In March 2016 a group of enthusiasts working and living in a certain part of Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, decided to join forces in order to develop a project for defined cultural, creative & entrepreneurial area/quarter, akin to many existing in Paris, London, New York, Belgrade, Krakow, Berlin, etc. We felt the lack and the need to have an established and recognisable "perimiter" which we could all call the heart of cultural, creative & social buzz, change and progress: think what Kreuzberg was/is to Berlin, Shoreditch and Soho to London, Mare to Paris, etc. The specific area in Sofia - now tentatively named "kvARTal" - is actually the historic center of the capital (exactly where it started to grow and develop as a settlement and, eventually, a city back in the Roman Empire days), as well as historic Jewish and merchants quarter at the turn of the 19th c. It is and has been a unique melting pot of cultures and religions - currently, still the only perimeter hosting a Mosque, a Synagogue, a Catholic church, an Orthodox church and the ancient Sofia (Serdika) ruins, including also functioning mineral water fountains. It is home to numerous start-ups, co-working spaces, family-run restaurants, cafes, artists studios, ateliers, galleries; one of the oldest - and last few standing - arthouse cinemas in Sofia, "Dom na kinoto" (Cinema House); the Museum of Sofia is here.
It has all of the signature traits and potential for true "cultural quarters", forward-thinking "hub", area you can point out and recommend to foreigners visiting Sofia - it's just never been defined and put on the map as such. And this is what we set out to do.
What started as just casual conversations and exchange of ideas between friends, acquaintances and, simply, neighbours, resulted in "kvARTal festival" 2016 - a 3-day happening, aimed at highlighting the potential of the area, its already existing residents, services and infrastructure; attract media and public's attention, draw new residents, visitors, break stereotypes (the area is in close proximity to the Central Railway Station, as well as the Lion Bridge, both of which have gained some negative reputation in the last decade, deemed as spots of illegal / criminal activity), start regeneration plans, strategy for negotiations with the local council, etc. - all WITH the residents involved, not as a "top-down" scheme. Our main point was to keep it grassroots and happening WITH and BECAUSE OF the people who've already set up shop in the area. No artificial interventions.
As an event, "kvARTal festival" 2016 was absolutely self-funded and self-run all by the core "kvARTal" collective - Cinema House (cinema, arts centre), SoHo coworking & events space, Cush.Be (design, print, shop), French 75 (bar), Sito Studio (print, design), TEZGYAH (ceramic studio, shop), Atelie Plastelin (arts, performance space/gallery).
The idea of "kvARTal festival" was that each participating location would be responsible for its own programmer/ideas during the 3 days (16-18 Sept 2016) - you develop it and run it, we announce and promote it in the overall fest programme & promo materials (flyers, online, etc.). Serving then as the Programming Manager / Cinema Director for Dom na kinoto (Cinema House), one of my tasks was to develop a programme for the 3 days of "kvARTal festival".
At the same time, as the main initiator of the bigger "kvARTal" project and one of the core members of the original collective, I was responsible for the overall development, organisation, and coordination of the 3-day event (including attending/participating in media gigs set up by our PR person, such as radio & print interviews, discussing the festival itself, but also the bigger project): - contacting locations with proposal for the festival; keeping up communication with participating locations, coordinating their activity, collating information Re: each location's programme/activity in the overall festival programme, resolving time/duration issues, communicating back to the rest of the collective;
- selecting artists; communication, coordination;
- preparing information for the printed materials (maps, flyers); working with the Designer and the project's assistant for collating information, proof reading, information check, design changes, etc. ; distributing stickers for each bar/cafe participating in the "gourmet tour" (part of the festival programme);
- obtaining parking permits, street closure permits & Health&Safety clearances with the local authorities - all the necessary paperwork for putting on the outdoor "Chill Zone" and other public space happenings part of the festival programme;
- coordinating the day-by-day programme; main point of contact on the day; setting-up Cinema House as the official info center for the 3 days; instructing & informing Cinema House team, coordinating their immediate responsibilities; events including: screenings at the Cinema House, the festival opening party, the festival closing party, the outdoor "Chill Zone" (working with the Chill Zone Coordinator / Bar Manager(s));
- participating as one of the presentors/lecturers for the "Meet the kvARTal Collective" panel discussion; Q&A hosting;
- exchanging information & photo materials between other participating locations; working closely wiht the PR person to promote the event and respond to any necessary media communication;