Festivals for Informal Learning (FILE)
Report on visit by Scottish group to Rîmeţ village, Alba County, Romania 3-9 July 2014
The aim of this report is to offer some individual insights arising from the visit that provided many special opportunities for informal learning that could not have been acquired by any means other than interaction with the local community experienced within their cultural and natural environment. The project was based in a school house in the hamlet of Rîmeţ which sits at about 1000metres above spectacular rural scenery that is only accessible by rough track roads.
Building on community capacity – The visit underlined the value of using the resources of the community to provide accommodation & food cooked by those employed as school cooks during the holiday period. By eating together, with an international group, we were able to exchange experiences and ideas in a relaxed setting.
Valuing what is special – Rimet is in a wonderful natural setting, surrounded by prolific flower meadows that are unspoiled by any chemical fertilisers. There is a fantastic matrix of wild plants that attract a wide variety of butterflies and insects which it turn allows birdlife to flourish there. There are some simple tracks and paths that thread their way through the landscape and would provide some potential for Eco tourism ( eg walking or bird watching holidays), if the local community had the capacity to support that by providing the necessary accommodation, food and transport links.
A rich historical inheritance – the vernacular architecture of the area has developed organically to meet the needs of the people living there and animal husbandry. Steep sided thatched roofs keep out rain whilst meat can be smoked in the eaves and storage is in the cellars. Again, there is some potential to introduce visitors to this built environment especially if it could be combined with other obvious attractions such as the nearby Monastery and gorge, with local people being employed to provide guiding services.
What is relevant to local people and their economic future – The community of Alba county may not be interested in involving themselves in activities (eg. walking, cycling or wildlife) that would be attractive to outsiders. Is it appropriate to persuade them that this is a way of sustaining their community in the longer term, provided they can control the extent of development?
Commercialisation of festivals – Can festival days, such as the one we witnessed in Rîmeţ, generate income that will feed resources back into the community ? Are people interested in producing local food and crafts for sale? If so there are organisational challenges including logistics, funding and publicity.
Whose heritage is it anyway & where should it be on view? – A visit to the ethnographic museum for the Rîmeţ area was an opportunity to see at first hand some of the traditional farming implements and craft methods. In particular, we saw some beautifully embroidered women’s clothing with traditional patterns that are no longer made. We discovered that although some of these products were collected for the local museum, many others had been bought cheaply by outsiders or even given away to them. This seems not only a loss to the local community but also to the broader preservation of an ancient European tradition of craft production. Other ways of preserving this cultural heritage (eg in the ASTRA national folk museum, near Sibiu) would remove these materials form their original cultural setting.
Hospitality – I found that by approaching Romanian people with an open heart and an open mind that was willing to learn, I was greeted with an open door of genuine hospitality and a willingness to share the obvious pride and enthusiasm they feel for their cultural heritage.
Bob Turner – Comrie, Scotland