Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 11.COM 10.C.3

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Bulgaria has proposed Festival of folklore in Koprivshtitsa: a system of practices for heritage presentation and transmission (No. 00970) for selection and promotion by the Committee as a programme, project or activity best reflecting the principles and objectives of the Convention:

The concept for the Festival of folklore in Koprivshtitsa, where thousands of Bulgarians of all ages and the diaspora meet in August to present and share their intangible cultural heritage practices ranging from dance and storytelling, to games and craftsmanship, originated when local musicians saw a need to protect traditions endangered by factors such as urbanization and commodification. Hosted by the Koprivshtitsa municipality with assistance from the Ministry of Culture, Bulgarian National Television, Bulgarian National Radio, the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with the Ethnographic Museum, the Institute for Art Studies and community centres, the festival raises awareness about the importance of safeguarding living heritage and promotes its presence in people’s lives, documents it for future continuity and stimulates transmission. Performers are nominated through selection procedures organized by Bulgaria’s administrative districts where new traditions are also identified, then performances broadcasted and documented by scholars for archival records such as those at the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with the Ethnographic Museum. Since the first festival in 1965, nine editions have taken place with 18,000 performers participating in 2010, attracting visitors from throughout the country and abroad. Many festival performers go on to become known internationally.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the programme responds as follows to the criteria for selection as a best safeguarding practice in paragraph 7 of the Operational Directives:

P.1:   The submitting State describes the origin of the festival and its current activities. The proposal explains the situation that led to its creation and provides information about the specific safeguarding needs that have been identified. The project promotes the development of local folklore, documentation and research, transmission mechanisms and the creation of institutional networks, involving a range of successful and productive methods that can serve as examples of best practices. The festival brings attention and dialogue to the field of intangible cultural heritage in Bulgaria and presents an entire system of practices for heritage presentation and transmission that take place at the local level around the entire country and gain special visibility during the festival’s editions held once every five years.

P.2:   The festival involves numerous observers and participants from across the world and with diverse competences, including cultural and educational centres, scientific institutes, municipalities, non-governmental organizations and associations of folklore admirers. Such gatherings promote respect for cultural diversity. The proposal provides good evidence of efforts to safeguard intangible cultural heritage at regional, sub-regional and international levels through the participation of folklore groups, individual bearers and visitors from abroad, the shared experience with other similar festivals in Southeastern Europe, and the involvement of Bulgarian emigrant communities in activities of heritage safeguarding.

P.3:   The submitting State has provided a detailed explanation of how the festival reflects the principles and objectives of the Convention in its conception, design and implementation. These include safeguarding, promoting visibility and recognition, community participation and the motivation of bearers, maintaining the support of state institutions, the development of know-how related to transmission, and the establishment of international networks and monitoring. Promoting the safeguarding and popularization of folklore, the festival is a platform for spontaneous cultural practices, which maintain the knowledge of local expressions, traditional meanings and social functions, thus enhancing communities’ sense of belonging and continuity.

P.4:   The proposal demonstrates the success of the festival, evaluated through the growing numbers of participants, visitors and audiences. Together with annual local festivals, the event brings about an important momentum and awareness to thousands of bearers of intangible cultural heritage and visitors, and stimulates the processes of transmitting heritage through generations. It is also helpful in the promotion of mutual respect and cultural dialogue, and respect for cultural diversity and human creativity, but evidence is not sufficient to determine a deliberate transmission of the elements of intangible cultural heritage highlighted at the festival. Further, the indicators are almost all quantitative and while the festival contributes to the visibility of folklore, it is not clear how effective it is in contributing to the viability of contextualized elements of intangible cultural heritage.

P.5:   The bearers and performers, other communities concerned, and guest performers from abroad have been involved in the implementation of the festival, together with the Ministry of Culture and other government institutions at different levels, a local museum and researchers. The file presents consent letters from concerned communities, groups, and individuals who were informed about the proposal, expressed their support and fully participated in the different stages of its preparation.

P.6:   The file explains that the festival (with its proven sustainability) may serve as a model for other countries and regions as it emphasizes broad participation of different communities, groups and individuals, active cooperation between different communities and institutions, direct involvement of scholars, fundraising for archiving, and connecting with national inventories on intangible cultural heritage. It has shown an ability to include a variety of communities and elements of intangible cultural heritage, and provide an excellent opportunity to bring bearers together with cultural historians and museum professionals.

P.7:   Since its first edition in 1965, the Koprivshtitsa Festival has been open to collaboration with other countries. Information about the festival has been publicized through newspapers, radio, television, internet, publications, national and international conferences and seminars. The file states that the submitting State, implementing bodies, concerned communities, groups and individuals are willing to cooperate in the dissemination of best practices towards other communities, professional institutions and governments the world over.

P.8:   The submitting State indicates that the festivals are evaluated as and when these occur (number and social characteristics of participants and audience, geographic and genre representativeness; identification of safeguarded elements of intangible cultural heritage, interest by scholars, non-governmental organizations and other organizations, and media opinions). However, these tend to focus on the success of the festival as a social event and less on the impact this has had on the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage or on strengthening transmission mechanisms.

P.9:   While the submitting State does not specifically demonstrate how the festival would be primarily applicable to the needs of developing countries, it may serve as a working model in view of its organizational flexibility, the ability to progress and grow in time, and the opportunity to involve many individuals, groups, institutions and communities. More broadly, a festival may contribute to cultural and sustainable development through local tourism and business. The model is compatible with both high and low-budget festivals.

  1. Selects Festival of folklore in Koprivshtitsa: a system of practices for heritage presentation and transmission as a programme, project or activity best reflecting the principles and objectives of the Convention;
  2. Thanks the delegation of Bulgaria for the clarifications provided to the Committee on the information included in the file concerning criteria P.1, P.2, P.3, P.6 and P.9.