During Cultura Nova, from Friday August 26th till Sunday September 4th, Parkstad was once again filled with exciting visual theater in every nook and cranny. Every edition of the festival is special, but the 31st edition of this international visual theater festival was definitely one to remember. After a cancelled year and a version limited by the corona virus, Cultura Nova was back in business this year. There was a lot of action, with 85 different national and international companies presenting more than 350 cultural activities for all ages in 10 days, including 14 premieres, 22 co productions in Heerlen and Parkstad and even across the border in Aachen. In front of and behind the scenes of the festival, 600 employees – a significant part of them volunteers – ensured an unforgettable edition. The festival attracted over 73.000 visitors.
Beginning and ending
Cultura Nova 2022 was about beginning and ending. The festival opened with the performance ‘From the Ashes’, which the Catalan company La Fura dels Baus from Barcelona created especially for the occasion. Large visual scenes depicted the birth of Heerlen, its mining history, the dark period after the mines closed and the current renaissance. It was not only like a rite de passage for Heerlen and the more than 22.000 visitors, but also personally for Van der Hijden himself – who is quitting as artistic director. On the first festival day, Van der Hijden was named Limburger of Merit by Governor Emile Roemer; in addition, Mayor Roel Wever presented him with the silver medal of honor of the city of Heerlen.
Fiedel van der Hijden, initiator and artistic director of the festival, announced last spring that it was time to make way for younger people and handed over the baton to Lieke Benders on the last day of the festival. Benders is delighted with her assignment. "I have gotten to know the festival as a creator from the inside out over the past 12 years. During that time a mutual bond of trust has developed, which is characteristic of all artistic partners, volunteers, audiences and the city with which Festival Cultura Nova establishes connections. I look forward to building on those relationships starting in October.”
Crossing borders and connecting
Lieke Benders, who as of Oct. 1 also leads the Maastricht company Hoge Fronten in addition to being Cultura Nova’s artistic director, was responsible for crossing the border together with Studio Europa (NL), with the performance ‘Smalltalk'(★★★★☆ in the Volkskrant) in German Aachen. ‘Smalltalk’ was a theatrical meeting journey in coaches between Heerlens Tempsplein and Aachens Ungarnplatz – an ode to smalltalk, a tribute to the meeting and connection of different worlds. The theme of connection was something that several performances and activities had in common at the festival. Willem de Bruin (NL) with ‘Spuug van God’ brought a performance about identity, family and being different. De Bruin confronted the audience with the question of what it means to grow up as a colored boy in a typically Dutch village in the polder. A similar picture was painted by the photo exhibition ‘Eerlijk gezegd’ which represented Heerlen residents who experience racism and discrimination. With photographic portraits and stories of a diversity of Heerlen people, dialogue and connection were sought. This was also the case with ‘Beeld//Formers’, an ever-expanding photo exhibition in which young people from the Heerlen asylum seekers' center showed a fresh view of Heerlen and Cultura Nova. During the festival, they stepped out not only with their work, but also with themselves.
International circus and street theater
Cultura Nova has now built a tradition of presenting top international circus companies. Yoann Bourgeois (FR) presented with his French company a circus dance performance on a huge swing with which they performed dangerous and almost impossible tricks. David Dimitri (CH) used to be a virtuoso with Cirque du Soleil; at Cultura Nova he presented the solo performance L’Homme Cirque’; in which – among other things – he fired himself out of a real cannon. Gravity & Other Myths (AUS) made the audience question the laws of gravity in eighty minutes of breathtaking acrobatics in their show ‘Backbone’. Canadas Machine de Cirque showed a wacky, upbeat circus performance for alla ges, with lots of music and comical stunts. There was also no shortage of international location theater this year. In Voerendaal, Kerkrade and Brunssum, the Belgian Theater Gajes presented the musical street theater show ‘Odyssee’, and in Landgraaf, the Wilhelminaberg was transformed into a fairy landscape by Aérosculpture from France and Compagnie Dwaallicht (BE).
Giving space to young makers
This years festival also offered plenty of space to young makers. Compagnie COVAR (BE) brought not one but two musical theater performances to Heerlen with Café COVAR – #GMS; and Nachtwaken; writer and theater maker Merlijn Huntjens (NL) presented his very first chapbook to the audience with a live performance in the Royal Theater; PANDA (NL) taught Heerlen citizens in ‘Antifest’; how to deal with every form of crisis and took them into nature with the launch of their app Yugo; students of VISTA College (NL) presented movement theater performance Vervellen; under the direction of theater maker Dönci Bánki; VIA ZUID once again delivered high level performances by young creators Celine Daemen (NL), Just van Bommel (NL), Laila Claessen (NL), Lieke van der Vegt (NL), Collective King Sisters (NL) and Roshanak Morrowatian (IR). The performance ‘Het Sterrehuis’ by Het Laagland (NL) about the children’s home of the same name was highly praised by the visiting audience and received a good review in the Volkskrant (★★★★☆).
The city in motion
After editions in 2019 and 2021, the Stadmaakweek kicked off its third edition during the festival. This year’s theme was ‘The city on the move;. We live in a time of considerable change and experience great pressure. We want and need to learn to manage our environment sustainably. How do we ensure that we can continue to live, work and play? The Stadmaakweek gathered residents, city planners and policy makers around this question. Each day of the Stadmaakweek had its own theme; from a Day of Art and Heritage to a Day of Citizen Power. The set-up was mostly the same: in the morning the participants went into the city and neighborhoods, walking or cycling. In the afternoon, participants shared what they had seen that day in workshops, lectures or debates. Each day ended with a Stadmaakcafé; a talk show discussion about the day’s theme.
Every day Cultura Nova at a distance
For the seventh year in a row, L1 descended on Cultura Nova so that Limburgers could also experience the festival from home every day; via L1 TV, radio and social media. From Friday, August 26 to Sunday, September 4, L1 covered the festival through reports, atmospheric impressions and interviews by Jolien Linssen and Wouter Nelissen. They also made a spectacular (live) registration of the opening performance From the Ashes, so that besides the thousands of people in the audience even more people at home could experience the show. In addition, every festival day there was the opportunity to enjoy the experiences of the audience, stories from the creative makers about their passion for art and theater and highlights from the many performances.
The next edition of Cultura Nova will be from August 25 to September 3, 2023.