“More and more, we get the impression that the city council does not want our kind of activities at all. They send the police out for every little thing, even in anti-riot kit.”
Last Wednesday afternoon, a group of students were letting off steam in the corridor outside the hall of the university council. At the UC's invitation, they had just spoken with the relevant alderman from the Maastricht city council, Jacques Costongs. Except this was not about the trouble with the police. It was about the Muziekgieterij and the ban on a number of events issued by the city council and about the buildings on the Boschstraat, the Ossekop and the Mandril. Together with others, the students - Aranyo Aarjan, Rouven Brües and Johannes Kempka - organise music parties, performances, shows and so forth at these locations. The events are visited in particular by foreign students, but the city council is putting an end to them. Two major events at the Muziekgieterij have been prohibited; the hall itself even has to move. “The reason is,” as Costongs had already explained to the university council, “that the zoning scheme does not really allow buildings on the Bankastraat to be used for music events. The city council has turned a blind eye and the Muziekgieterij has become a success. But as residents are now threatening to take us to court, we had to take action and prohibit the two large events. We are looking for a new location, perhaps the Platte Zoal at the Griend. As long as no alternative has been found, they will stay in the Bankastraat.”
The alderman proved to be a great advocate of parties organised by students themselves (“we really do want your kind of activities, there must be a place for that in the city, Maastricht needs a good shake-up”), but for the moment the students find this hard to believe. UCM student Aranyo Aarsan after the meeting: “Why throw up all those obstacles? Why involve the police? We have only been frustrated the past few months.”
In the meantime, the students have published an open letter to the alderman (see Observantonline) and are holding a protest meeting in the city park with the motto ‘stop cultural exclusion’ on Friday afternoon, 8 June, from 15:00 to 21:00hrs.
OPEN LETTER TO THE MAASTRICHT ALDERMAN FOR CULTURE,
Dear Mr. Costongs,
this letter should be the start of an open debate about the city of Maastricht, its University, its
students and the way these actors relate to the creation and shaping of ‘culture’ in Maastricht.
Maastricht together with its partners in the Euregio wants to become the European Capital of
Culture in 2018. However, simultaneously, a great deal of the city’s population has a strong feeling
that what they value as culture is continuously discredited and threatened by actions of the
This group of people consists mostly, but not exclusively out of students. Students from all over the
world and the Netherlands, but also other locals non-affiliated with the University united by the fact
that they look for more and different than the cultural offer presented in student associations,
Platielstraat cafés, or the multitude of top-edge restaurants.
Over all these years we have created what we saw lacking in the city on our own: Art and
photography exhibitions by local artists and students; integrative theatre performances; pop-, rock-
, blues-, jazz-, hip-hop-concerts; open-air movie screenings; dance-events; whole festivals…the list
is quite extensive. Seldom, there was support by the municipality, but we still made it work: Most
was carried out by volunteers without any financial means wherever it was possible: In our own
private homes, outside, in squatted buildings like the Landbouwbelang, but also in collaboration
with local initiatives as the Muziekgieterij which used to be open for promising projects.
Currently, all this is under severe fire by authorities. As well known, the Muziekgieterij has to leave
its current premises very soon and a decision on its future has not been taken. Recently, this venue
received an order to not allow any student-driven events anymore, effectively illegalizing their effort
to broaden Maastricht’s cultural programme. Even worse, the students were left with a prohibition
and hundreds of Euros of costs for artist’s salaries, advertisement etc. The cultural centers in the
Boschstraat, Hotel Ossekop and Mandril, have been threatened with huge fines should they
continue to offer their space for open cultural projects of whatever kind. This leaves a steadily
growing group of people with almost no possible locations anymore to create a cultural offer that
they deem valuable. The only student-driven, licensed spaces are the buildings of Maastricht’s
student associations to which many (international) students cannot much relate to. Moreover, we
are not speaking about a small group of international students only: A petition to save the
Muziekgieterij has been signed by more than 1200 people within a few days!
However, these latest events just appear to be an unpleasant manifestation of what we perceive as
a structural problem in Maastricht: The municipality and the stakeholders involved in the Capital of
Culture-project seem to want to define culture along very rigid lines: A ‘sjiek en sjoen’ culture with
which especially large amounts of students cannot at all identify themselves. We accept that this is
part of the city and that another part of the community values it a lot. Yet, we demand the same
mutual acceptance of what we consider culturally enriching. Throwing stones in the way of citizens
who want to add to the cultural offer by closing down more and more open spaces does not come
across as an integrative approach. We want to be considered as equal citizens that should have
equal weight in the cultural community. Mayor Onno Hoes himself said during a meeting with a
group of students last year that the municipality has dramatically neglected the student population
of the city in the cultural program. Why not change that and make real use of the cultural capital in
our city to become a true Capital of Culture?!
Both the city, as well as the University should have an inherent interest to create an environment in
which all people living in Maastricht can find their spot. The University has great aspirations to
become truly international and could not want to receive bad feedback because (international)
students did not enjoy their stay besides the study. Yet, also the municipality should do all they can
to be an interesting place for students to stay living in after they graduated and look into their
future. A city that not only neglects what they demand from culture, but actively works against
promising projects does not at all have this appeal currently. Therefore, we request recognition and
space for our culture!
In detail, this translates into the urgent demand for a venue where open-access, student-driven,
cultural events can take place. This should be a place for everyone in Maastricht who aspires to
realize theatre, cinema, dance, music and art of any kind. Providing the necessary licenses such as
for instance those already issued to other student associations – night-license, a license to run a
bar – would finally legally recognize a non-commercial cultural platform. Such a place could be the
future-Muziekgieterij, but could potentially be other already existing spaces – unused buildings are
numerous in this beautiful city! We strongly believe that our vision and demand for such a platform
is realizable. We are eager to help finding solutions so that for instance old buildings and spaces fit
the security norms of today. Neighborhoods would have less annoyance and students would have
a cultural platform – a win-win situation – that in our eyes greatly contributes to the aspirations of
Maastricht to become the European Capital of Culture.
In order to bestow our concerns more support we have organized a demonstration in the stadpark
(Kempland) on June 8th. Mr Costongs, dear university council, we would hereby gladly invite you to
join us in our cause in the park next week. We would further officially like to ask you dear Mr.
Costongs, to do us the great honour and be part of the podium discussion to which we will invite
Onno Hoes and the Committee Maastricht Cultural Capital 2018 to further discuss the vision of
We hope that you take up these remarks and demands seriously. At the same time, we would like
to strongly express that we want to address that issue in a positive and constructive manner being
an active part of the discussion and potential planning of such a step. Of course, we will always be
open to questions or concerns from your side as well.
Aranyo Aarjan, Tobias Bünder, Rouven Brües
(on behalf of the students)