What was year 2023 like?

On the eve of the New Year, we would like to tell you a tale about the future that was jointly written by more than 150 primary school children in 2023 while working on “The Book of Riga” project as part of the “Homo Novus” festival. It began like this: “On our streets we planted lots of new trees. We planted money trees and spruce trees and birch trees with purple apples growing from them. When the trees were big enough, inside them we built many things that we thought our streets really needed. You might not be able to see these things straight away, but they are definitely there.”

This year, NTIL and its artistic director Bek Berger launched many new ideas, inviting artists, professionals and interested parties to participate in our residencies, seminars, performances, festivals and many other events. We launched two new Creative Europe projects – The Big Green, a four-year project that brings together environmentally-engaged artists to experiment with innovative ways of using art to promote sustainability, and DemArt, a two-year international collaborative project to democratize the arts funding process by involving local communities in the commissioning process. In September, we became a partner in GLEN (Great Little European Network) that connects the smallest countries of Europe through common networking with the objective of interconnecting them and taking a prominent place in the international scene. While the tense geopolitical situation continues to affect our daily lives, intensifying societal schisms, we have started to develop new partnerships with other Central and Eastern European countries and to engage even more actively with the most vulnerable groups in society, ensuring the creative participation of culturally underrepresented groups and producing events that foster mutual understanding and acceptance.

In spring 2023, we concluded the young curator training programme The Shake Down which enabled 5 young Latvian and 5 Norwegian teenagers to curate a large part of the Bastard International Arts Festival in Trondheim, Norway. The Baltic Take Over, a project to promote international cooperation in the Baltic region, took place in Helsinki in the summer, where the different identities of the Baltic States were highlighted in stage works. The young artist collective Grāfienes traveled from Riga to Prague to represent Latvia in Prague Quadrennial with their scenography work ‘On our way’, produced by NTIL. During the summer we hosted two local and international artist residencies as part of the “MagiC Carpets” platform activities. And naturally, at the end of the summer, the International Festival of Contemporary Theatre “Homo Novus” took place for the nineteenth time, with more than 25 events that warmly welcomed many new and many well-loved artists and members of the public to ignite our collective imagination and explore the potentialities of working together, not apart. We celebrated accessibility, danced with each and everyone, exorcized through exercise and partied and reunited after earth-shattering performances. The BE PART Symposium took place during the festival, dedicated to exploring the ethics of artistic participation and was attended by at least 600 spectators and participants, including nearly 100 international partners, while the Homo Novus Festival brought together more than 70 artists, involved more than 360 people from different communities, including 150 children in performance-making and workshops, and was attended by more than 6000 people in total.

Throughout the year we continued to organize guest performances and masterclasses dedicated to promoting accessibility in the performing arts, host foreign delegations, participate in conferences and seminars, organize webinars, attend international festivals and share the acquired knowledge and disseminate information related to educational or collaborative opportunities of the performing arts sector.

Inspired by the wild and boundless imagination of the young authors of the Riga Book we would like to invite our friends, colleagues and followers to continue dreaming about protecting and changing our world, so that one day everyone can play “inside the trees”, where “the air is fresh without pollution or noise”, where “every tree is covered in hundreds of night lights so that when it gets dark they glow like it’s Christmas”, where “there is always enough food for all the animals and there is a veterinary clinic” and where “there is a money waterfall and a slide in the shape of a sausage”. “Everything in the trees is free for us and free for you if you can find them.”

Have a wonderful festive season and imaginative New Year’s resolutions!

Here you can read – the Book of Riga

Ilustration:  Vivianna Maria Staņislavska