BŪTENT!, DISCUSSION FESTIVAL
BŪTENT! (“Makes Sense!”) is an annual assembly in a cosy open-air area of Birštonas with a festival-type atmosphere, where people from political, business, academic, cultural and non-governmental organizations discuss important topics for the development of the state, share ideas and forge new collaborations.
Purpose and vision
“The festival’s mission is to contribute to the development of the democratic welfare state and united and advanced society by developing the culture of discussions, creating common ground and promoting tolerance. The festival aims to become the main discussion platform in Lithuania – the place for consideration, opinion-forming, consensus-building, for the development of a common vision of the welfare state”.
Founder and year of establishment
BŪTENT was initiated in 2017 by the Lithuanian non-governmental body “Visos idėjos”, which was established in the same year with the goal of being the founder of the Lithuanian Democracy Festival.
Several private individuals run the non-governmental organization “Visos idėjos”, which currently doesn’t have permanent full-time employees and is operating on a voluntary basis with strong support from all main organisers and partners. In 2017, the festival was organised by the Lithuanian Open Society Foundation, the British Council, Nordic Council of Ministers Office in Lithuania, and Swedbank.
Location and length
The 2-day festival took place in the beginning of September in a resort town Birštonas, located in the middle of Lithuania, about an hour’s drive from Vilnius and Kaunas. Birštonas has approximately 2700 inhabitants and is famous for its traditional and newly opened spa hotels and recreational facilities. Birštonas was selected due to its convenient location, easily accessible from all parts of Lithuania, due to its facilities, enabling the town to host a large number of participants in local hotels and due to the positive approach of the local municipality.
Size – number of participants and events
The first festival in 2017 had approximately 3000 unique participants during both days. There were more than 70 events and 200 speakers and panellists. Participants were counted by distributing participant-cards with a map of the area. All the organisers’ and partners’ events were included in the programme and there were no unofficial events.
People attending the festival
BŪTENT is a meeting place for public-spirited citizens, leaders and active participants from political, business, academia and non-governmental organisations. The organisers estimate that approximately two thirds of the participants came from the capital city Vilnius and represented various organisations including decision-making bodies. One third of the participants were local citizens and people from other towns of Lithuania.
Involvement of the political parties
All the political parties have a time slot at their disposal in the programme for a debate during the festival. Politicians also participated in several of the discussions organised by others. The main event of the festival was a political debate with all parliamentary parties. The political parties didn’t have their own tents. The organisers estimate that approximately 100 politicians attended.
There is an open call to the public inviting all interested parties to participate by suggesting topics for speakers and discussions. In 2017 a substantial portion of the topics and discussions were provided and organised by the main organisers and partners of the festival. The evening programme was followed by concerts and theatre performances and a special programme was dedicated to children.