MAASTRICHT. “Progress, ah! Progress, ah!” Performance artist Rachel Solomon is performing her interactive poem about politics on the little stage next to the campfire at the St Michel farm, just outside Maastricht. Her performance is part of the annual WE festival, a collaborative, non-profit and sustainable festival organised by Maastricht students, locals and artists. The festival took place from 4 to 10 May.
Solomon has asked the audience to say ‘ah’ every time she says the word ‘progress’. They seem happy to comply, and give her an enthusiastic round of applause at the end. At a stand next to the campfire people are selling home-brewed beers, and further down the lane the organisation Maastricht goes Vegan is selling vegan kebabs. The whole scene is decorated with lights, garlands, colourful fabric and hexagons with the letters ‘WE’.
The week-long programme includes wide-ranging activities in the categories ‘music & parties’, ‘food & sustainability’, ‘arts & culture’ and ‘workshops & lectures’. The events are organised by local associations such as Students for Justice in Palestine, DemoTech and the Foodbank Maastricht. This year’s festival also had a Political Action Day and a Gender and Sexuality Day. Organiser Alia Schwelling is happy with the result: “When I started organizing this year’s programme I didn’t expect we’d even get close to the success of last year, but we did. There were lots of people, we had a very full programme and I think I can safely say that everyone enjoyed themselves. The feedback we got was excellent.”
According to Schwelling, the strength and success of the festival lies in its setup: “The WE is a showcase for creative, talented and motivated minds in Maastricht, who come together to create a community with a lot of love and dedication. What it does is simple: it provides a platform for anyone who wants to share something. Most of our programme is organised not by us but by artistic, creative and political individuals and organisations. WE only helps people to bring their ideas to fruition, find venues and cover costs. People are not only encouraged to visit the festival but also to shape it with own ideas and to really participate at all levels. But above all, the WE is special because it’s an exceptional week full of magic.”