Over 200 people who cared about arts and culture showed up at the Public Talk on Arts & Festivals: Who Cares? held on 20 May 2011 in Singapore. Artists, cultural professionals and other supporters of the arts enthusiastically filled up the auditorium of the LASALLE College of the Arts.

The public talk was the conclusion of the week-long training programme, the Atelier for Young Festival Managers. This programme was initiated by the European Festivals Association (EFA). The Association joined hands with The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and LASALLE to organise the first Atelier ever held in Asia. This was attended by 34 upcoming young festival professionals from all over the world.

The public talk cum discussion was given a rousing start with a thumping welcome by the young drummers of the LASALLE rhythmic ensemble. They were on hand to welcome the guest-of-honour Mr Kris Peters, Minister-President of Flanders, Belgium. Ambassador Dominique Girard, Executive Director of ASEF, and Mr Venka Purushothaman, Provost of LASALLE, were also present.

Ms Robyn Archer, Creative Director of The Centenary of Canberra, was the keynote speaker. She pointed out that the arts create awareness across the whole spectrum of society, creating jobs and therefore, deserves greater support. Ms Archer surprised and delighted the audience by ending her speech with a moving song in tribute to artists.

A stimulating debate between the audience and other speakers followed. There were several distinguished veterans of the arts, among them Mr Bernard Faivre d’Arcier, President of La Biennale de la Danse de Lyon and former director of the Festival d’Avignon, France. He noted festival directors can help promote new or provocative artwork by ‘convincing’ audiences of their artistic merits.

The evening ended with guests, Atelier participants, festival directors, organisers and students engaged in animated conversations over wine and refreshments provided by the Embassy of Belgium.