Photographer:Fotograaf: Guesthouse Brouwersweg where ISN's Atlas is located
MAASTRICHT. Before the summer the International Student Network (ISN) withdrew as the organisation responsible for Kaleido, the international student club in the Timmerfabriek. This means it will not be the club’s main operator. Within Maastricht University there had long been doubts about the enormous task ahead of the ISN, a small organisation with a rotating board that had difficulties getting the programming and marketing off the ground. Last year UM established its own project team to carry the load temporarily.
The initial intention, after the university and the city council signed an agreement in 2015, was for the ISN to manage the international student club at the Boschstraat. This would give foreign students an alternative to hosting what often turn out to be massive, unsafe house parties.
The club will likely be officially opened in 2019, but without ISN, which threw in the towel a few months ago. “It wasn’t working”, says Laurie Paul, last year’s ISN secretary. “The plan in its current form is not the same plan we signed on to. We felt it was no longer our project. The project has become too big and we’re too small to take on that amount responsibility; you need professionals for that.”
Those professionals have already been involved with the international student club for months. Doubts within UM arose early about the ISN’s capacity, especially as they had no entrepreneurial experience (financial, legal, programming or marketing) and the composition of the board changes every year. UM came to their aid in the form of personnel – but then that aid just kept on growing. Little was accomplished in the course of last year, and the collaboration with the Muziekgieterij, which is housed on the same premises and supplies the hall, became increasingly rocky. A project group took over the reins, led by Thomas Schäfer, a former student, ‘Student & City’ project leader and initiator of the online portal MyMaastricht. “Something had to change”, he says.
They came up with a name – Kaleido – and the club started hosting stand-up comedy series and fortnightly Trench sessions, featuring artists from the Netherlands and abroad, in partnership with the Muziekgieterij. “Our goal is to contribute to the cultural offering for international students, to find a niche”, Schäfer says. “We have lots of ideas and a vision of how to proceed, so in that sense we have the green light from the council and the university. The ISN was always involved, but the cooperation and communication were far from smooth. Kaleido needs to be inclusive, by which I mean everyone should be welcome there. In my view the Timmerfabriek shouldn’t be used to house an exclusive, private club.”
The ISN has since found its own location: Atlas, in the Guesthouse on the Brouwersweg where many international students rent rooms. “It’s more manageable”, Paul says. The bar is open for ‘pre-drinks’ every Tuesday night from eight till eleven. There are also study places and ISN’s office.
The ultimate utilisation and legal form of the club from 2019 are still under consideration, says Schäfer, whose team includes two other members paid for by UM. The university has no plans to take on the role of operator. “We have another two years. Our focus now is on developing a location with a good atmosphere, fostering a bottom-up community, and providing music, social events and education, for example in the form of lectures.”