The 20th ASSITEJ World Congress & International Performing Arts Festival for Children and Young People / MIRAI 2020 in Tokyo has come to an end and constituted an important and rich meeting place in this time of crisis.
The virtual event was populated by 1169 unique registered users from 75 countries attending 190 events. On the ground in Japan, the congress was visited by 3680 audiences attending 103 performances, workshops and symposia.
Relive the Congress & Festival:
- Read the online ASSITEJ Magazine
- Get to know the ASSITEJ Awards 2021 winners
- Get to know the incoming Executive Committee
- Read the event statistics of the online Congress
Reflections on the Congress
Time really has flown since the Opening Ceremony in Tokyo a few days ago. It feels as if things have only just begun. With the postponement of the Congress, it took us a long time to get to this point, but now it seems as if things are over just as they’re getting started. Despite the postponement of the Congress due to coronavirus, and the constraints placed on us by the pandemic, we were more than equal to the situation in our preparation and response. It was a real shame for the children of Japan, who had been looking forward to seeing them, that theatre companies from overseas, despite hoping until the end that they would be able to join us, were ultimately unable to travel to Japan. However, in the midst of this, we created a World Congress that was the first of its kind in history, with online performances and meetings becoming a place to share wisdom and create new bonds with one another.
I’m very happy that we were able to hold it in this way, with so many people contributing. I think this Congress will remain in our memories for a long time, and I’m very glad that we managed to hold it. Of course, our opportunities watching live theatre in person and interacting with each other are restricted, but this has only reconfirmed for us the wonders of live performance; I think, to a certain extent, this can be seen as an upside to the COVID-19 crisis. It is a brilliant achievement that, despite these grave circumstances, thanks to the efforts of so many people in Japan, we have managed to hold the Congress with very few changes to the programme.
I would especially like to thank those who offered us venues at short notice after the Congress was postponed. Thank you all very much. And finally, I would like to thank Yvette Hardie and all other members of the ASSITEJ World Congress Executive Committee who organised the Congress in these extraordinary circumstances. Thank you to our advisor, Fujita Asaya; our director, Ōtani Kenjirō; our Artistic Director and General Producer, Shimoyama Hisashi; our Executive Director, Morimoto Mayako; and all others who have lent their strengths to this event, as well as everyone on the Executive Committee. I am sincerely grateful for everything you have done.
I would like to close extending my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported this Congress, everyone who is gathered here tonight, and all the organisations and staff involved. Thank you all very much.
I planned my participation fastidiously, reading every line of the program, ensuring that I had the time correct (there was a bit of a learning curve in this regard). I took copious notes as I attended sessions and made notes to ‘attend’ recordings of those I missed, which I did more than once (I am still doing it as of this writing). I downloaded abstracts and bios, outlines and transcripts. I watched performances and invited my husband to watch with me. I was quite literally enjoying a feast at my dining room table, devouring every morsel I could manage as the program ensued.
Participating in the World Congress was a gift of immeasurable worth. My thirst for arts connection was quenched and then some. As my journey continues and I connect with practitioners and new friends from across the globe I look forward to collaborations, fresh insights, and continued growth in the world of theatre for young audiences, a bit more equipped as I venture off into the new unknown.
With the World Congress being held in Japan, I realised what my mission was. I, as an individual, wanted to provide equal access to cultural experiences, and to create a society where not a single person is left behind. That’s why I participated in this project. I found myself animated by this mission, which can be summarised simply with these questions: how would we on the Japanese side interpret the ASSITEJ World Congress, and would we succeed in connecting it to society and to children’s lives? However, to tell the truth, the two years up until this point have been very long.
I first participated in the ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering held in Norway, and I was very happy to be able to interact with people from around the world, and to feel that I had so many friends in different countries. The day that this Congress was postponed because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, around 200 visa documents from members arrived in our office, as if urging us to push on and do our best. We paused, and discussed the matter many times. I found myself returning to my conviction that now was exactly the time that we needed to communicate the power of culture and the arts to society, for the sake of children and the future. Many children were able to enjoy themselves in Nagano, and I believe that the warmth and kindness of all the staff here in Nagano will be remembered.
We truly have many friends here with us now: Shimoyama-san, the Artistic Director and General Producer; Morimoto-san, the Executive Director; those involved in the 2017 World Congress in South Africa; Ōta-san and Ōtani-san, who lent their strength from the Asia Festival and Inclusive Arts Festival; everyone from the ASSITEJ Japan Centre; everyone on the Executive Committee; the production team who put in hard work from early morning until late at night; all the general members; everyone on the technical and recording teams; all the volunteers who’ve put forth their efforts; all those in the Nagano support team who enthusiastically hosted us; and all the creative organisations and speakers, including all those around the world who were unable to be with us in person.
As this ASSITEJ World Congress and MIRAI Festival, and this part of our mission, draws to a close, the fact that we have been able to connect together, and the fact that ‘Children’s Art Action’ has come about, makes me feel like this is just the beginning. I believe that from here on out, by connecting with each other and contributing to sharing our efforts, we will build the future. Let us all do our best together. Thank you very much.