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January 24, 2008

Return to the blogosphere

In the words of Sam Cooke "It has been a long time coming" since I last approached the blogosphere from the inside. A lot has changed in my life in the meantime- degrees, houses, countries, friends, attitudes, beliefs. Three years is a long time and at university, it's even longer.

In the spirit of the new year (which really isn't that new anymore) I vow to use this space to review, rethink, comment and collect information, emotions and memories of the world around me.

In particular, thanks to Ruth I will be exploring the meaning of entrepreneurship and the difficulties of developing an idea from scratch and growing it to a fully implementable business plan in the module Cultural Entrepreneurship. Thanks Ruth, for the motivation.

At this stage I am considering a number of ideas ranging from an Event Management organisation, a Silent disco club or a multicultural theatre company. As I would probably want to set up the business back in Bulgaria, or perhaps even in Sri Lanka it is important to start with an analysis of the cultural market, its wants and needs, its challenges and priorities. I feel that in both my home countries there is an abundance of challenges ranging from the fact that the creative industries are underfunded, underdeveloped and struggling. People are not used to paying for culture and the youth (especially in Bulgaria) is much happier playing computer games, watching TV, hanging out at the new 'malls', going to the cinema or getting intoxicated in the plethora of clubs and bars available.

It almost feel like if one wants the majority of young people to consume more high end culture they need to disguise it in a completely new 'cool' package, trick them into it, hypnotise them, spoon feed them. When it comes to theatre and Bulgarian film in particular we don't have the English culture of supporting that enterprise both on a policy level and as audience and theatre-goers.

It is of course a generalisation. There are young people who frequent the theatre, go to poetry readings, gallery openings and alternative film screenings, and take an active interest in our creative industries. There are a few incredibly ventures to encourage them. They are a minority however. During the communist years there was an intellectual, cultural elite in place. Today the elite includes dodgy businessmen, corrupt politicians, mafia and their model girlfriends. Theyattend the trendy Opera cafe right under the National Opera but won't be seen in an actual performance of it. Theygo to concerts but not of the philharmonic or some new struggling student band, they attend chalga gigs with playback performances by their favourite pop-folk silicone clad diva. They are patrons of kitsch and pop culture. Which is not all bad of course. I don't mean to appear as an elitist defender of the high arts. A lot has emerged from our newly found pop culture post 1990. Artists have had to find their feet with a government that no longer subsidises all their ventures. Payner (major chalga/pop folk label) has been incredibly successful in their strategy and until recently held a complete monopoly on the genre. Pop and rock music have had their success stories as well. It appears the national theatre, film and art industries are in a far more difficult place in terms of their position in our cultural food chain.

I could in fact continue the analysis of the state of the Bulgarian cultural industries for a while longer but for now I will take a break and list a few things that we don't have on our cultural scene in a hope that my final enterprise will fill one of those gaps.

We don't have...a clubbing venue where ppl with completely different tastes can enjoy their music in a single space; an English speaking theatre company; a major multicultural festival similar to Glastonbury or Sziget; a residential artists community centre where foreign artists can come an work for a few months while networking with their Bulgarian counterparts and experiencing the culture; many professional companies that provide corporate leadership training, creative consultancy and workshop technique in a corporate environment.

I would love to continue the rant but a) its One World Week and I'm going out and b) i think there is enough food for thought here for the moment. I'll finish with one of my favourite definitions of what entrepreneurship is: "the ability to create and build something from practically nothing; fundamentally a human, creative act. It is finding personal energy by initiating, doing, achieving and building an enterprise or organization, rather than by just watching, analysing or describing one. It is the knack for sensing an opportunity where others see chaos, contradiction and confusion." Jeffrey Timmons

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