Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
Breeding place for talented foreign students
MAASTRICHT. The Mandril, a community of mainly foreign students and a breeding place for talented individuals, will have to leave the former office building of the Radium plant. The user agreement with the city of Maastricht ends in November. There is no sign of a new location for the sanctuary, the regular venue of debates, film evenings, jam sessions and workshops. The leaders have sounded the alarm.
The Mandril was founded 2009 in a squat on the corner of the Boschstraat. They had to vacate this location to make way for the construction of a building for pop podium Muziekgieterij. In the meantime, the sanctuary has been in the former rubber factory Radium - the Kunstfront - on the Cabergerweg for five years. But not for long. They will have to move in November 2019. The city of Maastricht City Council has condemned the building and intends to renovate it. At a cost of 1.35 million euro.
The continued existence of the Mandril cannot be seen separately from the discussion about another sanctuary in Maastricht: Landbouwbelang. On Tuesday, 25 June the city council will decide on the redevelopment of that domain on the Biesenwal. Should the council agree, a tender procedure would be initiated for Landbouwbelang, which means that market parties can apply. Hogeschool Zuyd has also shown an interest in part of the building for its arts programmes. The price of the complex is 4 million euro (it is important that the price-quality ratio is 50-50, so the buyer must also have a good plan, in other words, it is not just about money). Chances of the Landbouwbelang surviving in its present form, are very slim. They may move to the Kunstfront building. So where Mandril is at this present time.
The Mandril recently wrote alarming letters to the press, sent by the Belgian Alicia Laureys, who completed the Bachelor's of Psychology at Maastricht University and is part of the twelve-member core team. She also had her say during a discussion by the city council about Landbouwbelang. It is true that they knew from the very beginning that they could only make use of the Kunstfront building temporarily, but the question still gnaws, whether they can't just stay after all, whether there is no alternative, why the city council can't see that they are added value to the cultural development in the city. Laureys: “The Mandril wants to know when the renovations will start - they say November but there are no definite plans for renovation - and we want to stay until the very last day, so that there is no unnecessary lack of occupancy again, like what happened in the Boschstraat.”
In an open letter, the Mandril community urges the city council to develop a decent ‘sanctuary’ policy and to support their centre. Chances are “that and important and creative cultural community of hundreds of young local people and students will be destroyed,” it states.
“Our predecessors, the former Mandril generation, built everything by themselves,” says Laureys. “Walls were put up, electricity and water was put in and a heater was installed. There was nothing whatsoever.” According to the Belgian, the first move from the Boschstraat to the Kunstfront had a tremendous impact on the ‘flow’ of the Mandril. “It will hurt us enormously if it happens again,” reckons the Spanish Elisa de la Serna, second-year student of European Studies, also active in de Mandril.
Upon entering the Kunstfront, the hall with an impressive staircase immediately catches the eye. Light shines through the large windows onto a mosaic mural by Charles Eyck (“we are not allowed to touch that,” Laureys explains). The former management of the Radium factory used to reside in this building. Today, there is a yoga space where we also have debates (“recently, there was one about the object of demonstrating against climate change,” says De la Serna), a ‘library’, a studio and a well-equipped kitchen. The ceilings have been opened up here and there, exposing the wooden beams. There are also damp marks. There is no heating.
Laureys and De la Serna describe the Mandril as “a community with a space, a breeding place for talent that is financially limited, a bit underground.” The biggest misapprehension? That it would be a drugs cave, a place “were we do nothing all day long,” says De la Serna. “We organise about four activities per week. We do so because we like to, because it gives us energy.” De la Serna feels “purposeful. The Mandril gives me an identity.”
Laureys describes her input as a “life experience, it brings you so much more than reading a text book at university.” De la Serna: “Here you learn how to take responsibility, how to care for others, to communicate, express who you are and what you want.”
Coming back to the future and the proposal by the city council to move Landbouwbelang to the Kunstfront building. Is there a possibility of merging the two sanctuaries? “That won't be possible because of space restrictions. We are also different organisations and we think differently about certain issues,” says Laureys.
There is no prospect of an alternative location for the Mandril. Traditionally they would like to be housed in a squat. But they know that this is illegal and "therefore not an option," says Laureys. The user agreement with the city was quite a step. Say we could return to the Kunstfront after the renovations, then rent would have to be paid. We would have to sign a contract with the city with all kinds of conditions. That's exactly the type of thing we don't want.” Besides, Laureys and De la Serna feel that the Mandril belongs in the centre of the city. “You don't want to be on the outskirts, that would make it difficult to keep a community together, let alone build one up.”