Cultural season opens in Maastricht
September 19, 2008 Leave a Comment
Rainy weather usually inspires people to make themselves a cup of tea and dive into a new novel. However, if you’re in Maastricht, this doesn’t work quite so, especially on a weekend when the city is celebrating the beginning of a new cultural season with two major annual events.
Although the weather forecast for the weekend of 13-14 September didn’t seem promising at first, Sunday actually turned out to be a lovely day and everyone in Maastricht was able to enjoy a vast range of activities taking place in the city centre as part of the popular festival “Het Parcours” and the national Heritage Days .
Het Parcours 2008
Het Parcours can be described as a big cultural festival in Maastricht combining performances, whether theatrical or musical, with art exhibits and an omnipresent feeling of joy floating in the air. Centre Céramique, Derlon Theatre, Bonnefanten Museum, Art House (Kunsthuis) Theo Hubens and Film theatre Lumière are just a few of the 38 different locations that took part in the festival.
Het Parcours was officially launched on Saturday evening at Vrijhof Theatre, and featured concerts by SLIM/Kumulus Bigband, the Limburg Symphony Orchestra and Ensemble Ad Libitum, as well as theatre performances by the students of the Maastricht’s Theatre Academy (Toneelacademie).
Still, in spite of the grey sky, the city started getting into festive mood even earlier, as the brass band De Durdauwers set off to warm up the atmosphere in front of the City Hall (Stadhuis) on the Market square (Markt).
Brass band De Durdauwers
Many of the art galleries which were offering a special programme on the second day of festival, were already open on Saturday. A cosy place to go and get acquainted with new artists is the Marres gallery, with two exhibits which will be on display until September 28th: On the ground floor, Flâneur: À l’extérieur. Rites de passage, presents a series of works focusing on the duality of the role of the “Flâneur” (“flâner” is a French word meaning to stroll) in contemporary urban life, when the observer becomes part of the observed. On the upper floor, Curtain Raiser presents short films by the French cinema director François Ozon.
Works by Michiel Kluiters and André van Bergen
Short films by François Ozon
Marres is also proud of its library which, according to its website, brings “the very best and very next in art books”.
On Sunday, there were activities going on in every corner of the city.
The Market square (Markt) was the stage for one of its well known antique fairs, where visitors could browse for old paintings, chandeliers or fancy plates. One friendly elderly lady was selling many brooches that all came with a story, such as the silver ones made after the Second World War out of coins bearing engravings of the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina.
Antique fair at the Market square
Somewhere off the Market square (Markt), teenage dancers were performing surprisingly well-rehearsed street dance acts, causing their audience to clap loudly each time they managed to do an impressive acrobatic move.
Every here and there ad hoc stages were rapidly put together in order to make room for music bands like Wenne . To my ears, not only was the music very engaging, but the feeling that every major street had a personalized sound was also wonderful. The live music attracted people of all ages to gather in crowds and bond with the artists.
Plein 1992 was another location that welcomed outdoor cultural shows. People were drinking coffee and dancing at the smooth chords of electric guitars. Three giant plastic poodles were keeping an eye on the whole celebration, as an intriguing example of contemporary art. The six meter high king poodles by artist Florentijn Hofman had turned the square into their territory.
Florentijn Hofman’s giant poodles
Sambaband Segura! provided another highlight of Het Parcours. As the music band moved from the Vrijthof square towards Onze Lieve Vrouweplein, the streets became heated with sounds of samba reggae and samba batucada. Many people got off their bicycles and left their terrace seats to watch the performers all dressed in black passionately playing their drums.
Heritage Days (or Open Monumentendagen in Dutch)
The Heritage Days festivities, which started in the Netherlands in 1987, are part of a widespread European programme aiming at raising public awareness on the importance of preserving historical monuments. The event takes place every second weekend of September, when about 4,000 historical buildings and sites offer free entrance throughout the country. Some of the locations also organize other activities that include music shows, tours and exhibitions.
On a stage situated next to the terraces at ‘T Bassin, the historical inland port of Maastricht, SLIM/Kumulus Bigband received loud applauses from the large crowd of people who had decided to enjoy the sunny afternoon on one of the sites of the Belvédère urban project in Maastricht.
One of the open monuments was the Helpoort, or Hell’s gate, which is the oldest surviving city gate in the Netherlands dating from 1229. Visitors could climb up to the tower to admire the beautiful view of the surrounding area, or enjoy a drink at the pub below, which was also hosting theatre plays and piano concerts for the occasion.
Obviously, one of the trademarks of the Heritage Days in Maastricht was the Selexyz Dominicanen bookshop, which especially for the event had placed a temporary bridge within the church to allow the public to take a look at a current restoration process on one of the walls. Visitors of the bookshop could examine the restoration of a 1337 mural wall, known as the earliest depiction of Thomas Aquinas. Not only does the mural belong to a very early period, but it is also one of the oldest paintings where the author used three-dimensional techniques to create a more realistic image. After one year of restoration during which the mural was thoroughly cleaned and the loose parts were consolidated, the results are now visible. Expers from “Restauratie Atelier Limburg”, who are conducting the works, provided the necessary explanations.
Restoration works at Selexyz Dominicanen
The program also included the Maos en Neker choral group and the satirical play “Patience” by William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.
For a newcomer in Maastricht, the wide pallet of activities that were available could seem overwhelming in the beginning. Still, this type of busy weekend seems to indicate that the city of Maastricht is paying attention to the cultural life and needs of its residents.
It might be worth keeping an eye on Maastricht’s cultural calendar!
Text and photographs by Catalina Goanta
Catalina Goanta, a Master Student at the Law faculty in Maastricht, is fascinated by the biorhythm of Maastricht.
Happy couple, photographed during Het Parcours 2008