Presenting the topic of CHANGE for partners and pairs of participants in the Creativity Challenge Playground, and yet the organisers of VFCD are no exception to the rule. They themselves were the first to face this challenging question.
It has never been easy to transform yourself
Vietnam Festival of Creativity & Design – VFCD (formerly VFMD – Vietnam Festival of Media & Design) began its first edition in 2019 on a small scale, of which the initial goal was to raise awareness about creativity among the Vietnamese public and build the brand of the Creative City. Four years later, VFCD has become an increasingly reputable and pioneering event, making November an opportunity to exchange and share knowledge and ideas of numerous creative individuals and organisations.
During the festival week, alongside the exhibitions, there were other exciting activities such as talks, workshops and tours. The number of events, large and small, at times exceeded 40, with their programme becoming progressively profound and practical, which expanded the audience profiles every year. This volume of work required the organising team to “stretch” themselves to ensure that everything went smoothly with all the information delivered to the public.
Thanks to that, VFCD has made certain contributions to the creative industries. As a pioneering and inspiring nudge for the creative cultural ecosystem in Vietnam, step by step, the festival demonstrates the growing need for professional cooperation and international outreach in this field. Artists and creative organisations in Vietnam also look forward to this opportunity to connect and develop together.
Lộn Xộn is a prime example of this growth. As a group of lecturers and students majoring in design in Cần Thơ, most of whom live in the Mekong Delta region where there are scarcely any opportunities or playgrounds for art and creativity. That is also the origin of the name Lộn Xộn. In 2021, VFCD assisted them in the communications for the launch of Lộn Xộn Expo – a diverse and creative virtual exhibition. Returning in 2022 with the name Lộn Xộn Như… (lit. Messy As…), they had been able to organise an online event that allows access for everyone from everywhere, while also expanding their connection to Ho Chi Minh City with Insomaniaction Collective for collaboration: A series of interdisciplinary art activities about Đám Cưới Miền Tây (Mekong Delta-styled Weddings).
“In the first edition (2019), I was still sceptical about the sustainability of an event like VFCD. In reality, in Vietnam, not many cultural and creative platforms of this scale can persist for years. However, VFCD has made it, which proves that it has an enormous ability to become an attractive, widespread and inspiring creative platform.” – said Nguyễn Thị Thu Hà, Director of VICAS Art Studio, Vietnam National Institute of Culture and Arts Studies, co-organiser of VFCD.
Despite such success, VFCD itself bears the mission to lead the way for the creative community, and therefore always sees the necessity to become a better version of itself. In 2022, VFCD decided to innovate the programme framework and “experiment” with itself in front of the entire community.
The insiders and changes
The first change in this year’s VFCD was the theme, encapsulated in the single word “CHANGE”. Yet every change, big or small, comes with a challenge. These elements make an inseparable pair.
VFCD still maintains its original vision: to create a creative event with a widespread impact, a place that connects one creative to another. But this year, seeing the need for self-progress of the youth – the key human resources for creative industries in Vietnam – VFCD made a rapid update for itself to continue its role as a reliable address for young people to explore the skills and trends related to creativity or creative project management.
“The festival took itself as an example for change, then that could be a driving force for young people to move along. We hope that in the future, there will be products changing from “made in Vietnam”, “designed in Vietnam” to “designed by Vietnam. Only then will VFCD’s voyage truly be complete” – said Lê Châu Phượng Liên, Events & Exhibitions Manager at RMIT University’s School of Communication & Design and VFCD project manager. She said that the organisers foresaw that this change would be costly in terms of time and investment for resources, people, systems and ideas… but also well worth it.
Trương Uyên Ly, Director of Hanoi Grapevine – the media partner and organising consultant of VFCD – added: “Hanoi Grapevine was quite nervous with the new format! Having an idea is one thing, but how it plays out in reality requires doing to find out whether it is truly useful. Every year, VFCD tries to have something new and exciting for the public to look forward to”. She believed that this year’s fourth edition of VFCD was even more diverse than the previous, more challenging, with more interesting stories that still retain their quality in information, skills and knowledge for event participants.
The second change concerned locations and the organising process. Instead of having art, cultural and creative events scattered across multiple locations or held online, this year, VFCD gathered all in one space with fixed time frames. This means that event attendees only need to travel to one place and enjoy every talk and exhibition.
The third change was the personnel: a major part of the communications team was young undergraduates. Compared to the experienced staff of previous years, the communications team this year has a youthful voice that resonates with the main audience of VFCD. VFCD graphic design team were also university students who have had the chance to grow with VFCD in the last two years. These young people also contribute fresh, simple yet effective ideas for social media. However, from the start, the change in personnel came with challenges. For example, they did not have enough experience or a strong mindset to be aware of the impact of media on the grand public. This lack of experience requires the rest of the team to alter previous years’ working processes and increase communication, connection, as well as co-supervision and guidance.
As the project manager for VFCD for the entirety of its four editions, Lê Châu Phượng Liên believed that the greatest gain for her is the journey from the starting point of having no background in arts and culture, to the point of knowing enough to run a project well: “I was fortunate to be given the chance to lead a national-scale project. After four editions, I learned and improved tremendously in terms of teamwork, planning, supervision, execution and team connection. I also well-understood that managing a team for coordination is more important than expertise. I am very proud to be a part of VFCD organising team each year!”.
Numerous challenges remain
It is still early to paint a landscape for VFCD. Lê Châu Phượng Liên believed that for VFCD to become a regional creative event that attracts a large number of artists and investors to attend and explore, it takes more than time. There are still small yet crucial factors such as human resources, programme, finance, and more for this platform to self-develop well.
To make that happen, VFCD will need to spread its message and commitment to contributing to the creative economy in a more powerful manner, not only to the public but also to the city government and leaders for comprehensive support. In addition, VFCD internally needs to address the limitations in terms of personnel: a huge workload yet the modest team was scattered on two ends of the country. Attracting young people to contribute to this platform is also a concern of the organisers.
“However, I know what we are going to do right now: continue to challenge ourselves so that VFCD will always be an exciting creative playground, a platform that has a great ability to connect the whole community!” – said Liên.
Hoàng Nguyệt Cầm – a member of VFCD communication team wished that “artists, especially the anonymous creatives, will receive a lot more exposure through VFCD”. And Huỳnh Quế Ý – a member of VFCD graphic design team hoped that: “Next years, VFCD will have more young people like Insomaniaction Collective as well as brand new topics to promote the development of the arts in Vietnam.”
How would that voyage continue, what’s new in the next edition, maybe we would kindly leave this question for you to answer with us.
See you, in the fifth edition, with infinite changes and creative inspiration!
Written by Hà Bi for VFCD 2022
Photos by Behalf Studio, Phan Đan, 99Rise Productions
Translated into English by Nhật Hồng
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