Let The Cultural Season Begin!

Het Utrechts Archief
Every year, around the beginning of September, Utrecht holds a big party to kick off the beginning of the cultural season. The Uitfeest, as it’s called, sees a smorgasbord of cultural events taking place all over the city. There are special exhibits, dramatic performances, literary discussions, dance lessons, city tours and much more. This year’s Uitfeest was held this past Sunday and G and I took advantage of the day to go to Het Utrechts Archief (The Utrecht Archives) to finally see their 3D Expo showcasing old photos of the city dating back to the mid 1800s, all in 3D.

They have special viewers set up throughout the exhibit area, with sets of photos dating from the 1850s to the early 1900s. All are beautifully done to give a wonderful 3D effect, making it all seem much more real and immediate. I loved seeing a couple of old photos of my neighbourhood and seeing how little has changed in some ways!

We also got to watch (in regular format) some old pieces of film footage of the city, with clips dating back to the time of Queen Wilhelmina, the current queen’s grandmother. There was also a section showing the Catharijnsingel (canal) being filled in to turn it into a roadway. That same roadway is now being turned back into a canal.

Old Music

After spending a couple of hours at the Archives, we wandered through various other spots around town, enjoying the sights and sounds. The Domplein was filled with people taking special tours that highlighted the city’s 2000 years of history. It’s also one of the locations where the Old Music Festival is also taking place. Each year, they build a different gold/yellow gate (seen above) into the pandhof as part of the festival.

Salsa at the Vismarkt
Walking along the Oudegracht, we saw salsa dance lessons being given at the Vismarkt. The lessons were given by one of the local latin dance groups in town. Anyone could join in.

Next we headed to the Stadhuis (old city hall), because there was a small photo exhibit I wanted to see. It was 30 photos of 30-year-olds in 030 (the area code for Utrecht). The square behind the Stadhuis was packed with different groups. There was a literature display, various dance and drama groups, a bus promoting Utrecht’s bid to be one of the Cultural Cities of 2018, food vendors, and much more.

Red Carpet Festivities

There were also performers on unicycles and acrobats who stopped along the way to perform various feats. They seemed to be heading toward Neude, which is where we were heading, but we lost them somewhere along the way!

Our last stop was in Neude, where there were concerts and fashion shows and other events taking place all day. In all, there were 150 various cultural events/installations and there were more than 55,000 people in town to enjoy them all, up 5,000 from last year. The arts are alive and well in Utrecht! If you’re interested in seeing the 3D Expo at Het Utrechts Archief, the exhibit is open until the end of October.
Concert at Neude

A Whole New Take on Tubular Bells

Autumn Domtoren
Last night was the last of the Domtoren carillon summer concerts. To close out the series, carillonneur Malgosia Fiebig, along with pianists Sandra Mol, Jeroen van Veen, and Marcel and Elisabeth Bergmann, performed Mike Oldfield’s classic Tubular Bells. Even if you’re not familiar with Mike Oldfield, you’re probably familiar with the part of Tubular Bells that was used in the horror film classic The Exorcist.

The concert, since it’s performed in the Domtoren, is easy to hear throughout much of the city center. Knowing we can hear the Domtoren during its hourly musical interludes, G and I decided to listen to the concert from our back terrace. Unfortunately, we forgot to account for all of the neighbours around us, who were all eating dinner, watering plants, having phone conversations, and generally making the most of the nice weather. Still, we could hear all but the quietest bits and it really was wonderful to hear it played on such an instrument.

I didn’t realize at the time, but they had seating set up at the Buurkerkhof so that people who enjoy the concert. In addition, they projected on a wall in the square a video image of the musicians performing.

Per the short YouTube video of the concert that I found comes the following trivia:

The pianos were amplified using speakers pointing in four directions at a height of 40 meters (the sound you hear comes from the tower and was heard throughout the city!). The performers were playing in a small room at a height of 70 meters.

I didn’t get any video, but fortunately, others did. Here’s a link to a short section of the concert, and below is another short version of various sections of the concert. Enjoy!

The Big Utrecht T-shirt Competition

Utrecht Skyline
Has Utrecht inspired your creativity? If so, you may want to consider a new competition taking place that aims to find a winning T-shirt design that best represents Utrecht. The VVV Utrecht and Katoenfabriek are looking for the best t-shirt designs to be voted upon and then sold on utrechtshirts.nl.

The competition highlights the creativity of Utrechters, while also continuing the idea of duurzaame (sustainable) textiles and printing. I told you sustainability has been a keyword around the city recently. If you want to participate, go to utrechtshirts.nl to read the rules and download the template. The designs are then loaded to a Facebook group where people will vote on what they think is the best design. The winner will receive their winning shirt at the opening of the new VVV Utrecht concept store, as well as receive a portion of profits from any shirts sold.

You’ve got until 20 September to enter, so get to sketching!

(My Utrecht-inspired painted cigar box is still available, by the way. Hit me up with your best offer, if you want. Don’t forget, the holidays are coming up!/shameless plug)

I Thought He Was Dead …

Festival a/d Werf
The other evening, G and I decided to walk past the Stadsschouwburg to see the structure that had been going up for the Festival a/d Werf. It was opening night, so we actually got to see the building in use. The program being presented is Dat Staat (That State). As the program explains, it is “a challenging theater project in which actors, audience, and experts — in six days — establish a new state, and perhaps create history”.

Terug Naar Start

From what we could see, it does seem to be fairly interactive. The audience was seated in sections and they all seemed to be wearing sashes. I couldn’t hear very well, but it definitely seemed like audience members were being chosen to stand up and interact and perhaps give opinions. It seemed to have a humorous element to it, though, because one of the actors who was calling on audience members seemed to be dressed as Qaddafi. The show took an even more surrealistic turn when “Qaddafi” appeared up on a second level and began playing a keyboard/playing DJ while singing Lionel Ritchie’s infamous song, Hello.

The show seemed to be in a mix of Dutch and English. One of the MCs was speaking in Dutch, but the Qaddafi character was speaking in English during the part that we saw. I didn’t hear which language the audience member responded in when she was called upon. It seems like it might be an interesting program. If you’re in town and interested in seeing it, it runs May 21, 22, 25, and 26, and begins at 20:30. Tickets are €15 online.

Dit Staat


Ecstasy of the Beat

Feel the Rhythm
Before heading to the market today, we took a slight detour over to Korte Minrebroederstraat and the Stadhuis. I knew that there were supposed to be various events there today as part of the In Vervoering Festival taking place in Utrecht this weekend. The festival is a mix of music, poetry, theater and film, often mobile, and in unexpected places and formats. You can ride in a bakfiets and have poetry recited for you, for example. The festival continues through tomorrow. More of the action is moving to the nearby Lepelenburg Park tomorrow, so I’ll have to check the schedule and see what else might be worth checking out.

What we saw today was a bit like Stomp, but with cups, along with a bit of singing and chasing. It was a fun performance to watch. For once, I thought to use the movie option on my camera and filmed a snippet of the performance. Don’t mind the bikes passing by; that’s just normal life here.

If you can’t see the embedded video, click here to go to the youtube page.

Utrecht As Art

The art scene in Utrecht is thriving and active, with numerous groups and individual artists doing their thing, be it traditional canvas painting or guerrilla knitting.

The CBKU, a non-profit art organization located on the Plompetorenacht, is active in promoting art of all types by up-and-coming artists in Utrecht. They’ve got Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and they’ve got an online magazine, called Lucy. I came across Lucy today while following a link to an article about a recent gathering of artists who went out and made the city a little bit more artistic one recent Saturday night.

While looking through the e-zine, I came across what will be a recurring series: Zicht op Utrecht (View of Utrecht) by Nina Mathijsen. Every two weeks, the magazine will be posting aquarelle images of Utrecht, particularly its urban transitory construction architecture, as seen by illustrator and typographer Nina Mathijsen. The first of the series is posted above. I’m looking forward to following her interpretation of the city as it changes. What is shown in this first image is the area around Vredenburg, where the music hall is being rebuilt, and where one of the ring canals is returning. That whole part of town is a mass of construction, with the train station and the Hoog Catharijne shopping center soon to be joining in on the revamping. Tower cranes abound, giving tall competition to the Domtoren.

Biru the Chow Chow

The internet is a wonderful thing. A quick Google search and voila! I had the name and artist for this sculpture that stands down at the lower tip of the Utrecht binnenstad (city center), just down the street from the Centraal Museum at the Servaasbrug. The statue is named Biru, after the dog owned by the artist, Joop Hekman. This one is a copy of the original, which is part of a larger grouping in Enschede. The artist himself originally hails from Utrecht and he, perhaps not surprisingly, had contact with Gerrit Rietveld. It was through Rietveld that he was eventually commissioned to create the statue/fountain that stands in front of the Stadsschouwburg (city theater) here in Utrecht! Somehow I’d never found out the name or artist of the fountain, despite seeing it regularly. He has a few other outdoor sculptures here in town, which I’m now curious to go see.

Nederlands Film Festival Festivities

Nederlands Film Festival
The annual Nederlands Film Festival has returned. Every year, for a week and a half, Utrecht is overrun with film makers and film buffs as a variety of films are shown at cinemas and theaters around the city. I’ve not gone to see any of the films yet, but I always look forward to the arrival of the huge Gouden Kalf (golden calf) statue’s arrival in the grounds in front of the Stadsschouwburg. The golden calf is the symbol of the film festival and a miniature version is given out to award recipients. It’s essentially the Dutch version of the Oscar.
Golden Achievement
They literally roll out the red carpet at many of the theaters around town, and this year they’ve rolled out the red bikes, as well. At various spots around town, you’ll see a bicycle painted red and with theater names and directional arrows — along with the calf symbol — to direct visitors to the event locations. As you’ll see in the next photo, this bike is directing visitors to the City Theater on Voorstraat, and to the Stadsschouwburg off Lucasbolwerk.
Go By Bike
This evening, as we were relaxing on the sofa, watching the news about the austerity protests taking place in cities around Europe, we suddenly saw large groups of people walking past our own window. Was there an austerity protest going on right in front of us? An ironic one, considering the marchers seemed to be wearing golden cloaks? Nope! It was some sort of parade related to the film festival!
Golden Parade
I’m not exactly sure what the parade was for, but it might have something to do with the Jubilee Evening festivities taking place tonight. I found a mention of a parade of fashion artist Aziz Bekkaoui, but I’m not sure they literally meant a parade. Either way, there are music, art and film celebrations at the Stadsschouwburg tonight, and that seemed to be the direction in which they were heading.
Film Festival Parade
They were also singing as they walked along, and I realized that I knew the song! It’s a Dutch classic, although I admit that I know best the version that was performed at the first Nacht Van Het Vieze Lied (night of the dirty song) I attended. The song was Zing, Vecht, Huil, Bid, Lach, Werk en Bewonder (Sing, fight, cry, pray, laugh, work and admire) by Ramses Shaffy. I really do like this song, so for your listening pleasure, here it is!

Foto Vrijdag 2.21

No Little Plans [Day 146/365]
The annual Festival aan de Werf has been going on for the past week or so and as always, something interesting has gone up in the Neude square. Last year is was a giant inflatable penguin. This year it’s a massive sign. I liked the idea of that particular sign/saying juxtaposed with the Domtoren. It certainly required big plans to get the Domtoren built back in the 1300s.