How do you document the biggest gathering of young Europeans with over 7,000 participants? This was the task for the European Youth Media Days that reported on the European Youth Event or “EYE” which took place on the eve of the European elections in May. We invited 120 young journalists from all over Europe to cover EYE and gather Europe’s future generation’s thoughts about five burning topics of our time. The coverage will be turned into a report that communicates these issues to the newly elected Parliament.
After having worked in the news section of the biggest Finnish radio station and having covered a wide range of topics from party politics to the strawberry season, the European Youth Event is one of the coolest things you can imagine to report on as a young journalist. You get to interview people that are actually your age and not 50-something officials. You hear statements that you don’t have to decrypt first to understand what the opinion of the interviewee actually is (which, unfortunately, is the case many times with seasoned older politicians, except maybe for populists). Also you get to talk and listen to people who are very serious about the future, their future, since they will be around for at least some time to see it with their own eyes.
For our generation, digital revolution stands for an opportunity for increased democratic participation, not only as a threat to state security. The phrase “youth unemployment” calls to our minds the faces of friends and colleagues from high school or university. European values mean nights of sharing opinions with people from different backgrounds over a beer in Berlin or Barcelona, the dialogue and mobility that we are used to in both our free time but also studies and work. In turn, sustainability means awareness about climate change and factory workers in sweatshops in Asia which lead us to recycle and buy your clothes at flea markets – or at least have a bad conscience about flying to Asia once in a decade. And the future of the EU? Well, it’s definitely a topic that we have a right to elaborate on.
When we at the European Youth Press were tasked with reporting about EYE, we wanted to divide our reporters into groups according to those five themes. Already before the event team members had reported, for example, on youth unemployment, European values and digital revolution-related topics from their home countries. José Ramirez wrote about tackling youth unemployment in his city Malaga in Southern Spain. Dmitri Romanovski interviewed Ukrainian journalist Anastasia Magazova about the role of European youth movements for Ukrainian civil society.
And then in May we arrived in Strasbourg: 20 team members, 100 participants from all over Europe with the addition of one Serbian, one Moldovan, one Taiwanese and one Ukrainian participant. Recorders and cameras on stand-by, we immersed ourselves in the many happenings, discussions, and workshops of EYE and the YO!Fest, organised by the European Youth Forum. We tweeted, shared, reported and published. In pairs of two, our participants spend their days going from session to session, writing down the best quotes and evaluating the results of the discussions in their articles. Often the writing of these articles could start only in evening and working days could easily last for 12 hours.
The biggest challenge proved indeed to be the workload. Journalists are used to working with deadlines, but this time the hectic schedule and the immensity of the event put extra pressure on us. In addition, some happenings and discussions of EYE were lead by or featured companies like Angry Birds, Microsoft and Positive Gaming, which was viewed as “business opportunities” by some participants, including Klara Sommerova from Czech Republic. “Still, one cannot forget the positive effects of the game, namely that it promotes an active life style and group activity that supports social awareness”, she says. Despite the tight time frame the results produced by our participants covered the whole event in a journalistic, comprehensive manner. The reports ranged from videos to podcasts, from articles to multimedia pieces. You can view the reports on the website of Orange magazine here (www.orangemagazine.eu). In addition, a final report containing summaries of all of EYE’s happenings will be given out to the newly elected Members of Parliament this summer and carries the messages of EYE’s participants to the level of the European leaders.
The European Youth Media Days (EYMD) is an annual event organised by the European Youth Press together with the European Parliament. Aspiring young journalists from EU member states are selected to participate in the largest international event in Europe targeted at young media makers every year. This year the EYMD were held simultaneously with the European Youth Event in Strasbourg from May 8 – 11th, 2014.
Five years of YO!Fest
YO!Mag interviews outgoing secretary general Giuseppe Porcaro on the evolution of YO!Fest
The YO!Fest that took over the area around the European Parliament in Strasbourg in May has not always been the huge festival with thousands of young people getting together for a mixture of music, dance, art and political debate, as Giuseppe Porcaro, former Secretary General of the European Youth Forum and the person who started the YO!Fest explains: “YO!Fest actually started out as a small reception in our office built upon the experience of the open doors day we traditionally organised at the Forum. In 2009 we included for the first time a space for members to display their work to our partners and visitors of the office. This proved so popular that we took it outside the office and it has just grown and grown!”
In 2010, the first YO!Fest took place in the park outside the Youth Forum’s office and we started experimenting with having some music at the event, through a collaboration with Jeunesses Musicales International, which has continued through to today. This first incarnation of YO!Fest welcomed 100 young people and was sponsored by the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It took place at the very start of the structured dialogue process and, according to Giuseppe, although the YO!Fest was still in embryonic stages, it had already started to have a real advocacy impact.
Each year the YO!Fest has had a specific policy aim and in that way, uniquely combines politics with art, music and a fun-festival vibe. In 2011, it was both the 15th anniversary of the Youth Forum, as well as the Year of Volunteering and a Convention on Volunteering was signed during the YO!Fest. In that year YO!Fest took place on the Esplanade of the European Parliament in Brussels and already it had grown exponentially from the first year, with 10,000 attendees. As Giuseppe recalls: “this was a steep learning curve for us”. He remembers a huge storm the night before the YO!Fest started, which blew down a lot of the stands and tents.
“It was a hugely challenging,” says Giuseppe “but we learnt a lot! And the visibility that we gained through the YO!Fest was incredible. We were able to showcase the fantastic work of volunteers to many people.” In 2011, for the first time there were two concerts, one of them developed around the unique concept of the “vertical stage”. Among the artists were Al Doyle from Hot Chip and LCD Sound System played from the balcony of the old station in Place Luxembourg.
For 2012, YO!Fest was slightly scaled back and was just one day focused on internships. Despite its smaller scale, yet again the YO!Fest attracted high level political interest with Martin Schulz signing the Youth Forum’s Charter on Internships. But again the common thread was music, fun and a great atmosphere with a final concert by Babylon Circus that attracted more than 3,000 people.
Last year, in 2013, there were more landmark moments: the League of Young Voters was inaugurated with a hot air balloon in Place Luxembourg, launched by José Manuel Barroso. There were the usual mix of famous politicians and even royalty, with Princess Mathilde of Belgium, as well as an astronaut attending! 5,000 young people danced the night away outside the European Parliament listening to the legendary Reggae Idol Alpha Blondy, with 3,000 the next night listening to Belgium rock and “I’m from Barcelona”. It was also the first year that saw the winners of the Emerging Bands Contest organised with Jeunesses Musicales International performing on the YO!Fest stage.
When summarising how the YO!Fest has developed over the last five years, Giuseppe says: “it has evolved into a truly political festival where we bring together young people who wouldn’t usually be involved in politics, along with high level politicians, as well as our member organisations, showing what youth work is really about. It has proved to be an amazing instrument for making advocacy through different means: art, music, graffiti, dance…” The key, according to Giuseppe, has been the ability to combine important political messages with other forms of expression, plus, for the Youth Forum itself, it has brought the platform to a wider audience as well as raising awareness of the key issues that it campaigns on.
The reason why the YO!Fest has continued to go from strength to strength is the fantastic, fun and relaxed vibe. Of course, there is a lot going on and, according to Giuseppe “for the organisers, it is not indeed so relaxed! But for participants the atmosphere is a chilled one”. Last year saw a “chill out” space and picnic area. And the vibe was so catching that Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou and MEP Doris Pack attending the debates joined the young people at the event and sat on the grass in an improvised spontaneous youth work activity “This was just the effect we wanted”, said Giuseppe.
His last YO!Fest, an integral part of the European Youth Event in Strasbourg (9th-11th May), at a key moment just before the European elections, was “the first time that we have a truly pan-European YO!Fest with young people traveling from all over Europe to attend. The YO!Fest has yet again evolved.”