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HOLLAND FESTIVAL 2020 CONNECTS CREATORS AND AUDIENCES IN FRAGMENTED TIMES

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The Holland Festival 2020 had an exceptional year; due to the corona pandemic, it did not physically go ahead for the first time in its history. Instead, it was given an online programme as its fulfilment. Holland Festival online programme 2.0-2.0 was the 73rd edition of the festival and the second to work with an associate artist. This year it was choreographer, director, writer and dancer Bill T. Jones. With the online programme, the festival wanted to do justice to the makers it had engaged this year and to the special position of the associate artist. It became a digital testing ground with a varied and coherent offer around the theme In pursuit of the we - in times of social distancing that was accessible to everyone online for free, with the intention of also reaching new audiences. In times of physical distance and isolation, this way the festival still found a connection with its makers and with familiar and new audiences.

Facts & figures

The online programme included thirteen different formats including streamings, podcasts, video clips, letter series, master classes, (after)talks, films and an online exhibition. Work by thirty-four makers and companies was shown for 11 days in thirty-seven programme sections. Based on Google Analytics data, the festival attracted over 42,000 visitors to its own website. The streaming service YouTube used counted over 100,000 views of the Holland Festival programmes shown.

Associate artist and festival theme

Bill T. Jones bestowed the festival with the theme In pursuit of the we. Jones always paid attention to themes of race, gender and (dis)equality in his work, but his gaze gradually shifted from the individual to the 'we'. In his cancelled performance Deep Blue Sea, Jones would start solo and end with a hundred dancers on stage. This fact was echoed in I know..., a digital ritual by Jones in collaboration with video artist Ruben Van Leer. More than a hundred submitted video messages about what people 'really know' came together in a visual mosaic. The festival also produced The Problem, a video montage about the world of ideas behind Deep Blue Sea. And Is There a We?, a conversation between Jones and writer Ellen Ombre, visual artist Melanie Bonajo and activist/choreographer Naomie Pieter led by presenter Ikenna Azuike. Writer and Jones expert Alessandra Nicifero curated the interactive portrait How Can I Recognize You? which gave Jones' more than 40-year career a digital representation in text, photos and video. Finally, Jones gave a master class for young musical theatre makers for the Holland Festival in collaboration with De Nationale Opera.

Together with Bill T. Jones, the Holland Festival set out to find that "we". The global pandemic and protests following George Floyd's death made the festival theme even more urgent and topical. Following the performance The Just & The Blind, spoken-word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, composer and violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain and choreographer and dancer Drew Dollaz interacted with each other and the audience during a live streaming to discuss current events and institutional racism in the United States and elsewhere.

Musical world premieres

For the project When Paths Meet - shifted to Holland Festival 2021 - world-renowned singer, composer and musician Sami Yusuf collaborates with Cappella Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Andalusian Orchestra. Yusuf presented a new song, the remotely realised ONE, especially for Holland Festival 2.0-2.0. He used German texts by the 13th-century Christian metaphysician Meister Eckhart and Arabic texts by Abu al-Hasan al-Shushtari, the 13th-century Andalusian mystic and poet. The texts are thematically linked: they speak of one seeing, one knowing, one love. ONE has been viewed more than 100,000 times worldwide since its world premiere during the online programme. From her living room, Alicia Hall Moran converted the performance the motown project into a music video for which all her musicians recorded their parts at home. With Bitter/Sweet, Cappella Amsterdam and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century paid tribute to Frans Brüggen, founder of the orchestra, but also to Louis Andriessen, composer of the Sweet mentioned in the title. During the recording of the concert, recorder player Lucie Horsch received the Dutch Music Prize from Minister Van Engelshoven.

Notable projects

The festival collaborated on an audio project by Scottish sound artist Zoe Irvine in collaboration with Bergen Nasjonale Opera, This Evening's Performance Has Not Been Cancelled. Audiences phoned staff from several European opera houses and festivals and spoke at the Holland Festival about Rusalka by De Nationale Opera and The Murder of Halit Yozgat by Ben Frost and Staatstheater Hannover. A film was made during the rehearsals of The Murder of Halit Yozgat in June, which could be seen as online streaming. The festival took part in the Festivals for Compassion initiative which featured Thin Air, a new solo composition by composer of fatherland Calliope Tsoupaki, performed for the festival by guitarist Wiek Hijmans. It also featured work by Ho Tzu Nyen, Rokia Traoré, Snarky Puppy, Micha Hamel, BOG. and a recording of Susanne Kennedy's Drei Schwestern. Garin Nugroho's film Memories of my body, the Indonesian Oscar entry for best foreign film in 2020, opened the online programme.

Listening and watching

De Groene Amsterdammer made a podcast series for the Holland Festival. Presenter Stephan Sanders spoke with connoisseurs and critics about Alicia Hall Moran's the motown project, Elaine Mitchener's The Vocal Classics of the Black Avant-Garde, Glory & Tears by the Collective Love & Revenge, Jozef Wouters' INFINI 1-16 and about African-American theatre-maker Rufus Collins. The only programme for which audiences could buy tickets was Jem Finer's Longplayer, a thousand-year composition for singing bowls, of which every visitor could listen to a half-hour fragment in the turret of Amsterdam's Lloyd Hotel.

The Holland Festival sees this edition as a testing ground and is exploring whether to continue new forms in future editions. The festival gave thirty-four makers a stage, it reached new, large and younger audiences and it increased its online visibility.

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