The National Contests
The national contests hosted by Berliner Festspiele are aimed at young people between the ages of 11 and 21 who are active in the fields of theatre, dance, music and literature.
The national contests’ funding philosophy is based on an appreciation of young people’s creativity, on their right to integrity and care, and on the establishment of an atmosphere with no sense of competition but rather with social openness: Everyone is welcome to participate and special characteristics are nurtured. Far beyond a mere contest, these meetings are an opportunity for the exchange of ideas, for development and for self-reflection of the participants and their creativity. They reflect the issues and questions which the young artists are dealing with and which they have brought to the meetings. The national contests take particular care to programme and select these meetings in a manner which will support diversity and avoid any mechanisms of exclusion, thus enabling an equal participation of all prize winners. This care includes a critical evaluation of our own structures.
The open calls for these four national contests (Theatertreffen der Jugend, Tanztreffen der Jugend, Treffen junger Autor*innen and Treffen junge Musik-Szene ) are deliberately kept open with regards to topics and styles. This is intended to take into account the variety of possibilities which these genres contain. Rather than positing certain focal topics or stylistic requirements, it is necessary to be aware of the fact that the young people themselves can bring up relevant topics. The national contests offer alternative opportunities beyond casting shows and national talent searches – they aim to nurture young talents and recognise their independent achievements.
Independence is an essential criterion of these contests, because they are keen to encourage creative activity in their respective disciplines from an early age. Juries of experts set out to present and promote works that neither feature young people as proxies for adult fantasies, nor are limited by the pressure of commercial exploitability. We are looking for the young people’s own language, creative expression, standpoints and positions.
One distinguishing characteristic of the national contests is the fact that the competition is concluded once the prize winners have been selected and the meeting of participants begins – the meeting itself is the prize! It takes place in professional conditions at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele. Here, the winners meet on an equal footing, experiencing both a festival programme shaped by their own works and a funding structure made up of a system of workshops, performances and opportunities for exchange between participants across the genres. In this way, we have managed to create an atmosphere of openness and curiosity over the past years, free of competitiveness and demarcations.