIJA-F team is dedicated to financial literacy issues, ŽAIDŽIAM KAUNĄ (Eng. let’s play Kaunas) encourages to skip virtual games and join the board game community. During the project, a game about Kaunas was created, where cultural symbols relevant to the city are woven into the narrative of the game. MINDFAQ evenings invite to the play detective games.

“The content that is attractive, which addresses the challenges of access to culture for young people is created. The members of the Kaunas Challenge Alumni Club work independently in consultation with Kaunas 2022 mentors,” explains the curator of the Emerging Kaunas programme.

Photo by: A. Aleksandravičius

Focus on the youngest citizens

Capital of Culture Classes are another essential part of the 2022 cultural programme curated by Emerging Kaunas. Among the classes already planned are an animation weekend at the Romuva Cinema Centre, an educational theatre club, two youth theatre festivals, a children’s book festival and other events. However, the programme can still be expanded – Kaunas and Kaunas district schools and kindergartens, other educational institutions are invited to join in creating educational projects.

From April 29 to May 1, Kaunas Maironis Literature Museum will invite to the Live Letters Children’s Book festival, where the little ones will be able to meet writers and book characters, find Kaunas hidden in fairy tales, and see the Mythical Beast of Kaunas. Live Letters is a Part of Kaunas Literature Week, organised by Vytautas Magnus University, intended for the youngest readers. By the way, since we are on the subject of literature – in 2022, the book “Tales of Kaunas Nations” will be published, in original and Lithuanian languages, by Terra Publica. The colourful illustrations and QR codes that will allow unique stories to be heard will complement the texts.

Photo by: A. Aleksandravičius

Probably not everyone knows that in the first half of the 20th century, world-famous animation and cinema artist Vladislovas Starevičius lived and worked in Kaunas. Remembering this creator, the animation laboratory will be open at the Romuva Cinema Centre on May 21–22, where students will be able to get acquainted with the history and practice of animation. At the same time, the Animation Weekend will offer a programme of the most relevant and latest animated films for children and adults.

On June 12, the Pažaislis Music Festival will invite you to a truly extraordinary event in Raudondvaris to see the children’s opera “Kirana”. For five days, three professional performers from Malta will lead a creative workshop for children, and what the children will create – will also be shown on stage. The scenography will use the works of Kaunas Antanas Martinaitis Art School students, the children will contribute to the soundtrack, they will improvise and learn performing arts. The history of the “Kirana” opera was inspired by the myths of China, India, Babylon and Mesopotamia. In each country where the opera is staged, it is enriched with the work of local talent.

From theatre festivals to ecological citizenship education

Photo by: M. Plepys

In the Capital of Culture Classes programme, a lot of attention was paid to the theatre art. Kaunas National Drama Theatre will offer many events and educational programs for children and youth. Among them is an interactive performance for young people “The Tower of Babel”, the premiere of which will take place in Kaunas and Kaunas district – Čekiškė – on August 19–23; the director of the performance, Norwegian Hilde Brinchmann, uses both her own experience and that of each partner. The International Educational Theatre Festival for Children and Youth “Dive into the Theatre” on June 1–4 will invite young people to look behind the scenes, to get to know the actors. In addition, the Educational Theatre Club will offer a series of events inviting to use the possibilities of theatre art while learning the current subjects of the school programme.

In September 2022, Kaunas Chamber Drama Theatre will organise the Youth Theatre Festival “The Starting Point”, where beginning performers will present their current issues, social ideas and attitudes, emphasising theatre art as an important form of youth communication. The festival is aimed at people who are not indifferent to the most pressing issues and dilemmas of the contemporary society related to climate change, human and animal rights, politics.

The educational programme “Point of Change” for the development of ecological citizenship of students, which will take place in educational institutions of Kaunas and Kaunas region, will encourage action and create a space for new experiences. The programme is organized by “Science and Innovation for Society”, and its goal is to show that environmental protection is a conscious choice of all of us and the inevitable future of Kaunas city and district.

Although the highlighted events are numerous and various, they are just a little fraction of what a vibrant Emerging Kaunas community is bringing to the city every day. Stay tuned, more will follow.