Is it possible through collaborations with local and international cultural producers, independent organizations, municipal structures and institutions to bring out the potential of an urban area so that it falls under the radar of representatives of the business, creative sector and tourism?

After wrapping up “Ten Days of Culture in District Six” last week, our response would be a positive one. The central neighbourhood District Six briefly became a field area for exploratory and experimental activity. The amalgamation of different themes and approaches, combined with the dynamic networking between the participants and the audience, gave rise to various visions and left the door open for speculations, references and ideas in the coming years. The culture cooperation program produced not answers but rather discourse on possible future developments. 

EXPLORING THE NEIGHBOURHOOD AND ITS POTENTIAL

Dima Stefanova, Ivelina Gadjeva and Filip Boyadzhiev, the trio leading the independent educational platform for art and design Know-How Show-How, arrived first in District Six, Gabrovo, to gather impressions, highlight its possibilities and transformed the wonderful space of the “Buditelite” Community Centre. Over the next 10 days together with the ten participants in their creative workshop they embarked on a mission to find ways forward for the place and its inhabitants through respect for heritage and in collaboration with local producers and companies. Through the methods of design research and interdisciplinary learning, they collected data, visited the production bases of several large local companies, compiled visual maps and experimented with waste materials to prototype ideas for future development and proposals for the needs of the neighbourhood. Among the more long-term interventions presented were a visual indication of the boundaries of the urban area, including the creation of a specific typeface, pimping up the garden furniture of the local beer bar, interventions into the space of the community centre and a general creative uplift and stimulative provocation. Among the conclusions of the study were the needs of the local community to have a place of attraction to gather, to communicate, to exchange ideas and have a good time together.

STORIES FROM THE HEART OF GABROVO

The documentary theatre studio Vox Populli presented in three different evenings the site-specific performance Six Scenes from District Six in collaboration with actors from Gabrovo Drama Theatre. The walk through the neighbourhood streets introduced the viewers to the stories of its residents in interesting and unexpected memories of some iconic Gabrovo people and their culture, personal family stories and inherited wisdoms. 

REIMAGINING NATURAL MATERIALS 

Еtar is a unique open air museum not only for the region, but also for the country and it was part of the cultural program with a photo exhibition and a workshop. By preserving national traditions in craftsmanship and customs, the museum explores local natural materials such as corn husks and applies them in regenerative design practices through new forms. The museum’s team demonstrated and taught the audience how to easily weave decorative flowers from the dried leaves of the corn husk. They also showed options for using the material in a more practical way such as, for example, weaving carpets and mats.

WASTE MATERIALS INTO GALLERY OBJECTS

The third stop of the project Sustainable Practices in Design and Fashion, realized in collaboration with , highlighted the options of up-cycling discarded materials and products into unique and beautiful objects. Petra Svejdarova and Klara Vaculikova from the Czech duo PRASKLO and the young Hungarian designer Katalin Huszar walked us through their process of work. PRASKLO creates boutique and one-off gallery vases, assembled from scrap crystal or glass from the big factories, thus giving consumers food for thought and a reason for sustainable choice. Katalin Huszar’s curious approach of collecting plastic straws from the garbage, washing them and after thermal treatment turning them into “sheets” of a new material actually turned out to be a not so successful experiment. Even though looking attractive and stylish, the recycled straws exhaust too much energy and water to be processed and transformed. But these are important lessons contributing to the overall knowledge about sustainability in the design industry.

POETRY IN A SMALL SUNNY TOWN

“Leave all your prejudices for this literary walk here and take them back again at the end, when we will return to the same spot.” Thus began this particularly emotional experience, saturated with carefully chosen and wonderful words, which gently fed the audience with the most valuable – strong food for the soul. The literary tour by Reading Sofia Foundation has invited the poet Albena Todorova to lead us around and highlight some parts of District Six, which have made a strong impression on her and which she magnificently addressed through the words of Kristin Dimitrova, Nataliya Ivanova, Nadezhda Radulova, Petya Heinrich, Ran Bosilek, Atanas Dalchev and others. The unusual lyrical experience touched everyone, making us feel the authenticity of life in the neighborhood – from its hidden streets, through the noisy Saturday market to the calm of summer in a small town.

DESIGNERS ASK AND PROVOKE

The house of NoPoint Atelier is situated just a few kilometres above Gabrovo in the small village of Balanite, where the view of the mountains takes your breath away and the place is the perfect backdrop for artistic inspiration. Within the framework of the project and with the support of Gabrovo Municipality Culture Program, the hosts – Miroslav Zhivkov and Yana Nikolova – gathered four designers from different parts of the country to work on the design of social posters with the theme Question of Time. In just four days of intensive discussions, work and creativity, Albena Limoni, Denislav Golemanov, Zahari Dimitrov, Kostadin Kokalanov and Miroslav Zhivkov managed to create over 200 posters. Called “social” because their role to sell or advertise was taken away, they appeared on the streets of District Six to spark curiosity-inducing visions and questions. All the variations of the designs were collected in a pop-up gallery in the neighborhood, where they could be viewed for several more days.

We’d like to extend our gratitude to all participants, organizations and institutions that joined the program and attended the events. 10 Days of Culture in District Six took place on the occasion of the European project Creative Industries for New Urban Economies in the Danube Region (with the acronym CINEMA), funded by the Danube 2014 Transnational Cooperation Program -2020″ INTERREG), in which Studio Komplekt and the Municipality of Gabrovo are partners for Bulgaria.

All pictures are by Dragomir Minkov, except the NoPoint Atelier ones which are by RadLab Studio.