It was in 2005 when The Slovenia Times and Radio.Si launched the Guest Star campaign. Instantly it became clear that it was not just another popular ’most wanted‘ recognition but an event with special goals and ideas. Clearly, an open society as Slovenia wants to see itself, needed a special media treat for its foreigners – foreigners who came to the country for various reasons and their contribution, whatever it is, making Slovenia a more pleasant place to live.
In 2005 the idea was basically the same as it is today. However there were only three categories: business, diplomacy and sport. Surprisingly, the winner of the popular vote in the business category was not a notorious entrepreneur but a small business owner, artistic jeweler Christoph Seidl Porenta. This humble businessman, but moreso visionary artist and hand craftsman, found it awkward competing with managers from large companies and his victory created a truly unpleasant situation, not only for Cristoph, but also for the other nominees who were indeed managers, and particularly for the organisers. The ad-hoc solution making everyone happy was to award the runner up in the business category and Mr Siedl Porenta received a special prize which went on to become a regular prize in a new category – culture. Since then, the four categories have been represented in the Guest Star campaign, although sometimes the nominees cross the blurry line between certain categories as there is a bit of economy in sports and diplomacy in culture etc.
The first event was held in the fabulous environment of Rogaška spa’s old crystal hall and surprisingly many people attended. Surprisingly because it was the first and not much advertised event and most of the visitors had to drive from Ljubljana where the majority of diplomatic and business foreigners reside. There must have been something about that night!
…and the last
Throughout the next six campaigns the Guest Star ceremony was held at six different venues, five of them in Ljubljana. At the same time, the event grew in importance and recognition, whilst its message remains the same: although the nominees may be foreigners by origin, may not speak the language, Slovenia appreciates their efforts and contribution whether they are here for a limited term or for life.
Last year the well-attended event was held at Ljubljana’s castle and it was the best event to date. The venue, the audiovisual treat, the entertainment and the after-party brought together the vivid community of ‘guest stars’ and local business people.
The event, hosted by Croatian-Hungarian singer Andja Marić, featured the guest star nominees and distinguished guest speakers on the stage. The winner for diplomacy was Egyptian Ambassador, Ahmed Farouk. Among the business people, the laureate was taken by Turkish Airlines President, Ayhan Öztürk. Singer Hannah Mancini won the culture award and in sport, a person whose responsibilities are also business, took the prize: Andrea Massi, team manager and trainer of Slovenian skier, Tina Maze.
Not just about winning but to take part
Over seven years the Guest Star campaign has honoured many individuals, some of them appearing several times. The principle behind the campaign has not changed, although the rules have undergone slight modifications. While the nominees themselves have been put forward by a special Guest Star committee who also consider proposals by readers of The Slovenia Times, the final result depended on popular vote via the website. This has been an advantage for those who are able to launch their personal voting campaign through social networks and mailing lists and so, from last year on, the Guest Star committee contribute 60% of the voting decisions. Additional rationale for this change was to adjust the result and take account of the level of the candidate’s contribution, not just their media popularity which in most cases influenced the vote. The system, although not perfect, has proven to bring a more balanced vote. The Guest Star committee includes editors of the most influential Slovenian media.
Nonetheless, since there is no way to impartially evaluate the value of an individual’s contribution, the organisers want to take every opportunity to stress that the final vote only brings a dramatic moment to the finale of the campaign – the nomination itself should be considered a honourable achievement.
Back to the East
As mentioned, the first Guest Star event took place in the eastern Slovenian health resort of Rogaška Slatina. Since then, the event has taken place in Ljubljana or to the west. Maribor, as the European Capital of Culture is the only logical choice for this year’s event. Maribor is also the hometown of The Slovenia Times organising partner: Radio Slovenia International. All in all – the pieces for this year’s event have come together neatly. The venue will be the new, prestigious City Hotel and as in all years, we look forward to a fabulous evening with many interesting people, both foreign and Slovene.
Guest Starring: Hannah
The final event of the Guest Star campaign is traditionally hosted by someone who can bring to the audience both the serious and entertaining elements of the campaign. This year, the choice could not be any better, with singer Hannah Mancini kindly accepting this role. Hannah moved to Slovenia from Los Angeles where she already had a successful career in music. Currently involved in several music projects, she is best known among the Slovenian audience for her singing performances in the band, Xequtifz.
The recipient of last year’s culture award, which she received with much appreciation saying it somehow rounded up her transitional time after coming to Slovenia. She is looking forward to hosting in Maribor and for her part, she assures an entertaining event.