Why we're teaming up with European partners

At Welcome to The Village, we embrace partnerships. And our collaborations don't just end at the border. By working with local European scenes like ours, we are creating a new network of equally minded souls, enabling musical talent to perform across borders and enabling the festival to widen its horizons. After all, we're stronger, together. Something we would like to tell more about on Europe Day. 

The main driving forces behind the internationalization of the Welcome to The Village festival, are Eva van Netten and programmer Peter Dijkstra. From within several levels of Welcome to The Village, there's a close cooperation with European scenes, in particular with regards to music. We have a close working relationship with several scenes in Aarhus, Hannover and Manchester, for instance.

These scenes, often festivals, pop platforms and record labels, are local ambassadors. "And in that regard, they are like us," says programmer Peter Dijkstra. "We are a group of people organizing a local festival, giving bands from our own scene a stage. Across Europe, we are on the lookout for partners that are also giving local performers a space to perform. Often, you're connecting on multiple levels, and are faced with similar issues we can help eachother with. We consider them friends and that is how we treat eachother."

Dijkstra explains that being able to be innovative is a major benefit for the festival. "We ask our European partners to send over their three best bands, and we then promise to do the same. These are often local scenes that are very close to the source. Then there's the fact that it is incredibly hard for bands to play outside of their country's borders. I see this as an investment in our own network, but also theirs."

Our European network is expanding every year. We have worked with Fuchsbau (GER), Sounds of Arhus (DEN) and Poppunt (BE). And for this year we have added the influential Slovenian record label Moonlee Records to that list. "We are a small label representing the best music coming out of Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia," Moonlee's Miran Rusjan tells us. This year, girl band Zen will represent the premiering record label. "Hopefully, this will be the jumping-off point towards a closer cooperation," says Rusjan. "Like Leeuwarden's, our scene is relatively small. As or scenes are quite similar, I think working together would be mutually beneficial."

For Moonlee Records, this collaboration means an opportunity to promote their bands. "The national music market often is too narrow for bands to be able to survive and in the end, music should be borderless. Because why should we want to keep our music in a set frame? This feels like a very organic way to place alternative bands in the spotlight," according to Rusjan.

For relatively unknown and talented bands, it is incredibly hard to perform outside of their own scene, let alone in other countries," programmer Peter Dijkstra tells us. "Our core goal is providing a stage for new talent. European scenes, and that means us as well, are closest to the source. Our relationships are based on trust, and trust you have to build over a number of years by investing in these relationships. A nice side effect is that we can book bands for our festival way before these bands start running their affairs via a large booking office. By working together at a local level, we are creating a European network outside of the beaten, and often commercial, track."

Last year Dijkstra and Van Netten went to Manchester to explore the scene there, meeting up with Un-Convention's Jeff Thompson. Thompson says: "Un-Convention is working on organizing events and conferences focusing on the do-it-yourselfers of the music industry." During that meeting, something happened that is quite characteristic for Welcome to The Village's scenes program. Van Netten: "While we were enjoying a cup of coffee, hip-hop artist and project manager Danny Fahey walked in. We immediately hit it off and that same year, Danny, also known as Thirty Pound Gentlemen, hosted a workshop for hip-hop youth in Leeuwarden. Just like that."

Because of the collaboration between Welcome to the Village and hip-hop organization Leeuwarder Collectief, Dona B and KUÒ (Kuo Weh) will going on exchange to Manchester in June. Leeuwarder Collectief is a hip-hop organization focusing on participation and talent development. "A unique opportunity for us," front man Kuo Weh Ho of the collective tells us. "We will be joining forces with a local grime artist to create something great. At last year's festival, we worked with Danny, resulting in an incredible track. A collaboration like this is really motivating. There definitely was a vibe going on between Danny and us, but a collaboration is so much more than that. It broadens my horizon, gives me the opportunity to learn from others and it is challenging, forcing me to step outside of my comfort zone. This should be definitely become a more natural way of working."

Bands and artists can learn a lot when playing abroad, according to Thompson. "You discover that each city and each scene works in its own way. Lots of English bands are well aware of the fact that playing abroad is a valuable experience. I really think there should be more international collaborations."

The fact that the idea of one Europe is under pressure, makes working together even more important, says Kuo Weh Ho. "Connection and collaboration might be obvious to this generation, but it is a hard-won privilege. Let's not forget that." The scenes should spend time fostering these collaborations. "You need to reach out to people and organizations, and invest in maintaining those contacts."

And that's exactly what the TANDEM meetings in Brussels are for. Van Netten attended on behalf of Leeuwarden. "While we were there, the UK voted to leave the EU. There were also some Brits attending and they were visibly affected by the outcome and were wondering what this would mean for them." Thompson is sincerely hoping that the Brexit won't affect Un-Convention's collaborations and the way these are structured. "Nothing's sure yet though. There's a lot of uncertainty right now. Hopefully, when all is said and done, we will still be in a position to work without hitting too many roadblocks."

Meanwhile in former Yugoslavia, Rusjan is on a mission to build bridges. "For us, it is very important that we have a joint platform to promote bands. The countries we're active in, were at war with one another until quite recently. We see music as a loud and uniting instrument for spreading ideas against the short-term politics of the nationalistic movements of these nations."

Are you sure music is the way to go then? "I think it is," says Kuo Weh Ho. "News outlets and other media are biase, regardless of what sources you use. But artistically, people are usually more open to other things, and willing to venture out of their comfort zone."

More results of our collaboration with our European friends can be seen (and heard) at our festival. But we're also collaborating in other areas. For instance, during the week before the actual festival, there are several networking meetings. Furthermore, Welcome to The Village is part of the TANDEM network, which aims to share knowledge and experiences with partners working in the same field.