By Anna Romandash. Photos by Guillaume Kerhervé
Nantes Creative Generations Forum has been one of the greatest highlights of this year for me. It was a chance to meet inspiring people, network, get fresh ideas on where to move the project I am working on, and – finally – enjoy the warm French sun during the last days of October.
Being a part of NCG has been bizarre in a way; when I received the good news that my project was selected, the event seemed too distant to really understand. I’ve been selected to present NOUA, a cross-national platform for journalists from Eastern Europe; and while I was happy to talk about this initiative, I wasn’t sure if my work really resonated with other initiatives and projects. As one of my colleagues has attended the forum last year, I had great reviews to listen to and was quite eager to see the place for myself. On the other hand, I didn’t know if my experience at Nantes would be any different to similar networking events and youth meetups I attended. So, having various ideas in mind, I’ve decided to give it a chance and see for myself what it’s like to be a part of a ‘Creative Generation’.
The path to Nantes was not without challenges, and the first was to find reasonable tickets to get to the city. It turned out that Riga, where I am currently based, and the very Western part of France are not that well-connected. It took me more than 12 hours and two planes to get to the city from Latvia’s cold capital; and seventeen hours, two planes, and an extra bus to get back. Still, it was worth it.
Nantes has welcomed me with an unusually great weather for a late October. With nearly 25 degrees and sun, it was refreshing to walk on the beautiful French streets and enjoy the atmosphere of a new place. I didn’t have too much time for city exploration, though: the forum’s program was quite packed, so it kept me occupied most of the time.
I liked the atmosphere of the event, where we’ve actually got to know each other and shared stories and laughs together while talking about our projects. At first, it was a bit difficult to find a common language for communication since most of us are not native English speakers. I, for starters, was terrified when I was surrounded by mostly Nantes’ participants, who spoke French among themselves (and I, as you can imagine, speak none of that). However, it turned out to be less difficult than I expected. Even with some language limitations, we managed to find a way to communicate and share, and it was one of the meaningful results of the event; no matter where we come from, it’s possible to connect as long as we are all willing to hear each other out.
The diversity of the event was a bit overwhelming in the beginning: after all, there were more than thirty projects from different countries, and they all had their unique themes, topics, and stories. When I started reading about the initiatives presented at the event, I could hardly keep up with the information I was getting. There were some important and inspiring causes, that moved and impacted the entire nations, and ideas, successfully carried out by one or two people. The variety was amazing. I have learned about an artist, who shows homeless people how to draw and helps them to socialize this way; about an environmental initiative in Greece that involves more than 1% of the population and goes way beyond the country’s borders; about a group of students, who teach children in hospitals foreign languages as volunteers… The list can go on and on. The main point of the forum is that it really is a bit meeting point for ideas, initiatives, and inspiring stories, and they all moved me and challenged me to work harder and smarter for my community.
The city of Nantes deserves a special recognition; but the experience there would not have been the same if it wasn’t for the people I got to meet. Nantes can easily win a heart of any traveler: it has plenty of water attractions that include beautiful boat rides and fishermen village; it’s home to an amazing machine museum with walking elephants made out of metal and wood; and it hosts an ancient castle in the midst of beautiful streets and – equally important – tons of pubs and restaurants. The sensation of being there is incomparable to anything else, so you really have to be there and enjoy the friendly Nantes’ sun in the end of October (well, to be fair, the locals warned us about the many rains the city gets, but we saw none of that).
The five days in Nantes were something to remember. The event pushed me out of my comfort zone because I had to speak up and present the project I have been involved in; and it also connected me to some amazing ideas and people I would not have known otherwise. More importantly, it created a community, to which I proudly belong; and I am happy that many more communities will come out of the event.
Thanks, Nantes Creative Generations, for having me. Hope to see you next year!