Former CD member Matina Magkou does what most people in AEGEE would love to do: organizing events for money. The Les Anciens member from Athens is working as cultural manager and festival manager all over Europe. The Golden Oldie asked her about her exciting life.

Golden Oldie: Matina, it’s really hard to keep track of your location. Where do you live now?

Matina Magkou: The last three years I am between Madrid and Athens and I am enjoying it a lot. Until May I was in Madrid working for the European Parliament’s Information Office and during the summer I was in Athens again working for the Athens Festival. Often it is confusing but after all this time, I am enjoying this life style and I feel at home in both places. However since the end of August I haven´t been in one place for more than a week. I am working as Production Coordinator at the touring of a theater play around the world. I am not following the whole tour with them, only a few weeks, but this means that since August I’ve been in London, Hong Kong, Aviles in Spain, Naples, Istanbul and right now I am in Sydney. In between I was studying at the University of Deusto in Bilbao and doing some studying for the PhD in Cultural Management that I am doing at the Panteion University of Social and Political Science in Athens.


Golden Oldie: Amazing. Will you continue like this?

Matina: Ask me again in January about where I live: hopefully I will have a real post address. I am also curious to see where this would be: Madrid? Athens? Brussels? Something new?


Golden Oldie: What do you do precisely as cultural and festival manager?

Matina: I am working on a project basis on different cultural projects and in events management. This gives me the opportunity to learn a lot in a very short time and to see the results of my work immediately. I love this aspect of my work. Then of course you always need to take care of what will come after the end of this project. For the last ten years I’ve been involved in different cultural projects, especially related to large scale events, including the Athens Olympic Games 2004, the European Capital of Culture, the International Expo in Zaragoza and for the last three years I cooperate with the Athens festival as Executive Producer.


Golden Oldie: Which event was the biggest challenge?

Matina: Every time I embark in a new project I always have the feeling I accept a job that is just a bit above from my capacities, a bit too demanding. I guess this is the challenge I find exciting, however I always have to try hard at the beginning of each project. Since all projects are time specific with concrete deliverables, there is no time for learning and testing. Every time is the first time. I think the biggest challenge for me was the tour I am working in right now. It is a big international coproduction and touring is not very easy. Lots of the preparatory work is done from distance, you don’t really know the theater and the venue staff you are going to work with before getting there. Schedules are very tight, working hours are every week we are in a different city starting all over again. There are nights that I only sleep four hours for three days, one night I didn’t even sleep at all and stayed at the venue loading the scenery because we were short in staff.


Golden Oldie: What is your PhD in Cultural Management about?

Matina: The researcher attribute is a recent development. Finally, after many years of having it in mind, I decided to study towards a PhD degree in Cultural Management, at the Department of Communication, Culture and Media of the Panteion University where I also did my masters in 2004-2005. My thesis focuses on European cultural policies on the mobility of artists and the experiences of Greek artists. I am still at the beginning of it, which involved a lot of background reading and defining methodology, but I am so excited. Last week I gave a lecture at the University on events and festivals management and I loved it. I am also cooperating with the Greek Observatory for Cultural Policies and Practices that was created in October last year and currently we are updating the Greek profile of the Compendium for cultural policies produced by the Council of Europe and ERICarts.


Golden Oldie: How did you choose your profession? Is it a result from your AEGEE time?

Matina: I always think that AEGEE has played a very important role in my professional path and my general life style. I am convinced that the job I got in the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 a few months after my CD time was a result of the experience I got in AEGEE. What was valued was my experience in organising events and my experience working in groups and with volunteers. As Venue Manager at the Beach Volley venue I had to manage a team of almost 350 people, I had to speak in public, organise training courses, select and recruit all the staff. Many times I had my AEGEE experience in mind. I think that the choice of my profession is the result of many things, but AEEGE was definitely a starting point.


Golden Oldie: Did your time as CD member prepare you in some way for this job?

Matina: I would say that it has been my overall involvement in youth structures – AEGEE and later on in the board of the European Youth Forum and other structures – and not only my CD term, which has endowed me with all those skills. Working in a multicultural environment, understanding cultural differences, organisation and negotiation skills, public speaking, being flexible with traveling and changing working environments. Also understanding how the European policies work. The year in Brussels was very valuable in this direction. It is amazing to realize the amount of things that we learn while being in AEGEE in an unconscious way. Everything that we call non- formal education and is so valuable for our development.


Golden Oldie: What kind of skills or knowledge did AEGEE not provide you with, which you need now?

Matina: AEGEE is a space for learning, but it is not a learning space. AEGEE is not a skill-proving organisation, although one can learn through his voluntary involvement. There is no curriculum in AEGEE, no to-do-list to mark out before leaving. AEGEE offers an opportunity, the level of involvement and the quality of experiences that each one of us has, defines the skills we develop.


Golden Oldie: You also worked for Patras when it was European Capital of Culture in 2006. What did you do there?

Matina: I worked as Public Relations responsible. I was responsible for all the PR strategy of the organisation and the organisation of promotional activities in Greece, ranging from visibility events, to press trips, inaugurations participation in tourism fairs, as well as all public relations in for all inauguration. Working for this project that combined European affairs and culture was a great honor for me. To this I should add that I was born in Patras and had never lived there after the first year of my life. “Patras 2006” might not have been recorded as a great example of good practice, but for me personally there has been a life before and after “Patras 2006”. I still recall it as the best year of my life and a very significant year in my life, both on personal and professional level.


Golden Oldie: In October this year, you participated at the Atelier for Young Festival Managers in Izmir. What impressions did you take home?

Matina: It was a great opportunity to meet with very enthusiastic people that share the same curiosity about festivals. The mentors were reknown personalities with vast experience from festivals all over the world. It was very inspiring to listen to their experiences and advices. Each one of the participants presented a project idea and we had non-stop discussions. It is amazing how much one can learn from another person. The Atelier is being organised by the European Festivals Association since 2006 and has been a very successful practice for creating a new generation of Artistic Directors. This year an Atelier was organized in Singapore as well, giving the opportunity for more interaction between Asian and European cultural managers. To all this I should add that Izmir is also a fantastic city and so close to Greek culture and the Izmir Festival offered us a wonderful hospitality.


Golden Oldie: You made a nice blog there ( Who should read it? Why should people read it?

Matina: Making a collective blog was an idea that came to me during the Atelier for young festival managers because I felt that I was learning so much from the other participants that I wanted this to go on. During the last few years that I travel a lot and I see so many nice things related to my work but also to my personal interests, I feel that I want to narrate them to people that are not with me. I haven’t had the discipline to maintain a blog on my own, but administrating a collective one if far more enriching. The initial idea was to use this blog for us, the participants of the Atelier, but I honestly think that this could be interesting to many people that are interested in knowing what is happening in the cultural field in different countries, written from people working in the arts.


Golden Oldie: Anything else you’d like to add?

Matina (smiling): I was waiting for you to ask me for an interview for ages.