We The Vikings exhibition. Pancakes and Possibility Róisín Stack (Theatre57) and Henk Rigter (Mooiedingenmakers) are working on Creative Mapping as part of their participation in our Tandem Cultural Capitals programme. Róisín recently visited Henk in Leeuwarden, she recounts her placement in this story. I arrived in Leeuwarden late on Thursday evening and a taxi took me through narrow streets running alongside a canal with humpbacked bridges; ‘On Thursday the shops are open late’ the Taxi driver told me as he whizzed past a few people on bikes and headed to the accommodation. The next day, Henk met me and we headed to his co-working space – the first of many impressive buildings I would encounter on my trip, the Kanselarij. There I met Henk’s Mooiedingenmaker partner, Koen, and we chatted about organisational development, working with local government and the struggle for funding. Kanselarij co-working space From there we went to a PANCAKE BOAT! Suffice to say my excitement was difficult to contain but I managed to exude some kind of calm as we enjoyed lunch with Sjoerd Bootsma from ECoC Leeuwarden 2018 and also a Tandem alumni. We discussed the remit of European Capitals of Culture, the legacy of Leeuwarden 2018 and the relationship between ECoCs and the European Commission. Pancake boat. In the afternoon I shadowed Henk as he met with a client, in yet another contemporary co-working space, Grand Café Z. Then it was into the not-unIrish weather for an amble about the town which involved a cheese shop, a bookshop, the library and a prison courtyard that has been converted and previously housed different arts groups in the city including Asterix and Leeuwarden 2018. In the early evening, we sat down with Johan de Vries who is undertaking the renovation of Westerkerk into an arts space. We discussed the drive to contribute to the local cultural offering, the need for alternative perspectives and spaces, and how to navigate relationships with local government. Then it was off to dinner with Henk and his partner Thilly, followed by the opening of We Vikings at the Museum of Fryslan. The night was rounded off at an Asterix punk gig in a very old-school venue, Zalen Schaafand, and then, finally, I settled into my lovely room at Henk’s mother’s house. The 'T' is for Tandem On Saturday I cycled into the city and Henk and I discussed our project in more detail over tea. We also chatted about the challenges we each face in our organisations (Mooiedingenmakers / Theatre57), both personally and in terms of sustaining the mission of each organisation. In the afternoon we met up with Jorges from Nordic Wave who filled us in on his Tandem project over (more) tea (at this point I had adopted the European style of drinking tea without milk – super continental). I then headed back to Henk’s mother’s on the bike, where a lot of Henk’s family had gathered to meet his new-born nephew. This was a lovely unexpected slice of Dutch family life that I enjoyed a lot. Then it was out to Henk’s beautiful country home for a look at the rural landscape and to eat some lasagne (this is the point where I learned that you don’t have to pre-cook lasagne sheets. A pivotal part of the Tandem experience). Harlingen sunset After a much-needed extended sleep, Sunday rolled around and we headed out to the countryside to enjoy some Fryslan culture. The first stop was at Franeker for the amazing Eise Eisinga Planetarium, followed by tea and a pancake (what else). Then we headed onto Harlingen and were treated to a beautiful, mild, still evening where the sea stretched out like glass. We ate delicious kibbeling while watching the sunset and then took our weary selves back toward Leeuwarden. That night we met with another Tandem family member, Arda, and enjoyed some drinks and a catch-up with her about her Tandem project and what she has been up to. We discussed our hopes for our project and the value of the programme and the network it provides. Oldehove On Monday it was goodbye and off on the train to Amsterdam, leaving lovely, funky, chilled Leeuwarden behind. For now. I was inspired by how many people I met in Leeuwarden who were working hard to diversify the cultural offering. Although similar in size to my home city of Galway, Leeuwarden definitely has more cultural and creative co-working spaces and seemed to have more of a counter-culture. At the same time, it is a quieter city- but then Galway’s buzz is hard to beat. Although I saw three of the 2018 fountains, an exhibition, a home-made planetarium and several creative spaces, my favourite structure was the leaning tower in the centre of the city. It started life as the first part of a grand church but, I was told, once they realised the tower was sinking, they stopped building and the architect threw himself off the roof. Over the years the city tried to correct it and compensate by building against the lean, but ultimately they couldn’t straighten it out so they left it alone and it is now one of the major attractions. It sits there like a strange sore thumb, a monument to the possibility that arises out of failure.