Remembering Nevenka Koprivšek
Written by Nicky Childs, Artsadmin’s Senior Producer
Nevenka Koprivšek has been a special friend and colleague of not only myself but many of the Artsadmin team for over 30 or so years. I first met and worked with her when she was performing in Fiona Templeton’s brilliant You The City, which was one of the first projects I produced for Artsadmin. It was a promenade performance that took the audience on an unforgettably poetic and philosophical journey through the streets, homes, stairwells, playgrounds, offices and cafes around Spitalfields and Brick Lane, way before it became gentrified and before Artsadmin had moved to Toynbee Studios.
Through that hot heady summer of 1989, where the whole cast rehearsed in my garden and many slept in my house as the budget was too small to afford anything else, a special friendship began between Nevenka and Artsadmin.
As she began to develop Bunker back in her home city of Ljubljana – an organisation that we always felt was a sister to Artsadmin – she would always send an eclectic array of Slovenian artists, companies, colleagues and friends our way whenever they came to London, for conversation, advice and exchange. Over time, as she started inviting many of our artists to Bunker’s wonderful Mladi Levi Festival from Stacy Makishi to Station House Opera, Ackroyd & Harvey, La Ribot and Rosemary Lee, to name a few – and always managed to achieve extraordinary projects for the festival on the tiniest of budgets
As Bunker’s activity grew and it developed the art space at Old Power Station – Elektro Ljubljana space, Nevenka also built an extraordinary, small and close team around her. A sort of ‘art family’, who share the same values and commitment to the organisation and where the boundaries between their work and personal life have frequently become blurred.
Nevenka was an explorer, she was brave, she was inquisitive and took risks, she was a connector and a nurturer. Deeply committed to both experimental and contemporary performance, she was always thinking about its relevance to broader social and political issues and how to connect with local communities.
She was an ardent campaigner and supporter of independent performing artists and companies in Slovenia and across the Balkan region whilst always seeking out partnerships further afield. The most internationally connected person I ever met, she made links and formed deep friendships with artists and companies, writers, academics, programmers and producers from all regions of the world in the most engaging and easy way. Nevenka was the very image of what being part of Europe meant to me – she was rooted in the local, national and international in equal measures.
If you ever had the privilege of being with Nevenka in her country, she was a proud and generous host – she always knew the best (cheap and often outdoor) restaurant, the best wine, the best mushroom stall or cheese shop and of course she introduced you to the best friends and colleagues ever.
I shall never forget being with her in many different cities across Europe, the many, many performances I’ve watched alongside her, the long conversations into the night about art, society and life, the cycles along the river between her home and the Bunker office, the best pasta with truffles ever, the best swims ever in Slovenian lakes and on Croatian islands, the late night grappa tasting session in Medana, the beekeeper who inspired my partner to become one himself… I could go on and on!
Over the past 10 years, Nevenka trained as a Feldenkrais practitioner – which she has pursued with a passion in parallel to her continued work leading Bunker.
When lockdown came last spring, she sent a missive out to her broad church of colleagues and friends offering a free weekly online session with her. Many of us participated from sitting rooms and bedrooms in countless countries across Europe – we were all joined together by Nevenka’s act of generosity for an hour – it was amazing.
In her familiar, warm style, she wrote:
The aim is to break isolation and learn something together,
but I will not refuse voluntary contribution, maybe a drink when we meet next, or a hug, because it is important to know, that this will be over one day and that WE WILL MEET and hug and kiss a lot : )