Kateřina Klička Špičková: We must persist

A production group Jelení skok (PSJS) - Velvarská kostka - Velvareum - Natvrdlí group / Velvary

Kateřina Klička Špičková was born in Velvary. She graduated in pedagogy with a specialization in art and drama education. After completing her studies, she worked, among others, as an external lecturer in the Teaching Department of the National Gallery in Prague and as an assistant professor at the Department of Art Education at the Faculty of Education, Charles University. After ten years spent in Prague, she returned to Velvary, her native town. She ranks among those who try to revive this town and inspires it to the new, not only cultural, stimuli.

Kateřina, the activities in which you are involved are quite diverse (Production group Jelení skok, Velvarská kostka, Velvareum, Natvrdlí). How do you manage to interconnect them not only mutually, but also with the town of Velvary, where you live?

Actually, the establishment of the Jelení SKOK Production Group/Směrem K Otevřené Kultuře (PSJS) was an attempt to somehow anchor, associate or cover a wide range of my activities. So far, under the umbrella of PSJS, I mainly represent the free association Osamělí písničkáři founded in 2002 by Jan Burian and I am trying to support this interesting cultural phenomenon in a promotional, organizational and coordinating way.

Overall, my activities are rather broad than diverse. It is mainly participation in the organization of independent cultural events and cultural and educational activities. I am aware that the wide scope can sometimes make the depth of immersion impossible, but I am simply like that. I have so many ideas in my mind that would be useful to realize, and I find some of them so interesting that I just can't drive them away. In addition, I am really very lucky because I am surrounded by people who inspire me and with whom it is a pleasure to work.

Rather high concentration of active people who like to meet and work to make the life in Velvary better is a great advantage of our town. Some of them came from the DS Scéna Kralupy theater ensemble, the rest came from different directions. Interesting, and not so unusual, is the fact that most of these Velvary cultural movers were recruited from the incomers. I am perhaps the only genuine native rooted in this town, although my stay here was interrupted by a ten-year exile in Prague. The above mentioned active friends founded the Natvrdlí association in our town.

We build, create, design. Our aim is to achieve the good condition and mood of all of the Velvary inhabitants. Natvrdlí are engaged in the Velvary’s life by organizing concerts and theater performances for both children and adults. In September, we regularly organize the Natvrdel festival in Velvarský Malvaňák. We organize flea markets at the decanal yard in the town centre, the proceeds of which are dedicated to charity (project Our Children in the Congo). However, Natvrdlí and its collaborators are obviously not limited only to the cultural activities. We do what is needed. Recently, we have been distributing disinfectants, information leaflets about current measures, etc. in Velvary. However, the culture is not brought to our town exclusively by incomers. To our great joy, more and more Velvary natives have been involved in these activities, either in the role of co-organizers, helpers or participants. Our mayor is also very supportive of all the associations and encourage them not to compete with each other, but rather cooperate more and more in the common interest of all of us, that is to support a living culture in the broadest sense.

In your opinion, what is the precondition for an independent culture to be presented in a Velvary-type town?

Above all, we must persist and also be accommodating to local natives and patriots. And it is often not that easy. People are, as we all know, very conservative and this is particularly true in small towns. People don't like changes. They want the things to be the same all the time, and they don't realize that if their wish came true, the world would gradually rot in forced stillness until it would be completely gone. I think it is important and beneficial to bring new stimuli to the town in the form of actions of independent culture and thus slowly push the boundaries of tolerance of local natives. In my opinion, the organizers of such events should not create opposition to the place where the event takes place. They should not go against the locals and stubbornly promote cultural content that is difficult for them to understand, with a sense of inconspicuous superiority. Moreover, it is also useful to create space for the opinions and needs of the people who live in the town. To me, it doesn't make sense to organize an event in a small town where only people from elsewhere come. It is important to connect the "external and internal world", to bring new stimuli to the town and at the same time give local people a chance to open up to unusual cultural events.

Another necessary prerequisite is indeed good cooperation with the official management of the town, ie with the mayor, council and representatives. When a municipality supports events of this type, everything is much easier. We are very lucky in Velvary that this cooperation functions perfectly.

Can you describe the cooperation between the municipality and independent culture in a little more detail on the examples of Velvarská Kostka or the new Velvareum project?

The establishment of the cultural and educational center Velvarská Kostka is an example of a well-functioning cooperation between the municipality and a group of enthusiasts. We have lacked a place or institution in the town that would allow the organization of events and courses not only for children but for adults as well for a long time. There is an art school in the town (ZUŠ), but although this school is well run, it cannot replace the role of a leisure center. In 2012, the building of the aforementioned former synagogue was vacated, which had served as a refuge for various types of school facilities since the 1950s. In 2014, the municipality rented this building to us for a symbolic sum, helped us with a quick basic reconstruction and since then has regularly provided us with subsidies for the operation of the center. Together with twelve women, at that time mostly on maternal leave, we revived this unique building in an incredibly short time. We are now in our sixth season. Over time, the content of the courses gradually changes and adapts to the current needs of the town’s inhabitants. It should be mentioned that we truly appreciate the support of the municipality, because thanks to it we do not have to focus on commercial events that would contradict the concept of Velvarská Kostka.

What has recently pleased you in the field of culture?

I was pleased with the huge wave of solidarity during the quarantine period. It made me happy how many cultural enthusiasts used this special period for unusual online projects, how quickly a network of those who wanted to help culture began to form, those who realized that without art (culture) we would be nothing but a factory for faecal production, as Jan Werich once aptly said, at least I think it was him:-).
I am constantly amazed at how many wonderful projects are being created under not very generous conditions in our small republic. For example, just last week, my friend from Velvary, goggle-eyed, told me about last year's Loggia Worldfest. I'm looking forward to going to this event and a lot of others sometime.

On the contrary, what has disappointed you?

There are a few things I don't feel good about. However, I don't have enough information to talk about them in a comprehensive way. I would not like to unnecessarily evoke a bad mood with inaccurate formulations. That is why I prefer to keep quiet about these disappointments.

What are your wishes?
In the future, I would like to focus more in one direction. Nevertheless, I would not like to abandon the projects I have started working on. That is why my dream is to bring together a group of people with whom I would work together on these projects.