Theatre as part of the sustainable development movement: Sharm El Sheikh Festival for Youth

Ati Metwaly in Sharm El-Sheikh , Thursday 19 Nov 2020

The 5th edition of the Sharm El Sheikh International Theatre Festival for Youth takes place between 16 and 20 November

Sharm El Sheikh Festival for Youth
Hisham Azmi, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Culture [R] and Mazen El-Gharabawi, president of the festival [L]

A forum was held on Wednesday as part of the ongoing Sharm El-Sheikh International Theatre Festival for Youth (SITFY) to discuss the importance of theatre in the sustainable development of society.

Titled ‘Youth Theatre, a Cultural Industry for Sustainable Development,’ the discussion was divided into two sessions moderated by actor Mustafa Selim.

The first session comprised a panel including Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Culture Hisham Azmi and president of the festival Mazen El-Gharabawy. The second session featured theatre directors and academics Mohamed Abdel-Rahman El-Shafei and Islam Imam.

The first session shed light on the concept of cultural industries and the role they play in the economies of countries around the world. As Azmi explained, the concept of sustainable development and the culture field is an important component of the Egyptian government’s Sustainable Development Strategy and Egypt Vision 2030, which includes the activities initiated by the culture ministry across all of its sectors.

Azmi discussed the thousands of years of Egyptian culture up till modern times, highlighting the Khedivial (Royal) Opera House, which was inaugurated in 1869 and was the first of its kind in the Middle East.

“Egypt launched the first radio and television broadcasts in the region, along with the opening of the first universities, newspapers, civil societies and theatre groups,” Azmi continued.

“We represent a great cultural heritage, and as we are a part of Egypt's Vision 2030, we can raise the efficiency of cultural institutions and their employees. The culture ministry has already launched seven programmes which aim to promote sustainable cultural development through supporting young talents and creative people, reaching out to cultural industries across the governorates, and enhancing cultural awareness, among other activities,” Azmi enumerated.

The festival’s president El-Gharbawy underscored that SITFY seeks to achieve social inclusion, the proof of which is holding its activities outside Cairo, in South Sinai.

“It is crucial to decentralise the cultural scene while giving the residents of South Sinai an opportunity to be involved in the theatrical art and live interaction with this creative form.”

El-Gharabawy underscored that the forum can create a sustainable axis of discussions that can be adopted by the Supreme Council of Culture across many governorates and cities in Egypt.

Sharm El Sheikh Festival for Youth
Directors Mohamed Abdel Rahman El Shafei [R] and Islam Imam [L]

In the second part of the forum, directors El-Shafei and Imam looked deeper into actions that should be taken to ensure that sustainable development embraces creative practices.

Imam cited the example of the Festival d'Avignon, a theatre festival held in the south of France in a city that does not have many resources to attract tourists or generate substantial income for its population.

“The Avignon Theatre Festival became one of the largest sources of income for that town, where during the weeks of the festival’s activities, all stages, schools, churches, public spaces are filled with theatrical and other performing arts activities. The festival has become a major magnet for many industries willing to support its activities, it plays an important inclusive role and provides a source of income for the city and surrounding it areas,” Imam commented.

He added that the Avignon Theatre Festival’s model has been successfully adopted by many countries around the world and SITFY’s cultural intervention in South Sinai can bring similar results.

In its 5th edition, the festival presents 10 plays from Egypt and the international theatre scene, holding shows inside the Sharm El-Sheikh Cultural Palace and the open-air areas across the city.

The festival also holds numerous forums and discussions about the theatrical practices in Egypt and internationally, as well as workshops and meetings with renowned artists.

The festival was originally scheduled to take place on 1-7 April 2020, but it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the general shutdown of all cultural activities across Egypt.

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