Ester Mischler: “A seminar of the Council of Europe – and what became out of it” (excerpt)

Out of the occasion of the international year of the child 1979, the Council of Cultural Cooperation of the CoE in Eskilstuna (Sweden), organized a seminar to the topic „child and culture“. The Swiss delegation suggested, not to discuss the „needs“ of young people at the round table amongst the adults, but to search for possibilities in the frame of the cultural activities of the European commission.

 The participants agreed on following resolution:

  • exchange of small groups of children and youth theatre;
  • encounter for children and youth from the member states of the European Comission during 2 or 3 weeks;
  • build up a theatre group to work out a play during this time;
  • organisation of this encounter by the youngsters themselves,so they get the opportunity to practise and get to know ,what is Europan „Comprehension“ and the variety and diversity of the european culture and language groups.

 Very important issues were:

  • to include children and youth of all member states of the European Comission;
  • the financial guarantee of the project through the hosting country and the participating countries ,who have to take over the transport fees;
  • the patronance of the CoE.)the support of the national theatre groups and the medias.

Several countries were enthusiastic about this idea. The CoE supported the project financially and ideally. An informal international working party was founded and they took over the role of the project “carrier“. Members were professionals and experts from Belgium, Germany, Denmark, France, UK and Switzerland. They developed the idea of the „international encounter“.


Three years later 4.-18.7.1982 the first encounter was organised in La Marlagne. The hosting organisation was: Ministere de la communaute francaise de la Belgique. Aim and purpose of this encounter was to gather children groups of various cultural and language groups, to give them the opportunity to express themselves and communicate through theater, to express their feelings and experiences of everyday life through acting; this should as well support an understanding of a European common sense and find ways of solution of conflicts and tensions.


At the beginning of 1983 the Swiss association of children and youth theatre (ASTEJ) worked out a concept for an encounter in Switzerland – Including all the experiences the members had made in La Marlagne. Neuenburg was the place that was chosen for the following encounter. The working committee consisted of the regional and national government and the ASTEJ.

The focus of the 2nd EUROPEAN CHILDREN THEATRE ENCOUNTER was to concentrate on the active participation of the members, the openness to learn something new; participants were 180 children from 11 – 15, from 11 European countries plus 60 adults; the 15 workshop groups were lead by 15 professionals from Switzerland and other European countries. At the first encounter the different countries participated with a well prepared production. It was a different approach.

The 3rd CHILDREN THEATRE ENCOUNTER was organised in Denmark 13-26.7.1986 in Vordingborg. 150 children from 11-13 and 45 adults were invited  by the Danish Amateur Theatre association and the Ministry of Cultural affairs. The theme was „Children and their everyday life“. The focus of this encounter was put on the democratical process and the participation of children in it. There were 3 groups of 50 children that were divided into different workshop groups, lead by animateurs from the different countries. Improvisation and physical expression were the important techniques.

Each encounter brought fantastic experiences that were unique and that flowed into the next one: VIENNA 1988, 4th EUROPEAN CHILDREN THEATRE ENCOUNTER, 17.7.-30.7.1988 – 22 countries-members from the European Commission, including neighbor countries as Czech Republic and Hungary. 400 participants; Austria takes over some of the experiences made in the previous encounters and adds some innovative elements.

UK is also very interested in this project, being an initiator co-founder of this idea. They worked out a concept for „older“ participants and after a year of preparation, this idea came through. From 22.7. -5.7.1989 the 1st European Youth Theatre Encounter took place in Stratford upon Avon.


We are very proud and happy,that more and more countries are enthusiastic about this idea. But we are aware that it is not so easy to find countries that can afford such a big project: financially, personally and concerning the infrastructure. Coordination and communication become problematic. It needs enormous strenghts,a good team and a very precise organisational preparation, in order to concentrate on the artistic part.

After five encounters and the development of this event, we have to think about the content and the shape of it.This project needs to be better connected at the CoE and in our national organisations.

This is the only way to give us the feeling of influencing and „creating“ a better world.

Esther Mischler/Secretary ASTEJ