Alumni Q&A session : Promoting cultural activities in Albania with Almanart team

 

Created by Gjilyana Bakalli and Eljon Tusha, Almanart is a company that aims to promote cultural activities in Albania. On their website, they share all of the ongoing cultural activities that will take place in next weeks and months. They also record a weekly podcast named “Çka pamë” –What we saw–.

Almanart is part of the RISE alumni; the team took part of the 3rd RISE journey. In order to highlight their activities and recent news, RISE recently had an interview with them.

Almanart, social entrepreneurship, RISE Program, Western Balkans, Albania, EU4innovation

Hi Gjilyana, thank you for taking the time to discuss about your news. In order to present your social initiative, can you describe yourself, your professional activity, and your company ?

My name is Gljyana, I am from Tirana. I am a lawyer but I love working with art and for cultural activities. Me and my best friend Erjon created Almanart.

Almanart is a cultural platform, kind of between a marketing agency and promoting space of art. We make business by promoting events, and helping people book tickets for these activities in Albania. We like to promote different categories of events happening all around Albania :  theater plays, movies, books promotions and even nightlife activities in all of the country, even in small towns as well. We want to give our small support to Albanian cultural life, and also we want to start a kind of revolutionary business model in our country’s creative industry. It’s a pilot project, because we would like to implement this kind of business in other countries, but we are going step by step.

Our business model is based on the fact that we get commissions from the tickets we promote. Afterwards, we will create a mobile app which would help people to reach these activities more easily. There they could book a place to go, buy tickets but also subscribe to get more detailed information based on their specific needs and categories they want to spend their free time in.

After the ideation phase, we have taken part in the RISE competition in Albania, organized by Yunus Social Business Balkans. We were one of the 2 teams that won. We have then started implementing the idea. This year, we also took part in a Challenge Fund organized in Tirana by the Swedish embassy and German one : EU4Innovation. We were one of the team that won among others during the first part of the project, and we were granted funds thanks to this. We are now starting a procedure to register Almanart as a business, and we are waiting to sign the contract and starting the implementation.

Almanart, social entrepreneurship, RISE Program, Western Balkans, Albania,
Almanart being part of the winners at the EU4innovation program 2024 – Tirana, Albania

How do you manage to find all of the exhibitions and events organized in the region ? Do people contact you or do you lead research and get informed by what is happening ?

It’s a mix of two of them, some of the actors who are in the creative industries and who want to promote their projects contact us. We are also finding these events by doing research, through social medias and websites. We then include it in our calendar.

I saw you started few months ago a podcast about “weekly focus” of cultural activities in Albanian speaking places. Can you tell us more about this ?

Another way of promoting these activities is through podcast. Here we talk about these activities happening all around the country, the ones that happened before and the others that will happen. Of course, incoming activities have a broader audience.

Also, we are planning to do even more specific podcast and we want to implement lot of other things. We want to create podcast to promote different artists in Albania, so we’ll use that kind of platform to this purpose. We have also implemented the English language, and we would like to put more translated information. However, it’s not our priority for instance, and it would be done step by step because there are lot of other things to do in the meantime.

Do you develop your activities all alone or are you helped with volunteers ?

Now we are 2 people working full time, mostly during the project creation we were able to pay somebody for making work for us. Our job is mainly done on voluntary basis, but we are making plans to recruit other people and be able to make a more professional work. We are seeking other opportunities to to get some equipment and materials, which would help us implement new concepts in Almanart, such as videos or podcasts.

In the end, what do you think misses in the promotion of the Albanian language ? or is this a non-existing issue for you ?

I guess there’s no problem about that, but we will see it in the future. It’s not a problem for us to reach an Albanian audience, but we are looking to make different activities that would be directly made for tourists and expats for vacations –Summer especially–. We are seeing how it can be implemented, last year some activities were focused on people coming to Albania. But now they will see what has to be implemented by creative industry actors to see what they are concretely planning to do for tourism in the country.

For example, theater places mostly hold their plays in Albanian language, except for some specific theaters who play in English and translate for the local public. But they’re smaller, and organized by international theater companies coming to Albania and who want to play in different localities.

What do you plan do to next for Almanart ? Would you consolidate the things that you already implemented or will you try to find new horizons for Almanart ?

The main focus is to create a mobile app, and we are contacting developers to do it. It would be very important, in some way it would represent all of our work, research, that has already been done for culture events. Also, we would like to improve the work already done with podcasts, videoproduction, and update our booking platform, based on the needs of potential customers, businesses mostly, and clients, people who are interested in learning more of what to do with their time in discovering cultural life of Albania. These are kind of objectives we follow. The mobile app is the primary focus.

“I want to mention that Almanart is not only thinking to be a usual business in the market, we want to help locals and promote their activities, gain more knowledge about their promotion, let it be a platform and give cultural information about events happening in Albania.”

Speaking of geographic coverage of your activities, do you think of any cultural events to highlight in Albanian speaking places ?

Firstly, we have planned to see what kind of activities are happening or are to be implemented in Kosovo*, it’s easier for us thanks to language. Some of our followers and contacts are from Kosovo* and our activities are mostly based on the language and sharing same values and ways of organizing activities, even though Kosovo* is more international.

I’m speaking mostly about promoting theater plays, many English plays are also translated in Albanian, and they’re giving their plays in different theaters all around Europe. It’s easier to promote these kinds of activities even for tourists in Albania. But we’ll see what’s going on in the future.

There are also lots of festivals, techno festivals organized in Summer time. It’s kind of the same idea happening in all countries, in Albania, they take place in seaside and absolutely it’s more interesting and attractive for tourists. We have seen even Exit festivals happening in Novi Sad, in Montenegro, less in Macedonia but also in Bosnia-Herzegovina. But these countries nearby are inspiring and see about thinking about selling tickets from these festivals. Still, we are doing step by step, we will create a mobile app and booking platform and do all the things I mentioned earlier.

I want to mention that Almanart is not only thinking to be a usual business in the market, we want to help locals and promote their activities, gain more knowledge about their promotion, let it be a platform and give cultural information about events happening in Albania. Not only, we want to share things about important figures in literature, music and give this information as a way to help creating more sustainable information and creative life in Albania. Art is a mean of education, very interactive and emotional, and it can help people accepting more each other and understand more differences and similarities between them.

Also, many of the things you were doing in Instagram were related to sharing quotes from artists of all fields. Have you seen intercultural elements between Albanian artists and other artists ?

In Albania is happening the international cultural weeks from different countries. Different actors or theater plays, movies are happening during this. The first is from EU, and has different kind of cultural events, French, Italian, right now is the Greek one. Even through projects financed by EU, are happening different collaborations between Western Balkans countries and European/American ones. During summer times, exhibition about Warhol will happen in Tirana, a public one. These were big news.

Also, in Korçë, they have been creating a digital gallery promoting Van Gogh exhibition. Financed mostly by the Dutch embassy and government, poetry is happening also there, and the exhibition is opened all of the time. Italy and different other countries have their specific institutions which do a lot of work. Not only the Balkans ones, Macedonia, also Kosovo*, have their representatives here, they have their specific places, organizing this with NGOs mostly. It’s based on their motherland, but also interacting with Albanian.

Last week was the international cultural week of France, there were different activities activities organized by French alliance in Tirana, and during March was the month of Francophony. There were competition events organised for youth and children, music concerts, and in many cities, not only in the capital. It was very colourful and different things organized this year become more impactful with every year.

To add a last remark, I hope that things will evolve, taking specific time and not being in a hurry, and doing everything with a lot of love and being thoughtful about everything going on. Not only focused on tourists but also on locals, considering art a real mean of education, and giving our small support to sustainable life in Albania. We want to do it in the capital but also everywhere where where people are trying to be impactful about importance of art in our lives, and make living in western Balkan countries quite easier and joyful.

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