Cultural Cooperative Velha-a-Branca
Topic of the practice
Good Practice Information
Velha-a-Branca was created following a previous (2001) informal project www.projectobragatempo.net. Part of the project's members and few guests decided in early 2004 to rent and recover a four-storey building in the center of the city of Braga and set up a cultural cooperative. Behind it was the will to minimize the lack of cultural offer in the city.
The name “Velha a Branca – Cultural Estaleiro” made its appearance: “velha” (old - feminine) since it was decided that the cooperative’s image in advertisement would be represented by an old lady and “branca” (white) due to its location, in Senhora-a-Branca Square. The founders were 26 people, mostly students or recent graduates between ages 20 and 30. Today there are more than 60 members. It can be considered that one of its aims is to demonstrate that independent cultural projects can be sustainable, generating its own income without regular public funding. After 2 years, this model was
validated and until today Velha-a-Branca has never applied to any funding or formal support. Executive Management and most of the promoters of specific cultural projects are unpaid volunteers.
Braga has a large potential to be tapped – central location, 2,000 year heritage, two universities, good road and train accesses, proximity to the airport and to Galicia, several cultural infrastructures, etc.– but the exploitation of such potential has been mostly incipient. Velha-a-Branca seeks to tap such potential and its mission is stated even in the name: “Estaleiro” (constrution site). It presents itself not only as a provisional cultural space in permanent construction and adaptation but also includes a clear axis of promoting other projects. Besides its own agenda, the cooperative hosts and supports initiatives presented by other entitites or individuals, seeking to nurture all cultural projects that are presented and promoting a few creative industries.
Evidence of success
At Velha it is possible to attend the most diverse activities (talks, poetry recitals, concerts, thematic weeks, among others), visit exhibitions (photography, painting, sculpture, etc.) and participate in courses in many different subjects. The short film festival Fast Forward Portugal, Conversations in the Tanque, Velhacine, Braga Stories, Café Scientifique and Deutsch Stammtisch are a few of its most known regular events. Since its foundation, dozens of artists, teachers, scientists, musicians, cultural groups and associations, as well as hundreds of students, have been in Velha. Between 2004 and late 2010 Velha-a-Branca has been responsible for 154 courses or workshops – from photography and video editing to creative writing and garden design – has hosted more than 180 exhibitions and produced or supported over 1,300 different activities.
Velha-a-Branca became within a few years a cultural space of great impact in the city and a cultural project known in the rest of Portugal, particularly in the North. It has been noted that, while in a small scale, an epidemic phenomena has occurred, with the proliferation of new cultural initiatives, some of which present a regular cultural agenda, inspired in Velha-a- Branca’s program and concept.
Contact details to obtain further information on the practice
Velha-a-Branca Estaleiro Cultural
Annex completed on: 02-22-2011