Encouraging youth to leave their computers and think for themselves

No, not Mishka, the mascot at the 1980 Moscow Olympics – this is Meska, a new festival in Lithuania, which one day might be just as famous

A festival co-organised by Danes and Lithuanians is coming up this weekend. Located in one of the most beautiful spots in the Baltic country, the Meska Music Festival is already attracting lots of interest on the European music scene.

The small island of Zarasai, in the north part of the country – only a few hours from Vilnius – is hosting a weekend of music, community and fun under the sun in one of the EU’s often forgotten countries.

Putting people first
Of course, one could claim there is nothing new about another music festival, even though it has a great line-up including Scandinavian and Baltic stars such as DJ Mindaugelis, Electronic I, Kandy Killers, Saxtone, Sla, Aaronautica and Paul Monroe.

But there is so much more to Meska than that.

“We want to create a relationship between the local municipalities, rural communities in Vilnius, young artists and informal sports groups, and to arrange activities aimed at activating local youth,” explained Ray Andrews, the founder of Future Kulture who is a main co-ordinator of the festival, to the Weekly Post.

Away from the net
“We want to get young people away from their computers and outside where they can meet people.”

The idea to create a cultural gathering together with the Lithuanian partners Future Kulture has been working with for several years now, including a co-operation at the Roskilde Festival in 2013.

“We met our partners for an advance review in 2012 in regards to environmental sustainability,” continued Andrews.

“We discussed their interests and goals, and the cultural festival encompassed most of them.”

European co-operation
Together with Lithuanian partners, the Danish organisations Future Kulture and youthschools Denmark have worked hard to make the event happen.

Both organisations focus on disadvantaged youth and try to provide them with useful leisure-time activities such as sports and cultural events. They are experienced in working with European partners and give youngsters from Denmark a chance to participate in European exchanges, and one of them is Meska.

Testing their initiative
This year Ishøj Ungdomsskole – a member of youthschools Denmark – is sending nine young Danes, five Turkish youths from Den Flyvende Kuffert and three young staff members from Ishøj to Lithuania.

They will provide them with transportation and insurance, but the youngsters will also have to get creative about how they will support themselves.

Andrews is eager to expand the youthschools network and offer even more opportunities for the youngsters he works with.

“Although we can’t accomplish everything in 2015, we hope to arrange a mobility youth program in 2016 with the knowledge gained from this initiative.”