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Welcome To The Village Throws Open Its Infrastructure
The Quietus , July 11th, 2018 10:45

Sjoerd Bootsma, director of the Dutch festival, talks about his cosmic vision of the festival, which also features musical performances from Tune-Yards, Mykki Blanco, and the Mark Lanegan Band

Welcome to the Village, a music festival taking place this month in this year’s European Capital of Culture1, Leeuwarden-Friesland, promises to be more than just a bunch of bands in a field, a bit of overpriced nosh, and some distinctly unsavoury portaloos. Welcome to the Village is intended as a glimpse of the future, a look at the world five to fifty years from now, and an attempt at prefiguration and practical solutionism in action.

“We see ourselves as a happy activist festival,” says festival director: Sjoerd Bootsma. “We live in a small region here. There is a lot of urgency in this region when it comes to our future – having to do with biodiversity, social diversity, how poorly we deal with the land. We tried to make a festival that is a temporary village, a temporary society. And if we can make it work for three days, then why can’t we make it work in everyday life?”

Alongside performances by artists including Tune-Yards, Joan as Police Woman, the Mark Lanegan Band, Mykki Blanco, Häxxen, and Shame, Welcome to the Village is also playing host to a large-scale innovation lab – what Bootsma calls “a sort of hackathon” – inviting 125 people from all over the world, including designers, artists, technicians, to come and work on sustainable prototypes. The designs and ideas that come out of that process, along with many more from forward-facing start-ups and small businesses in the Netherlands and beyond, will not only be displayed in the manner of gee0whizz innovation and design exhibitions but actually put to work in the infrastructure of the festival. “Testing grounds are the hardest things to find for new ideas,” says Bootsma. “Festivals are ideal living labs.”

Welcome to the Village enters its fifth year in 2018, but it’s given a particular boost on this occasion by the coincidence of Leeuwarden-Friesland’s taking up the European Capital of Culture mantle this year. A lot of the festival’s innovations this year have been facilitated by the cultural capitalship, claims Bootsma. Not just in the practical sense, of building networks, help with infrastructure, but perhaps more importantly, “it gave us permission – and guts! It’s all you need!”

“As cultural organisations, you have an obligations to take part in these conversations and use your festival to make a difference – not only before the scenes, but also behind.” with these concerns come questions about representation and inclusion. This year Welcome to the Village has ensured that ten percent of it’s bosses, builders, porters, security and volunteers are from communities recently arrived to Leeuwarden-Friesland, an act that defies tradition structuring and hierarchies. The spaces that a festival provides for women and intergenerational exchange have been responsive to shifts in the gendering of music, just as the installation of a one-kilometre drinking water network enables a conversation about ecology to happen over the refilling of bottles.

“Change only starts when you have touched people in their hearts – artists can do that. And that’s the contribution that we as a festival want to make.”

Welcome to the Village takes place from the 19 to 22 July. For tickets and further information, visit the festival website