#FRA2014 Day Two : False start, new beginning

 20th February 2014

It's eleven am and we're rushing through a busy and narrow market street, looking for a switch under the warm winter sun of Casablanca. Press conference is in one hour and we're already late. This is Day Two of the stress.fm presence in the Festival of Resistance and Alternatives, an international meeting of art, culture, and politics. Today is an important date for a lot of people in Morocco. The Festival is a consequence, a continuation by other means, a reverberation of the same kind of ideas that shook this country in 2011. Things are different now. The Festival is also a young and energized reminder that networks are now a dominant feature of any geopolitical landscape, not going away, communication and creativity-based links being among the most powerful of contemporary reticular arrangements.

Around twelve-thirty. The entrance to Les Abattoirs is crowded, organizers and journalists, security guards and a truck, unloading. Across the street it's business as usual, the noise of fast traffic, a few curious local bystanders, the day progressing to the rhythm of the news that city authorities have authorized the use of the place after all, this soon-to-be iconic old slaughterhouse that has come to mean a great deal for the independent Festival and its many counterparts in the city. 

We're waiting for the letter to be printed and brought here, for the doors to open, and then things change. People start moving away from the deep yellow and almost majestic buildings that make up the semi-abandoned premises. We learn that the authorization will not interfere with Plan B, the new-born back-up plan to go ahead with all the planned activities and host them in four different places around Casablanca. From the authorities, there seems to be a deliberate effort to make this change of heart feel like leniency, disguised as common bureaucratic error in the absence of a traveling and absent-minded manager. We go away, getting back to the universe where at five o'clock today the games begin.

What's at stake: young people who wish to organize themselves around the making and connecting of culture face very serious obstacles when trying to become an active part of civil society. Because of its programmatic and methodological proximity, or resemblance, or attraction, to the ideas of the 20th of February movement, the Festival of Resistance and Alternatives is being prevented from organizing this year's edition. This would have been the first time that its three days of activities would see the light of public space: workshops, debates, exhibitions, concerts, theater. Like in the past, the event will now be hosted by a mix of political parties and associations. The Festival is also being prevented to become a legal association, at the hands of a deliberately inefficient, inquisitive, lengthy process.

We've heard more. Unlike in other neighboring countries, the unrest of 2011 seems to be a fond memory for this crowd mostly, the majority of the Moroccon population appearing to carry on with life, appeased, after the constitutional reform and the voting of the local Islamist party into one half of the "two-headed" government of the country. The other half no one jokes about. The Kingdom is very real.

It's strange that a cool group of energetic young people who wants to do creative things is treated like this, in a context of new-found stability and the evident global connections Morocco is engaged in.

Five o'clock arrives. The hall of the Bouletek fills up with a friendly crowd, the din of welcome chatter and the soft rustling of media teams carries the moment, and soon we're live-streaming the Opening Press Conference. Airtime in the background, the ON AIR count on the screen adds to the excitement of all things connected and connecting. Reflecting: a network of mirrors, not of copies.

Read the full coverage: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

The story in photos, here: photo.stress.fm/tagged/FRA/chrono
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