Friday 28 March 2014

Notes from Incubate Festival, Tilburg

Joost Heijuthuijsen from Incubate hosted us on the first part of our visit to Tilburg. Based in an elegant and stylish building that they managed to get for a knock-down price, Joost gave us a presentation about the Incubate Festival.

This is an annual week-long event featuring 'cutting edge' art work, that, in the 9 years since it began, has developed into what has been described as "one of the most interesting festivals in Europe".

What makes this festival interesting and distinctive is its combination of cutting edge work and community involvement. These are some of the words and phrases that Joost used to describe the values and flavour of Incubate:
"do it yourself - use what you have around you to get things done"
"Don't fear mistakes, learn from them"
"It's better being different than being average"
"Be innovators not imitators"
"Content is king"
"Value your values"

From a small start with hardly any funding, the festival has grown into a full-time operation with a turnover in the region of €900k and income from local and national funds, sponsors and ticket sales. The event now attracts visitors - and artists - from around the world while still retaining the involvement and spirit of Tilburg's local communities.

We were struck by how the festival organiser's radical approach and commitment to leftish ideals were being embraced by authorities who could see the tourist and economic benefits of 'doing something different'.  We were also impressed by some of the different ways that local communities were engaged, starting with internationally renowned artists being hosted by local people not hotels.

Although the festival has grown significantly, this open and welcoming practice continues. Using familiar music, such as folk, audiences who wouldn't normally be interested in other art forms and especially cutting edge work, are drawn in to new experiences and social spheres. Community forums have been created to involve local people in curating aspects of the festival and, despite some fears that this might 'dumb down' the content, this more open approach has helped keep a bold, exploratory edge to the programme.

Madeline, City Arts

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