The organisers of the WE festival are hoping that they will create a community. The festival, which is organised by students in co-operation with parties such as Landbouwbelang, Maastricht University, Novum and the Green Office, will be held for the third time, from 8 until 13 May. The programme is diverse: yoga in the park in the mornings, a vegetarian dinner in the evenings, and an improvisation workshop or a film screening in-between.
According to Aarjan Aranjo, Chris Klän and Johanna Ranulla – all three UCM students and part of the core team of organisers – the strength of WE is bringing together a variety of student activities. The aim is not to create individual workshops or parties, but to build a festival framework in which students can meet. “Two years ago we wanted to bring together the various Landbouwbelang activities and parties,” says Aranjo. “This was the origin of the WE concept.”
Just before the event last year, the students suffered a tremendous blow: Sofia Tussis, UCM student and also active in the organisation of the festival, passed away. “We eventually decided to continue with the festival, and it definitely proved its value. We knew Sofie well. WE turned out to be an important, wonderful place for the community to deal with this loss. A lot of people really came together there.”
And that is what WE is all about. “We think it is important to create a community spirit,” says Klän. “That sounds soft, I know. At the same time, the festival is also about social themes such as sustainability, which we can only bring about together.” This community feeling has to be transferred by activities. “For this to succeed, the audience has to participate,” says Klän.
It sounds wonderful, but during the talk it becomes clear that there is a gap in the community: the three organisers expect more foreign students than Dutch ones. “Dutch students often have their own circles of friends and activities already,” says Klän. “It is a familiar problem in this city of students: foreign students and their Dutch counterparts tend to stay within their own groups.” According to Aranjo, this applies in particular to the traditional student associations: “Dutch students already have a framework in which to organise activities. We have never worked with those associations.” On the one hand, the WE organisers regret this. “On the other hand, they do not really have an agenda, whereas we want to address certain political and social themes during the festival,” says Klän.
Lack of recognition is not something the festival needs to complain about. The third edition is larger than the previous two, and will even cross the borders by co-operating with the CommOn festival, a series of international festivals taking place successively in various cities, including Brussels, Gent and Hasselt.
Johanna Ranulla: “We believe that we have created something permanent. It would be great if, from next year onwards, we could get started with a dedicated group immediately in September.” Then she jabs her fellow-organiser: “By the way, did you know that the ME festival is one week after our festival? This stands for Maastricht Entrepreneurship… I think businesses come by or something like that …” It conjures up an image of bankers and profit-seeking multinationals. Aranjo sniggers. “ME and WE. That can hardly be a coincidence. Me, me, me, make money: that is not what we stand for. We v. Me!”