26 Sep - 10 Oct 2021

Budapest Autumn Festival


Dear Festival Visitors, dear Citizens of Budapest,

Launching a festival is always a great pleasure, but reconsidering it is even more so. Even if reconsideration was forced by the circumstances: we had to accommodate to the constantly changing epidemiological situation and let us not forget that this is the first year when the autumn festival of the capital cannot count on a penny of state subsidy.

But not to worry. Budapest is a strong city, not only able to transcend obstacles but turn them to its advantage. With the original name of CAFé Budapest being revived and its traditions rethought, Budapest Autumn Festival returns to the streets and stages of the capital on 26 September 2021.

From the outset, it has been an experimental, contemporary event; and our aim is to open our horizon to ambitious artists and art events even more boldly than ever before. The majority of this year’s events were created by embracing independent productions with the cooperation of outstanding professional partners. This festival provides an opportunity, positions, connects. It encourages partnership, collaborative thinking and fertile creativity. It provides the space and occasion for novel initiatives.

How will this year’s renewed festival be different? Mostly in that the festival will settle in right in the city. Budapest’s public spaces will assume important roles, abandoned shopwindows will be converted to galleries, parking lots will be filled with contemporary dance, and squares will become stages.

The wider the cultural spectrum is, the more profound is the image of Budapest as a city embracing art and diversity. This year’s themes, encompassing several remarkable anniversaries, showcase how magnificently the representatives of various arts get along in a grand shared program, their interplay reinforcing the power of their art. The work of Miklós Mészöly, the writer born 100 years ago, Miklós Jancsó, the film director, or György Cziffra, the legendary pianist, and our evergreen contemporary, Dante, who has been living with us for 700 years through his art, will be presented and each has special moments in store.

There is one more thing that needs to be underlined. Culture cannot be governed centrally, along the lines of momentary interests. We must open our horizons towards the districts, the autonomous local communities and the artists. This is the road we are now embarking upon with the Autumn Festival.

Together with the organisers, we welcome everyone interested across Budapest to a free-spirited city jubilee where you can experience that Budapest is a culturally open-minded city, capable of renewal.

Gergely Karácsony

Mayor of Budapest

Erzsébet Gy. Németh

Deputy Mayor

Dear Citizens of Budapest,

The story of our beloved city can be told in a million ways: through big political turning points, continuous development, or the lives of multiple families. But perhaps the most accurate, the most truthful story can be narrated through culture.

Implicit in culture is permanence and continuous change at the same time, thus culture being the metaphor of continuity and dynamic rejuvenation. Art is remembrance and a “project on the future” taking place in the present.

Returning in a new form, Budapest Autumn Festival delivers all of these together.

In today’s market-oriented world, in a global and peaceful competition of metropolises, culture is a key enabler for competitiveness. This challenge is impossible to evade. The cultural life of Budapest, this festival, exemplifies that we do not have to forget and should not forget, for the sake of competition, the characteristics of Budapest, the unique sensitivity, consciousness and autonomy of the artists working within it. On the contrary, the richness of programs of the festival signals that, despite globalisation, culture does not have to be uniformised, and it is still possible for us to maintain and represent the cultural uniqueness of our city.

The latter never takes a form where the artists and the audience are “educated” from above. A city and a country cannot breathe if the top of culture is continuously pruned, the trunk is carved, and the undergrowth is trodden. It is in the face of all this that Budapest Autumn Festival becomes the festival of the audience, the cultural organisers and the artists.

The place of politics and politicians is not on the stage or in the installations of the exhibitions but in the rows of the audience. Politics must not erect walls and boundaries in front of culture but let art deconstruct them, creating spaces of boundless drift and reception, reach and inclusion.

The right to the city, therefore, implies the right to culture. Art, the remembrance of a space and a time in our capital, as well as its present, are not only active when culture is free but when the citizens of Budapest also partake of and have access to the “freedoms” of culture.

Budapest Autumn Festival is such a series of events, such a genuine freedom project. We invite you to participate in it.

Here and different – the capital city first launched Budapest’s contemporary festival thirty years ago, which is to return in a renewed form in Autumn.

In the two-week-long program, offering nearly a hundred unique events, beside a traditional temporal and genre-based classification, we recommend nine thematic groups, so-called experience routes. By this, we aim to help everyone to move into a direction most exciting for them both physically and figuratively, to come across hidden connections during their manyfold artistic experiences or to immerse themselves in the world of the individual artists or styles. If you follow #ébrenálmodók (#daydreamers), you can encounter the riddles of premieres and the works of bright minds who have a jubilee and are still inspiring today. Through #együttmozdulók (#moving together), you are guaranteed to get out of the rut and get involved in the events actively. #várostbelakók (#city settlers) can get enriched by experiences emerging in public spaces and reinterpreting the built environment in a sensual way. Through #egymástépítők (#building each other) you can get an insight into the world of communities identifying themselves in a pronounced and characteristic way.

It is with special pride that, in the face of all uncertainties and unpredictabilities, we can greet numerous distinguished foreign artists and productions at the festival, most of whom will come to Budapest for the first time. In the course of the #welcomeculture experience route, you can find an array of classical concerts, theatrical performances, contemporary dance productions, exhibitions and street art installations.

The power of the capital lies in its diversity, the variegation of its districts, in the creativity of those living and creating their art here. We envision and develop our Budapest festivals in close cooperation with them. At the Spring Festival, program series are now held in four districts, building on local characteristics but providing experience for each visitor. In District I, #szellemóriásokvára (#the castle of brilliant minds) evokes the art of unparalleled geniuses, in District II, #margitköz (#margit lane) aims to bring life to the spaces of Margit Boulevard which have been untapped for a long time, in District VIII, #ezerhangújózsefváros (#józsefváros of a thousand voices) presents multicultural traditions and ambitions, while in District XI, #ablakabartókra (#window on bartók) opens up new perspectives and invites to cross borders.

Autumn Festival invites inhabitants and visitors to a hopefully undisturbed exploration and adventure as a grandiose overture of the cultural season of Budapest. Opening after a period of social distancing and lockdown cannot be a simple repossession of familiar spaces. It is rather an encouragement to be open to novelties: to look at our environment with fresh eyes, to listen to each other’s stories with curiosity, to create active forms of community togetherness. These are the factors that make the festival of those living in Budapest to be characteristically local, mapping the state of our times, getting the voices of artists heard. Join us and have a festival together in the spirit of being contemporaries.

Csaba Faix

CEO of Budapest Brand