Due to the necessary home confinement measures introduced during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020, the International Cultural Relations Department of the Budapest Cultural Center enquired about operational challenges of its partner institutions abroad and general well-being of their staff. Most importantly, personalised emails were sent to make sure that our partners in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland are all in good health, which they confirmed. We were also keen to learn about any good  practices they implemented to restructure their procedures in order to fit the changed cultural and economic environment. Learning about new ways of financing and communicating with the general public was also on our agenda, together with asking for examples of cultural forums formed to tackle challenges.

Bohuslav Vondruška, Cultural Referent at the Department of Culture and External Relations in the city of Šumperk, confirmed that they strictly followed to the measures introduced by the National Center for Epidemiology in the Czech Republic. Face masks were worn at all times, of which supplies were scarce initially, so volunteers sewed home-made masks for those in need. People in public places kept a safe distance from one another, and left their homes only when very necessary. If possible, home-office became the preferred work alternative. Group activities were prohibited; therefore schools, theatres, cinemas and cultural institutions were closed down indefinitely. Despite the complete cessation of cultural activities, many artists, actors and musicians mobilised various online platforms to give performances and concerts for free. A self-organising team was formed to help communication between communities and legal authorities, and a free telephone helpline was made available, especially for the elderly. By maintaining a disciplined behaviour, offering continuous support to the self-employed and helping the people who are in need, the residents of Šumperk hope to help ease the economic impact of the outbreak.

For more information please visit: https://www.sumperk.cz/

David Gerneš, Director of the Moravian Theatre in Olomouc, gave a detailed description of his institute’s best practices to tackle challenges until normal operations are reset. The loss of income from the entrance fee was compensated by the radically reduces costs of non-performances. No employees were made redundant; instead substitute work was personally assigned to each. At the same time, negotiations with trade unions took place and some personal allowances of employees associated with stage operations were reduced. A special patronage club was established with a possibility to join for an entry fee of 200 CZK (about 7 Euros). This created a sense of belonging between the audience and the theatre.

Negotiations were held at national level for compensation and support. Supported by the Olomouc City Hall, the Moravian Theatre is planning to hold special outdoor performances together with other local theatres in the upcoming summer. Striving for a positive attitude, members of the theatre staff positively helped and supported the public. Actors, singers and other theatre employees provided shopping, did mail patrols and walked the dog for seniors. A good number of vlogs were made for the entertainment of the audience. All activities served to maintain contact between the theatre and the audience and focus on three levels: “Have fun, help, learn.”

For more information please visit: http://www.moravskedivadlo.cz/

Tomasz Włodarski, Deputy Director for Development and Infrastructure of the Małopolski Cultural Institute in Krakow, emphasised the advantages of working online. Theyresearched and tested a few tools for online meetings and webinars. Two were chosen due to the different character suitable for meetings (more interactive) and webinars (more suitable for presentations). Selected programmes were asked to come up with online activities and now, they have regular webinars open nationwide held at least once a week. Online workshops were held for curators and museum employees around Poland.

The software the institute’s employees used in their daily work for years had proved to be even more useful in those difficult times. It enabled them to create online forms to collect agreements or to circulate messages to colleagues in home office. Tomasz is convinced that some of the solutions they tested during the pandemic would stay with them for a longer time.

For more information please visit: http://mik.krakow.pl/

Martin Sarvaš, Director at the Cultural Facilities of Petržalka in Bratislava, confirmed that all productions were cancelled until mid-summer, many of them postponed until the autumn season. Entrance fees were paid back to viewers not interested in the new dates. The Municipal library operating in the institute is to be fully reopened in phases, in line with the current and anticipated government restrictions.

The institute prepared schemes of reduced seating for the phase of reopening the venues for the viewers, with chess-like seating both in the theatrical hall and ballroom. The smaller ball room with its flat floor and café and cabaret style seating looks more suitable for seating with hygienic distances, with approximately 30% of capacity saved. The theatrical hall is more critical for a reduced seating, with the minimum of only 1/8 of the number of seats, and not exceeding the 25% number of seats according to today’s standards.

For more information please visit: https://www.kzp.sk/

The Budapest Cultural Center thanks its external partners for the valuable feedback. We wish them good health and effective daily work in promoting culture and arts.


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