Tandem Fryslan Final Meeting Photo by Guido Bosua Creating Mienskip across Wider Europe The final meeting of Tandem Fryslân took place in November 2018 in Leeuwarden. We report back from this week full of learning, sharing and looking forward. Mienskip is a Frisian word for a process that has been around for generations, it is synonymous with an instinctive action-driven, bottom-up organised form of solidarity. Core values such as mutual respect, equality and responsibility flourish whenever Mienskip is embraced. The process can be found almost everywhere, yet in Fryslân it has been given a name, and its presence is felt by people as a part of their culture. But Frisians are also prone to being wary of external input, clinging to a static definition of their culture and landscape. Throughout 2018, the Frisian city of Leeuwarden was European Capital of Culture (LF2018) and has transformed Mienskip into Iepen – an Open Mienskip. It retains the action-oriented, bottom-up spirit, but incorporates the open-minded, outward- looking attitude that is needed if our society is to evolve and connect with Europe. Which made LF2018 the perfect partner to run a Tandem programme here throughout the year. Tandem Fryslan Final Meeting Photo by Guido Bosua This first and only round of Tandem Fryslân has now come to an end, with all fourteen participants meeting in Leeuwarden on a cold November week. Using our usual Tandem methods and learning processes, Tandem Fryslân has facilitated the exchange of seven Tandems, creating collaborations around a wide variety of projects and themes: from shooting a documentary film about two musicians traveling in Ukraine and Fryslân, to organising visits and theatre workshops within the Roma community in Heraklion, many participants have been highlighting the same urge as they presented their outcomes to the rest of the group: to include their communities not only as an audience but also as active participants and creators of their own spaces for expression. This urge had also been voiced by Leeuwarden-based Tandem alumni Sjoerd Bootsma – who has been instrumental in setting up Tandem Fryslân (he basically co-designed the programme with us). In a recent discussion with us he said: Tandem Fryslan Final Meeting Photo by Guido Bosua The participants all come from different geographical and cultural contexts, with their own expectations, ways of working and their own understanding of what “community” means. It may not be the same in Terschelling and in Rijeka (which will be European Capital of Culture in 2020). But, as one of the projects openly asks: “Are we really that different?” This project, Transmission, involving two musicians – one from Ukraine and one from Fryslân – travelling and creating music together, has seen its share of challenges due to misunderstandings and also ignorance from the Dutch side about the political context of Ukraine. “The Dutch musician knew nothing about Ukraine, now he understands it much better and it was enlightening for us to learn that people can change their minds,” says Paul Giesen. The film that was made during the collaboration touches on the sensitivity of this issue which is not visible in the Netherlands, “People usually don’t understand the situation in Ukraine, but if we compare it to Israel and Palestine, they get it” says Alona Dmukhovska, voicing that people in the Netherlands don’t usually know much about the Ukrainian context because they remain far. “Tandem has offered a space to get them closer,” she adds. Tandem Fryslan Final Meeting Photo by Guido Bosua This is where we see the key role of the personal story, and the opportunities offered by different cultural and artistic approaches, to tell it. As part of their project Adéste/Kom Erbij, Hink Speulman and Irene Koutsaki have invited members of the Roma community based in a 40-year old camp in Heraklion to share their story. “We had psychologists, cultural institutions, high schools, the municipality, an organisation about human rights, and more joining. Many personal stories were told,” says Irene, “one participant shared the isolation he was feeling because of his sexuality. Many people started participating as they were hearing the different stories. The Roma youth also did a theatrical project based on poems they’ve written.” Here again, we see that there was little knowledge about the Roma people and the camp itself but visiting it and talking to people have changed that. The inhabitants are not used to welcoming visitors either, so the organisers needed the camp director’s support to be able to work with the community. Working with the WINDOWLICKER, the Creative Embassies project created by Wytse Dijkstra and Ivana Lucic brought a democratic way to adorning windows in both Leeuwarden and Rijeka to tell many stories. “The purpose was to decorate empty windows. It works with a screen-printing technique: everyone can do it” says Wytse. When he visited Rijeka as part of his placement, Wyste has experienced a great amount of enthusiasm, energy and a just ‘do it’ attitude in reclaiming public space: “I wanted to bring this mentality back to Leeuwarden”. When working with different communities across localities all Tandem participants voiced the same need: that we need to build trust with the communities within which we work, this becomes even more important when working in public space or in more remote geographies. After having shared their projects and exchanged learned lessons, each participant has voiced their Most Significant Change. This method which Tandem has been implementing at each programme’s final meeting has given tools to participants to move beyond their project while expressing what the Tandem programme brought to them on a personal, professional, community, local and European level. One significant change that came across through many stories has been the importance of looking at things from a different perspective, especially with cultural projects, as we have the opportunity to invite artists to explore and share how they see new environments, offering that fresh look at different contexts, which in turn allows a good start to initiate change. Tandem has also been a “chance to reinvent ourselves. We created a new scene and provoked new movements,” says Wyste who was also inspired by one of the theories in David Byrne’s book How Music Works. Tandem Fryslân has also supported participants in taking things to the next level and dare to be more ambitious. More importantly, as we hear throughout many of our Tandem programmes, the whole process of working in Tandem offers tools for empowerment in many directions and confirms the relevance of what we all do. And it encourages us all – participants and organisers alike – to move further: “it is a reminder that I am on the right track,” said one of the participants as everyone in the room nodded enthusiastically. More stories from the Tandem Fryslân participants will follow soon.