When the Working Group Inkom (WGI) took office a year ago, there wasn’t a care in the world. The five members pondered the usual questions, such as: which artists will we invite, do we want to include a new item in the programme? Somewhat prophetically, the WGI chose the theme ‘Enter the Unknown’.
The emotional rollercoaster starts in March. One measure after the other is announced as the number of corona cases quickly increases. Among them: no events until 1 September. “Initially, we wanted to digitalise the entire original programme,” Berdenis van Berlekom laughs. “That was not feasible. That is when we started all over again and worked from ‘what is possible’.”
A digital platform is created, where first-year students can meet each other. A programme that consists partly of online workshops and livestreams of the traditional events, such as the Opening Ceremony and the Cantus, and partly of small-scale physical meetings, such as a city walk.
At the end of June, it seems like larger groups of people are allowed to get together. The WGI quickly arranges a number of activities. Picnics in the park and listening to music in the evenings at one of Maastricht’s concert locations. One and a half weeks before the Inkom starts, these plans are thwarted after all. Only meetings with an informative character are permitted to take place during the introduction weeks.
“Sometimes, you just have to take your medicine, but in this instance the medicine was very tough to take,” says Berdenis van Berlekom. “From an emotional viewpoint it was a difficult year, there were moments when we felt it hard to continue. But fortunately we were able to pick ourselves up each time and to keep going. With every limitation that was imposed, we thought: okay, let’s solve it. Other than that, you just shouldn’t mull over it for too long.”
After all the long days during the preparations, it was reasonably calm during the Inkom itself for the WGI. “That felt a little weird, because normally that is the busiest part of it all,” says Berdenis van Berlekom. “We attended a lot of events. Every day, we recorded Inkom TV (a kind of news broadcast with the latest Inkom news and reports, ed.) in the Student Services Centre where a studio had been set up, we attended the opening and closing ceremonies, and the debate on Tuesday. We also checked the tickets for the Movie Night ourselves once. In that way, you can have a chat with the participants. But you don’t see the hordes of people that you would normally see. It stays kind of intangible. The Opening Ceremony, for example, was watched reasonably well (with almost 1,500 devices logged in, ed.). – we don’t have the figures for the Cantus and the closing event yet – but you only see the views. You have no idea how many people are watching it on the same screen.”
The WGI considered adding in a kind of Zoom function to the livestreams, so that participants could also see each other. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t feasible within the timeframe that we had. Maybe next time, although I hope that the 2021 Inkom will be normal again. The participants could in principle also chat via the platform, but that was used less than we had hoped. People most likely reverted to the more familiar channels and set up a WhatsApp group with their mentor group.”
Sometimes those groups arranged to meet in het park. “We found it difficult in the beginning, we wanted most of all to keep tabs on everything. But that is impossible. You can warn students, you can advise them against meeting up, but in the end, they have to take their own responsibility.”
Summarising, says Berdenis van Berlekom, the Inkom “was far from perfect, but considering the circumstances, I am very proud. We gave students the opportunity to get acquainted with Maastricht and with each other. They did find each other, they made contact, and that is what it is all about.”