Sociocultural Yves Conrardy

We have everything to gain by collaborating with people who know their subject.”
© Eric Engel

A hip hop battle, a photo exhibition about femicide, a film on an architecture icon, a poetry slam night… These events all have one thing in common: their organisers turned up on our sociocultural and event programmer, Yves Conrardy’s, doorstep. Much to his delight.

Yves, sociocultural planning covers a lot of very different themes and various event formats. It would be almost impossible to offer all of this without collaborating with partners, wouldn’t it? 

Collaborations are the cornerstone of the sociocultural aspect, which is something I always try to point out. It happens that Rotondes gets criticised for not doing all the groundwork for an event, but it just isn’t possible. We explore so many different themes – and we can’t realistically be specialised in everything. If we were to take on all the topics ourselves, the work done wouldn’t be as good. There are plenty of people who are experts in their subjects, and we have everything to gain by working with them.

So, what exactly is Rotondes’ role during these events?

That depends on the project of course, but in all cases, we offer a suitable space and favourable conditions. We provide logistical support, we discuss set-up and reception, we help with the communication… Whenever we start a cycle of events, we see how it goes and then we adapt to the situation. Sometimes we take a step back from certain areas, depending on the strengths of our partner, and then we go in and help in other areas instead if we see it’s necessary.

We also offer an outside perspective on the course and content of an event. Maybe we will simply suggest a film or a broader reflection. For example, with the Time for a Change association’s Expressions of Humanity, there’s always a lot of interesting material. But at the beginning of the cycle, we had to acknowledge that suggesting a film and/​or a debate and/​or an exhibition and/​or a book presentation, etc., well, that would be too much to fit into a 2‑hour event. It would also be an overwhelming amount of information for the audience to digest. So, instead, we thought about how to simplify the flow without losing the message.

Certain collaborations have been in place for quite a few years. What is the secret to a lasting partnership?

First, and not surprisingly, both parties must want it to continue. Plus, there must be a persisting shared vision. An example of one of our lasting collaborations is queer loox. We’ve been running that cycle for 10 years! It was launched at CarréRotondes with a different team, and now it’s run by a second generation. At the time it started, it wasn’t an easy theme to programme, whereas today, even Kinepolis has presented a queer cycle. There are more places now where you can host events like those we do. The key is to offer the right venue to the right partner.

Would you say that there are areas or events that can only (or almost only) be hosted by Rotondes?

Not really, but there are some that we were among the first to take on. Urban arts are a form of expression and culture that other venues ignored for a long time, and we’re glad we started putting them on our programme a few years back. Today, in addition to the dance workshops and battles, we encourage our partners to come up with other events, like conferences, to showcase the history of the urban art movement. 

I would also like to keep on developing what we do around digital, as is already the case with the Multiplica festival. The first years of lycée (high school), young people can now choose the Digital Sciences option, about digital culture, and that’s a great opportunity. However, there are less offers like that for adults. The arrival of ChatGPT has fuelled many conversations around artificial intelligence in the general public but there are still many conversations to be had.

You have been in this job since 2012, so you’ve attended a whole lot of events, some of which were about rather heavy topics. Are there any that stood out to you in particular?

A few years back, we had some events dealing with the Middle East peace process – a topic I knew nothing about. It didn’t make me committed to a cause’, but working on this type of event, and meeting the people involved, really helped me understand what is at stake there. A round table allows for an interesting exchange of points of views, yet, in general, it has its limits. Unfortunately, the situations that are being discussed remain the same and as an individual you realise there is little you can do to change that. What you can do however, is become aware that there is a problem. I’m sure our sociocultural programming has contributed to raise awareness on a lot of different topics. At least I hope so! 

On a different note, what I really like about our urban dance projects is the amount of energy deployed and the desire to create something here and now. I remember a dance improvisation class where Knowedge had invited a teacher who gave loads of tips and talked about creation in such a way that it could also have appealed to non-dancers.

Would it seem idealistic to talk about personal enrichment?

Sometimes you learn a lot, and sometimes, like in any job, you fall into a sort of routine. But when the right information, the right encounter appears just when you need it, then yes, there’s a real enrichment. I’m lucky to come across a lot of inspiring people, some of which I’ve worked with for years. These collaborations are the foundation of our programming, and initiating and maintaining them for more than ten years has been, and remains, a joy.