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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On Gideon

I went to the Gideon Festival last week, as I try to do every year. Last year I went for an afternoon with the family, and we repeated it this year because it is fun to be at Gideon with small kids. For those of you who don't know: Gideon is an alternative festival, taking place at a squatter's location (`city nomads') in an industrial area of Groningen. It consists of three days/evenings with a funny mixture of hardcore punk, alternative rock, reggae & roots, various dance music, urban, and what not. The audience consists of a just as funny mixture of old punks, new punks, outlaws, families, bikers, skaters, and what not. And me and my family.

So we saw a band perform a sort of children's concert for approximately five children, we saw Lou Leeuw play, we saw some angry punk-like bands, and the kids climbed on an upside down sailing boat and coloured mandalas while a dj was playing reggae music and a guy in a kilt was collecting empty beer glasses. You get the picture.

I love Gideon. I think it is great that there is a place where all kinds of people meet and have fun and come to listen to bands who normally have their place somewhere at the outskirts of our music life. I love the people who organise it. And I think they should stick close to what they are doing because they provide a place where the outskirts become central for a weekend, including the people who populate the outskirts.

So when at some point a couple of years ago Gideon asked the local Arts Council for some funding, I thought the Arts Council should give them some money, so that some of our public money for culture would be spent on people who don't go to the normally funded places. And the Arts Council did fund Gideon - and then Gideon returned the funding the first year after the festival because the Gideon weekend had been very sunny so they attracted so many visitors that they did not need the funding after all. This returning-of-funding action even got into the regional newspaper, and indeed it was the first time I heard of such a thing.

But things seem to be changing, The festival is growing. The city of Groningen advertises it as one of its main festivals. Programming is broadened - jazz gets in, something for the kids. It seems to lose some of its underground flavour. The organisation professionalises. And this year, it was rumoured that this would perhaps be the last Gideon - because funding might stop next year.

And I can't help thinking: is it impossible in this, our world to organise a festival and keep it small? To not grow? To not professionalise? To refuse funding? To have no VIPs coming? To be satisfied with 2000 visitors in 3 days, instead of 6000 or 10000? To have 3 stages, instead of 10? To enjoy the moment, the people, and to leave it at that?

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