Spectacle at the Cape (SC) is a culture, music and art festival in the neighbourhood of Katendrecht in Rotterdam South that is organised for and by local residents. It aims to increase social cohesion among residents of Katendrecht. Initiated and organised by the local Cultural Energy Katendrecht (CEK) foundation, the first edition of the festival took place in 2012 and the second in June 2014. Katendrecht is located on a small peninsula and was once an infamous red-light district and residential area for harbour workers. Due to severe urban restructuring in the recent decennium, there have been tensions between some traditional residents (hereinafter referred to as old Katendrechters) and some new, mostly younger and wealthier residents (hereinafter referred to as new Katendrechters) on the ‘island’. Therefore, an interviewed director of the event argues that the festival focuses particularly on increasing social cohesion among these two groups. This is done, he explains, by visualising the cultural capital of the community through which the festival organisation hopes to rise the pride of residents in the area; by providing a range of activities that attract diverse resident groups; by hosting the activities in public spaces and in people’s homes to make them as accessible as possible; and by involving diverse resident groups in the organisation and management of the festival, including old Katendrechters.
The festival is aimed at all residents in Katendrecht: old and new Katendrechters, residents of all ages, household types and ethnic backgrounds, and all people with cultural interests, and possibly cultural talents. An evaluation of the 2012 festival showed that it was visited by approximately 500 people both from Katendrecht and outside the area, which indeed appear to belong to diverse resident groups. Nevertheless, according to an interviewed director, old Katendrechters were slightly underrepresented. The organisation of the festival is trying to include more old Katendrechters in the (organisation of the) 2014 festival.
The 2012 festival hosted activities in theatre, literature, arts, music, dance, film and photography in different locations on the island on a Saturday from 10am to 10pm. In 2014, the activities will be concentrated at a square located centrally in Katendrecht to increase the visibility of the festival. The activities are organised in different working groups which exist of local residents. The groups are coordinated by the management of the CEK foundation, all new Katendrechters. All organisers work on a voluntary basis. The budgets of the 2012 and 2014 festivals are € 14,000 and € 14,450 respectively. Subsidies are provided by the district government of Feijenoord and the Art and Culture Fund of the City [Dienst Kunst en Cultuur]. In addition, a local theatre which is subsidised by diverse public and private parties supports the festival with spaces.
Perception and use of the concept of diversity
Spectacle at the Cape uses local diversity as a strategy to achieve social cohesion. It does so by facilitating spaces for positive encounters, both while organising and during the festival. It focusses particularly on encounters between old and new Katendrechters. A director argues:
“We aim to attract diverse people, to enable crossovers. So that people can experience how great the performances are or how beautiful the new design houses [from New Katendrechters] are from the inside, because they are allowed inside. We hope that people will talk with each other”.
Also, by visualising and celebrating cultural diversity, the festival seeks to stimulate the emergence of a common pride among residents in the area.
Main factors influencing success or failure
The event contributes to social cohesion among diverse local resident groups (CEK, 2012). Several factors contribute to this success. First, the management of the festival uses an outreaching approach in which they actively invite a mix of local residents (e.g. both old and new Katendrechters) to participate in (the organisation of) the event. The management for instance seeks to attract old Katendrechters to the 2014 festival by regularly communicating about the festival with visitors and members of a local community centre which is mostly visited by old Katendrechters, and by inviting a writer who grew up in Katendrecht to read from a book that he wrote about ‘old’ Katendrecht at the 2012 festival. Second, the management has explicitly organised a wide range of activities at the festival to cater for the diverse cultural interests of the community. Third, a diverse group of local residents was involved in the organisation of the event. Several informal get-togethers were organised by the CEK management to meet local residents and invite them to help organise the event. Finally, by providing space for (any) local resident to share their cultural ‘talents’ with fellow residents, the festival communicates that diversity is a shared quality of the community:
“We have shown them [old and new Katendrechters] […] all that is there, [so they can] together be proud of it. [We] prove that we share a very nice little island” [Director].
Spectacle at the Cape also faces difficulties. An interviewed manager of a resident organisation mentions that a significant part of the old Katendrechters is not interested in ‘cultural’ activities. He also argues that the old Katendrechters as well as other resident groups (e.g. the Chinese community) have a long history of not mixing with other groups on the ‘island’. Organising a festival might not be enough to break this pattern for all old Katendrechters. Also, the festival experiences difficulties with finding sponsors for the event. The 2013 festival was cancelled after the City did not provide the granted budgets for the festival. As social cohesion has not been a priority in urban policy in Rotterdam under the recent two municipal governments, less money will be available for the festival in the future.
By celebrating local cultural diversity and acknowledging existing social structures the Spectacle at the Cape festival encourages the formation of a common pride among local residents in one another. The outreaching approach of the management, the organisational trajectory with diverse resident groups and the inclusive and diverse festival programme contribute to this success. However, the festival is largely dependent on public funding, and activities that aim at increasing social cohesion are not a key priority of the City of Rotterdam at present. Without alternative funding resources the continued existence of the festival is at stake.
Image: © Jacco Huijssen