Having good practice in crisis management is prerequisite towards leading a cultural organization, due to the constant uncertainty. In this way, organizations build competencies since they become reflective on their practices.
The uncertainty that the pandemic of COVID -19 has brought to our civilisation, was immense. The first and foremost industry that was hit by the restriction and cutting off, was the cultural sector – we were the first that were “closed for business”, since our sector is a business that gathers vast number of people on the same place just for the fun. And we were the last that were opened. Somewhere, this relives are still not yet introduced to the society.
So, having a prompt response in a form of crisis management is the prerequisite of every cultural organizations ‘modus operandi’ strategy, especially in the last 3 years of the world’s happenings.
North Macedonia as a country that was also severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, introduced more or less the same measures of prevention and protection against the spreading of the newly virus. And this meant- cutting all public events, gatherings, indoor working conditions, indoor events, cinemas, concerts, promotions, conferences, workshops, and the whole industry just stopped.
But – with living in a country that is a fragile democracy, having only 30 years of independence, landlocked in the Balkans with only 2 million people, this unanticipated world event came as a heavy burden for our also – fragile economy. This meant, by closing off the cultural sector – the personnel that were employed by the country in the public/administrative cultural organization were “safe”, but the 0.05% of the individuals coming from the independent cultural sector were not. They were cut off by every means of earnings. And our – fragile economics, couldn’t find a means for crisis funding and helping this otherwise also very delicate cultural sector.
Having this in mind, MKC as a public organization that in its programing, has always been a home for the independent cultural sector offering them space for executing their projects, wanted to address this problem. So, in 2020 as the COVID pandemic was in the highest, MKC created a program where only independent cultural organizations/individuals would be booked for a show/program in the city’s neighborhoods, around buildings and parks where people during the curfew hours, could sit outside their balconies and enjoy these events.
For this purpose, MKC has introduced an open call – no limits in terms of project proposals, only the one condition, to be part of the independent cultural scene and having no permanent employment contract (ex. If in a band, 3 members have a steady working place not hit by the COVID measurements, the 4th member would be the only one receiving a fee for the concert).
The turnout of applications was immense. Still, as program managers we didn’t want to introduce any restrictions or selections, but to have an open space for performing.
These events were introduced in the city’s neighborhoods, during the curfew hours, around the parks of the resident’s buildings, roofs, streets.
The fee that was given as per performer/individual was flat, in the value of an average salary in North Macedonia, for the fairness of the process. For the dissemination process, MKC has also streamed the concerts on its social media accounts and YT channel, in order to approach and reach to even more audience, and to create a bit more normal atmosphere in people’s homes during curfew.
The direct beneficiaries of this project were the most “vulnerable” cultural sector, the independent cultural scene, organizations and individuals who in any form, COVID crisis or not – they always work in uncertain conditions. But, with these recent events, these associates of ours were completely cut off by any means of their earnings, since the sector they are operating in was forcefully shut down. So, with this measure of crisis intervention, although we couldn’t resolve the whole problem, we as an organization wanted to be at least part of some percentage of the solution. Besides, the benefit was not only for the cultural actors, it was societal relief, having in mind that the audience, although not physically and closely present before the performers, had the chance to see their favorite performing arts live/streamed, as if things were a bit normal.
The challenges that laid ahead towards the execution of this good practice were those that the public cultural funding was not completely ready to meet the financial needs of the project. This activity was obviously not planned ahead, since no one was expecting a pandemic and no one has predicted these costs in their national budget. Still, with aid from sponsors and the logistical support that MKC has to offer (equipment, technical team etc.) the challenges were overcome. It was challenging enouight to organize a whole production process during curfew and lockdown; still we promoted the event heavily so people and officials were pretty good informed, and licenses were in line. All challenges for making this project possible were mostly overcame due to the heavy experience of MKC’s staff for crisis management (as explained, our constant ‘modus operandi’), as well as the closeness our organization has with the independent cultural sector collaboration on numerous projects and offering space for their activities.
Culture in times of Corona: Concert of Funk Shui https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJdidTF2J4I
Culture in times of Corona: DJ Zoki Bejbe
Culture in times of Corona: Concert of Pluto’s doubts
Culture in times of Corona: theater performance “The diary of a madman”
Culture in times of Corona: promo video
“After 50 public events, its time to close the project Culture in times of Corona”
Culture in times of Corona open call: