The Spring Agora 2022 will take place in Novi Sad! 23 years after its first statutory event the city in Northern Serbia will welcome host AEGEE’s general assembly. And the members, who can’t wait to travel again, have a pretty good chance to get a place. “We can host up to 4000 people”, says former Network Commissioner Novak Simin, who will be main coordinator of the event.

Golden Times: Hi Novak! Congratulations for hosting the spring Agora 2022! Do you have a second to comment on it?
Novak Simin: Hello and thank you! Sure, I’ve got more than a second.

GT: How do you feel about hosting the Spring Agora 2022?
Novak: I feel a bit strange to be honest. Organising the Agora is something I have been dreaming about for years, yet somehow now I still don’t feel as if it’s real, it still seems like a dream. The reality is still fresh and it needs time to sink in. But the feeling of excitement that I had every time I thought about an Agora happening in Novi Sad is always here, I just now don’t have to imagine it, I can look forward to it. One thing I am sure about is that I feel proud of the people in Novi Sad that are working on this Agora with me and happy that this dream was shared by all of us.

Novak Simin (front) will be the Agora coordinator

GT: When did you start thinking about applying for the Spring Agora?
Novak: The thought came a long time ago. Vanja Gojnić, also a member from Novi Sad, and I were sitting at the Opening Ceremony of Spring Agora Enschede 2017, being amazed by it all, looking at the venue and thinking how it reminded us of a theatre in Novi Sad. Then it hit us, we should have the Agora in Novi Sad. Every Agora after that we would always get goosebumps at the Opening Ceremonies and feel excited at the prospect of organising one ourselves. However, time went by, we were busy and scared to tackle such a huge task, but then our workload decreased a lot last year and we said it’s now or never!

GT: Fantastic!
Novak: Now we had the time and even a greater spike of motivation as we realised how much we missed AEGEE events. We wanted to bring the whole of AEGEE to us, a showcase our beautiful city and set the stage of AEGEE back into our region, which was a bit dormant lately. Most of all, we want to show the Network that even in difficult times we, as AEGEEans, can do great things, and not give up on doing what we love in AEGEE, no matter what comes our way!

GT: You are going to be Agora coordinator. What have you done in AEGEE so far?
Novak: I have done a lot considering this is my 6th year in AEGEE and I tried to be active as much as I could. I was involved a lot in the Network Commission, being a NetCom for a year, and a SubCom for two years, which is another reason I wanted to bring the Agora to my area. Regarding my other experience, I had been a member of ACT while it still existed, I am a trained Safe Person, I attended nine Agorae, been to countless other events, organised a couple of NWMs and RTCs, headed AEGEE-Novi Sad as a board member for four years during which I helped realise more than a dozen events, and much more. I guess all of this led me to the organisation of the Agora.

GT: Are you afraid of the challenge?
Novak: Everything I have done in AEGEE prepared me and pushed me to do the most challenging yet fulfilling task. I don’t feel afraid of the task ahead, I am ready to tackle it and I feel confident that we will do it exceptionally well. I believe that as long as we as a team have the motivation, and we do, there is nothing that can stray us apart.

GT: Did you speak with past Agora organisers before writing the application?
Novak: We spoke with a few of them and they were all very helpful.

GT: What kind of advice did they give you?
Novak: They mostly gave us advice on how to handle the amount of work, when to start working on which aspects and all of them shared small details that slipped them but caused problems during the organisation. The best advice we got is to always be prepared for something to go wrong and have a plan B for everything.

The AEGEE-Novi Sad team watching the spring Agora 2021

GT: How difficult was it to write the Agora application, especially during the pandemic?
Novak: The writing of the application itself went rather smooth, as we divided the task among ourselves and everybody knew what they were doing. The difficult part came before, when we were trying to reach out to different stakeholders within the city and region. We started working on the Agora during the peak of the pandemic in Serbia, so when we told what we wanted to organise we got quite a few strange looks. However, in the end, it all went well.

GT: Did you speak with the university, the city or potential sponsors? How did they react?
Novak: All of them were thrilled with the idea, after first being a bit sceptical because of Corona. The prospect of bringing hundreds of young people to Novi Sad, which was the European Youth Capital, and promoting the idea of exchanging cultures within a city that will be the European Capital of Culture next year, resonated very well with everyone we approached.

GT: How will they support you?
Novak: From the city and the provincial government, we are expecting grants and sponsorships regarding many aspects of the organisation, while the University of Novi Sad on top of that would support us with the facilities, manpower and any other way they can. We also established cooperation with many NGOs within the city, that are also willing to help us out, the most important one being OPENS, which headed the Youth Capital project. When it comes to corporate sponsors, we didn’t reach out to them yet, as the ones we tried to contact weren’t interested unless we were sure we would be the host. So now our focus will fall to approaching them.

Novi Sad is a multicultural city in Vojvodina.

GT: What’s the date of the spring Agora?
Novak: The dates depend on the venue we end up choosing in the end. We would like to have the Agora in May, due to the nicer weather and we will try to have it then. However, we still need to align our calendar with the ones of the venues and find the most suitable dates.

GT: How many people can attend?
Novak: There is no limit! The largest venue place we have in option can host 4000 people in a conference setting, which means we can adjust to any number of people, and we would like to have all the AEGEEans come to Novi Sad!

GT: What can you tell us about logistics, for example accommodation and university venue?
Novak: For the accommodation we have two options, one is the Fair Complex of Novi Sad and another is a Sports Centre. Both places have more than one gym hall which can host any number of people and they are both well located, with the addition of the Sports Centre being just 15 minutes away walking from the main square. When it comes to the venue, we have four different options, depending on the size of the Agora. Our preferred option would be the Congress Centre within the Fair Complex, which would mean that everything would take place at one spot. That place offers us the most space, while also keeping us completely to ourselves.

Hopefully the Agora will be located at the Novi Sad fair

GT: What about party places?
Novak: For the parties, we have quite a few surprises, I will share just two highlights for now. One place is a club on a rooftop in the very heart of the city. Then, for the opening night, we plan on having the party at a boat looking towards the Fortress of Petrovaradin.

GT: How many members does AEGEE-Novi Sad have and how will you tackle the need for staff and helpers?
Novak: AEGEE-Novi Sad has 28 active members at the moment, all dedicated and hardworking people that stayed with us even during these difficult times and decided to help the organisation grow. We have a core team of 12 people, which we believe is enough to tackle all the tasks laid ahead before the start of the very event. During the Agora itself, we are going to get help from volunteers of other youth associations within the city – as I already mentioned, we established cooperation with quite a few of them – and we are planning to have an open call for international AEGEE helpers.

GT: What can you tell us about your antenna, what makes it special?
Novak: I would say that we are first and foremost a group of friends and we always like to focus on that. We are not too big, which is why we can maintain this atmosphere of closeness. Honestly speaking for myself, I believe this is the reason why I am still active in AEGEE and why I won’t be able to quite it any time soon.

Overhead projectors have their benefit: the Blonde Award ceremony at PM Novi Sad 1999.

GT: It’s not the first statutory event in Novi Sad. In 1999 the EPM predecessor Presidents Meeting took place during a very special time. What can you tell about it and will you reflect to it during the Spring Agora next year?
Novak: The Presidents Meeting indeed happened at a very peculiar time, when our country was struggling with a lot and when AEGEE here was still very young. Yet a few brave people didn’t let anything stand in their way and they brought the central scene of AEGEE to our lovely city. Looking back at it all, I am very proud our local has done great things even at difficult times, and that we still dare do them now. During the Agora we would like to explore how much AEGEE grew in 23 years and how it changed and adapted to modern times. Hopefully, we could also have some members from Novi Sad that organised the event back then and some participants share their views.

GT: Do you have anything to add?
Novak: See you all in Novi Sad next spring!