“Big Time Takeover” comes to a successful conclusion with a two-day final conference in Skopje

By Margarita Arsova, Hristina Ivanoska and Jane Chalovski

The Final Conference of the European project “Big Time Takeover” was hosted by the Youth Cultural Center (MKC) in Skopje on the 24th and 25th of April, 2023, bringing together cultural workers and educators from various organizations, including Associazione culturale Mulab from Italy, Rinova Limited from Great Britain, HFC-Hope for Children CRC Policy Centar from Cyprus, Fundacija Arteria from Poland. The primary objective of the “Big Time Takeover” project was to empower young individuals to utilize their creative abilities and the potential of modern technology to address community-related issues. Recognizing the opportunity to engage young people in creating content aligned with the project’s activities and goals, MKC emphasized the pressing need for fostering a caring approach towards nature.

The public segment of the Final Conference program commenced with an exhibition opening in Gallery 2, above the Frosina Cinema, on Monday, April 24th, 2023. This event offered attendees the chance to interact with participants and explore documentation highlighting the activities of all project partners while focusing on the promotion of “Gaia and the Garden,” a bi-lingual (Macedonian and English) book that portrayed a dystopian world where contact with nature had been lost. The author of the text is a 16-year-old student Eva Božinovska, currently studying at “Nikola Karev” high school in Skopje. We had asked Eva to introduce herself in a few words, to which she said: “I’m an old soul and enjoy simple things, but I still adore the audiovisual arts and all the culture that surrounds them. I am involved in photography and writing, combining these two hobbies by producing short films. I still don’t know my ultimate goal in life, but with this project, I am taking a big step toward it. ‘Gaja and the Garden’ is my first published story.” The story was beautifully illustrated by the enormously talented Elena Apostolovska, Mirjana Spasoska, and Jana Stefanovska, a group of 14-year-old second-year students in the multimedia department at the secondary art school DSULUD “Lazar Lichenoski” in Skopje. A publication showcasing their work had also been developed and unveiled to the public on May 18th, 2023, and is free in PDF format on the Bigtime Takeover Digital Platform.

The evening was even more special with a piano jazz recital by the masterful Francesco Amato, a youth representing Associazione Culturale Mulab, Italy. We also saw the presentation of drawings and a video animation titled “I’m Longing” by Ida Bieniek, a gifted interdisciplinary youth representing ARTeria, Poland. The video program offered to the public included documentary videos of the impact of the BTTO program on the educational and entrepreneurial activities of the Youth-directed program at Rinova Ltd. in London. The fantastic first evening we concluded by attending a contemporary dance performance as part of the 19th edition of Dance Fest Skopje, a festival formed in 2005 as a continuation of the artistic director Risima Risimkin’s activities in the area and the development of contemporary dance education for youth in North Macedonia.

The second part of the final conference, on Tuesday, April 25th, began at 10:00 in the Frosina Cinema. Margarita Arsova, the project coordinator from MKC, delivered an opening speech alongside visual artists and mentors Hristina Ivanoska and Jane Chalovski. Following this, Hayan Al Halabi, an expert in permaculture and a project collaborator, delivered a presentation on “GARDENING: The garden as an instrument, permaculture as a methodology.” Subsequently, the conference featured presentations from project partners, including Sara Simeone and Barbara Ruiz Lopez from Materahub (Italy), Enzo Pellegrini and Anna Maria Piccoli from Moulab (Italy), Venantsius Ohmanod from the Arteria Foundation (Poland), Andrea-Fotini Hadzikonstantinou and Ariana Tortelli from the Hope for Children organization (Cyprus), as well as Trevor Burgess from Rinova (Great Britain).

One of the most special presentations was the project “Young People’s Dreams and Messages for the Future.” Conceptualized and produced by a group of gifted youngsters from Italy: Alessia Gerlini, Daniele Cillil, Francesco Amato, David Martulli, Roberto Cesarino, and Giovanni Ferrandina, the project compiled wonderful handwritten messages on the importance of voicing one’s feelings and aspiration for a better collective tomorrow Some heartfelt texts in the anonymous letters written by the youth, that was shared with the public, included: “I dream to live a carefree future, in which you can still admire the green leaves, listen to the sound of the sea and the whistling of the mountain wind. A future where everything is in harmony, like a large orchestra, like a light music that tastes of hope”, or “I just dream of doing what I love, with someone by my side.” This project, in particular, highlighted the aim of “Big Time Takeover” to develop original and authentic content that will lead to a series of youth-initiated actions as an argument for a holistic synthesis of approaches to youth empowerment, built upon the partnership’s experience at local/regional, national, and European levels.

Last but not least, the generous and inspirational public program curated by the team of MKC was also an excellent opportunity for everyone to discover the essential and valuable work produced by the “Big Time Takeover.” The project funded by the “Erasmus KA2 Program for Cooperation and Innovation and Exchange of Good Practices,” initiated by the European Union Strategic Partnerships Program, gave us all a fresh new perspective on what it means to empower young people. This empowerment was evident in all activities conducted for the project duration from 2021 until 2023 and showcased at the Final Conference. The consensus of all partners was unanimous: let’s work together and find ways to carry on the inspirational collaborations and build solid supportive environments so our children are never discouraged from creatively and critically expressing their visions and aspirations for a just and sustainable future.


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