Lovorka Sršen is the coordinator and main executive producer of the Design District Zagreb festival, and the projects on which she works include the production of various musical events and festivals, including the Motovun Film Festival. When not giving out technical instructions concerning the festival organization, she is trying to save almost forgotten folk songs of past times with the traditional a cappella group Dišpet.
Not shy about sharing her ups, and one particular down, she talked to us about everything she has been working on these days.
Rebbeca Mikulandra: You’ve been working in the Design Centre Zagreb for the past two years on the organization of different events. Which projects would you point out in particular?
Lovorka Sršen: The Global Children’s Designathon workshop, which we are doing in cooperation with the Designathon Works from Amsterdam, is a particular treat, both in terms of production and the programme. It is a big annual workshop that has children create invention prototypes that aim to solve a current global issue. It is done simultaneously in about 15 cities around the world. Our team in Zagreb does not comprise a lot of people, and there is a lot of children who expect amazing content, so there is no room left for faking. They understand everything and are incredibly smart. I find working with children in this way very challenging. Luckily, we have got great associates and mentors, who are doing a great job running the entire thing and doing amazing things with these children. When I see such intellectual and creative potential and developed humanity in kids, I worry a little less about the future.
RM: Tell us a few things about the Design District Zagreb Festival. What makes it special compared to other open air events that you have worked on?
LS: The festival has an incredible number of active associates and microlocations, all of which require a certain level of infrastructure, coordination, organization, a program that has a clear vision. It’s been challenging, but we try to try to keep everything under control, give all our attention to the participants and give the visitors, with equal care, both big and small, simple and more demanding content, which, on top of everything else, needs to look great. To me, this is a big motivation. What is particularly extraordinary about the festival is the small team of people that believes in the project and is 100% committed to it. This, it seems to me, is what is common to all good projects in the field of culture. What I like, but what also makes my job very difficult, is that the standards are very high, that we know very well what everything needs to look like and work like. This is always difficult for the production team, because it’s easy when you can compromise here and there. This way, everything is more complicated, but it is also why our results are drastically better compared to other similar projects. When, after everything is done, we sit in the office dead tired looking over the photographs and preparing the reports, we truly stand behind every project.
RM: Your professional biography comprises several roles. In addition to your career in production, you lead an alternative life as a singer, a soprano in the Dišpet traditional a cappella group. What is the general reception of female a cappella groups in Croatia?
LS: The reception is improving. Since the Dišpet group was established about 20 years ago, I feel the situation has changed significantly. Around that time, a new trend in traditional a cappella singing emerged, named “New Simplicity”, which was based on covering forgotten folk songs and adapting them for male and female a cappella groups. This trend was important for female a cappella groups because until then they mostly did songs that were written for a male vocal range and male voice characteristics. We are very proud that Dišpet was an active participant in this movement. Since then, we have been cooperating with countless musicologists, composers and other professionals, who have written and adapted numerous songs for us, many of which have become standards in female traditional a cappella singing. We have saved many of these songs from oblivion, which would otherwise have remained forgotten. We were not alone in this, many other female traditional a cappella groups were a part of the movement, especially from Zagreb, and found their voice in similar projects, sending the message that female a cappella singing is something beautiful and valuable.
RM: You have recently released the album titled “Došlo vrime”, which was recorded in a special way.
LS: It is special because it was recorded on tape, with the idea to release it on vinyl some day. This means the entire album was recorded live so to speak, in one breath, which is unusual because songs are usually recorded several times, with the best portions combined into a whole. The folk songs are a document of times past, and our recordings of them are a document of our interpretation of them, making the release of the album a full circle moment for us. Had we recorded the album any other way, we would not have been able to get the emotions across the way we did.
RM: To return to the topic of the Design District Festival, is there a festival venue that you would point out particularly?
LS: I find it difficult to see the neighborhood and not view it as the festival venue, and sometimes I have to make a conscious effort, especially during beautiful spring days such as this, to break free from this mind frame and simply enjoy it. The Park of the 100th Brigade has a beautiful tranquility, and the Krešimir Square is magical. I mostly notice green areas, perhaps because there aren’t that many of them in Dalmatian cities.
I have a very particular memory of the pedestrian crossing in front of the “Mosque”, where I fell off my scooter last year, on the very first day of the festival. I had borrowed a scooter so I could maneuver around the festival more easily. As I noticed a group of people arguing across the street, I rushed to break them apart, which ended up with me falling square on my face on the crossing as the cars were rushing towards me.