EAIPA and IG Freie Theaterarbeit are following the situation in Hungary with great concern and wants to declare solidarity with the protesting students and senate of Budapest University of Theatre and Film. With continuous updates from EAIPA’s Hungarian member “FESZ” (Független Előadó-művészeti Szövetség), EAIPA keeps a direct contact with the local independent performing arts scene and gets first-hand information on how the political developments affect professionals working in this sector.
Not only the independent performing arts scene, but the entire contemporary arts and cultural sector as a whole are suffering under the control of Victor Orbàn’s government since months. In December 2019, EAIPA sent an urgent letter to different operators of European culture politics in which we expressed our concern on the cuts of operational funding.
EAIPA calls for a re-establishment of the academic autonomy of the University. Art cannot fulfil its important role in society while being controlled by the government. The scene of culture and arts – and therefore the independent performing arts scene – needs political independence to operate.
EAIPA also wants to engage other colleagues to express their solidarity with the resisting students and senate in Budapest.
Zoltán Imely, Co-President of the Association of Independent Performing Arts in Hungary, sent us these thoughts:
Motto: “A fine day. Let’s go fishing, said the angler to the worm.” (cit. Brecht: The Caucasian Circle of Chalk)
It would be rather lengthy to describe here in detail the series of events that led to the occupation by the students of the University of Theatre and Film Arts in Budapest. However, the citation above from Brecht perfectly describes the essence of the government’s move. By a legislative action on 1 July, the ownership of the prestigeous, 155 years old public University was transferred to a private foundation, effective as of 1 September. The government also appointed the foundation’s Board of Trustees (all pro-government figures) and, through this transition, stripped the University of all its autonomy. The Senat’s endeavours to initiate talks with the Ministry were either turned down or left unanswered. Accordingly, the soon-to-be obsolete Dean and the Senat unanimously handed in their resignation by the 1st September. At the same time, the students occupied the buliding and swore to resist until institutional autonomy is restored and guaranteed, and the new Board of Trustees gets removed.
The Association of Indepentent Performing Arts was one of the first ones to express its solidarity with the students. Hundreds joined since then from academia, the theatre and film world, educational institutions and the industry, and hundreds and thousands show up on demonstrations daily to support the students’ quest.
What such a protest is capable to achieve in a country where the governing party posesses two-third of the votes in parliament and is ready to create or end any law overnight, is to be seen. Solidarity, however, is important to show even under the most difficult circumstances. Should you share this view, write #freeSZFE hashtag on your palm, take a photo of it and post it with or without a statement on social media. Also, if you have access to the press or to your public servants, don’t hesitate to spread the news.
To conclude this brief introduction we would like to quote Martin Niemöller’s famous words as a humble prompting.
“When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.”