In 1983, the Yugoslav section of UNIMA agreed with the management of the Cankarjev dom Cultural and Congress Centre to take an initiative and organise a first international puppet manifestation in Ljubljana, i.e. a Meeting of High Schools for Puppetry Arts from all around the world, held under the patronage of the UNIMA Professional Training Commission. The next year, the UNIMA counsellor puppeteers from all parts of the world returned to Ljubljana to attend the pre-congress meeting. Then the festival of selected international performances, focused mainly on the puppetry schools productions, took place as well. We, the then members of the UNIMA Commission, lead by Margareta Niculescu, thus formed a festival, profiled to differ from other festivals by concentrating its programme's main attention on promotion of puppetry schools production. Such festival profile was accepted by the then Cultural Community to become a part of the Cankarjev dom’s regular programme. Thus, Ljubljana hosted its first International Festival LUTKE 1988 with a profiled programme in January 1988. The performances from Yugoslavia were selected by Vladimir Kocjančič, whereas the selection of the other part of the programme was entrusted to me, as I was well-acquainted with the worldwide contemporary puppetry production of the time. The festival's realisation was largely supported by the Cankarjev dom Congress Department and in its final phase by the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre as well. The festival's visual image was conceived by Breda Varl.
The festival that took place alongside the UNIMA 1992 Congress as a first large international manifestation in the independent Slovenia was carried out similarly. Cankarjev dom had announced a competition for the congress's symbol, on which Maja Gspan won the first prize for her now famous »hen«. The Ljubljana Puppet Theatre intensively supported the festival in its last phase again, whereas it was initially prepared by Cankarjev dom with the help of the Ministry of Culture.
The newly-founded UNIMA – SLOVENIA suggested that the festival should be held biennially, bearing in mind that longer periods could affect its continuity. It also decided that the interim period between the festivals should be filled up with the newly established Klemenčič Days Festival, which offered the national puppeteers a possibility to meet and present the most relevant Slovenian puppetry production. The Klemenčič Days were first held in Maribor, in 1994. Afterwards the Klemenčič Days Society acquired its new domicile in the city of Novo Mesto. The International Festival LUTKE, dedicated as to the puppetry schools productions as well as to the young professional puppeteers who wished to pursue their independent careers after their schooling, was realised as early as in June 1995, and held biennially from then on. As mentioned before, this festival's profile was quite specific as compared to numerous other international puppet manifestations; therefore Ljubljana obtained a special place among the puppeteers from all over the world, as it promoted the latest trends of the young puppetry artists. The festival has also had its own artistic board and book of rules.
Since the Klemenčič Days’ host Novo Mesto wished to switch to odd years, due to some other international events, the LUTKE 1998 festival was already held one year after the previous one. The festival’s selector was Robert Waltl, who fulfilled his task splendidly and also prepared the selection of ten puppetry schools for the festival LUTKE 2000, which were then presented in Ljubljana during the meeting of the UNIMA Commission, held in the spring of that year.
When the festival's organisation was taken over entirely by the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre, the latter decided to change its profile as well. Therefore, another International Festival LUTKE 2000 was held in the autumn of 2000, not differing much in its concept from the other festivals, organised elsewhere in the world. Since then, it has been featuring as one among the many similar a selection from both national and international puppetry production.
Edi Majaron, director, puppeteer and teacher