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  • Deborah A Allen

Mouldy bread?


It was more like a damp squib.

This was Leeuwarden, city of culture 2018. Our role as a city of culture is now officially over and there are few who will mourn its passing and even less who care. Even the closing gala was cancelled due to lack of interest!

I had my doubts right from the start, slightly unfairly I said I’d seen more culture on mouldy bread than I had here. That’s not really fair or true it’s just that the Friesian culture isn’t razzmatazz and glitz that you see in many of the bigger cities its slower, more hardworking and down to earth, its about who their fathers and grandfathers were and how they have lived and loved this land for generations.

But instead of playing to these strengths and honest principles those in charge tried to bring glamour to the region, they created a few plays and show pieces that most of the people who live in this town couldn’t even afford to go to and they spent millions on the French marionettes Royal de Luxe.

Not that I have anything against Royal de Luxe, the marionettes were a marvel of engineering, but they had nothing to do with Friesland. Apparently their visit formed a story which was played out over the city and spread over 3 days, the problem with this was that people who came to the town on any given day only saw the marionettes pass by for all of 2 or 3 minutes it was as if someone showed you a single frame from a film and said ‘now imagine the whole story’ it just didn’t gel into anything worthwhile.

Then there’s the fact that they had no cultural ties to Friesland, yet our own superhero a man called Grutte Pier or Great Peter was ignored. This is a man of legend born in 1480 said to be a huge fellow some 2mtrs 15 cm tall who could lift a plough with one hand. It was when his farm was burned, and his family killed by Saxons that he took up the sword formed a gang and went after the plunderers of his homelands and those who had sent them. He struck fear into the marauders and his revenge was swift running people through or lopping off their heads with his mighty sword. If a man could not say “Bûter, brea en griene tsiis, wa’t dat net sizze kin, is gjin oprjochte Fries” (Butter, ryebread and green cheese he who cannot say this is not a real Friesian.) he was dispatched without mercy.

His sword is over 2mtrs long and weighs 6.6 kilos any normal man needs two hands to lift it, but Grutte Pier swung it with one hand and is said to have felled several men at one swing. He is Friesland’s answer to Robin Hood yet there was no mention of him in this year of culture celebration. I think thats really a missed chance of sharing something /someone unique and truely of historical value and heroric nature with the wider world but, who am I?

There is a statue of Grutte Pier in his home village of Kimswerd and his sword is kept in the museum in Leeuwarden.

There was a production called the stormruiter about the battle our province has with the water (we are below sea level) and rise of the Friesian horse it and featured Friesian horses but tickets started at €50 which was out of range for many local people. Sadly there was no public showcasing of these wonderful dark horses or the Friesian dogs the Stabij and the Wetterhoun two of the rarest dogs in the world. Were they not worth mentioning?

A suggestion my daughter and I made to gather as many of these wonderful dogs together and have the Guinness world records verify it as the largest gathering of the breed anywhere in the world was brushed aside.

Friesian pottery was also not promoted in this year of culture nor was the Hindelooper artwork both much loved and admired art forms of this region.

There was so much to be proud of and yet in their wisdom the organisers went with French puppets.

Even the Christmas fair is Dickens themed and anyone who knows me knows I love Christmas but Dickens? Was he secretly Friesian? Not that I’ve heard, so how exactly does this tie into a Friesian city of culture?

In fact there will be no lasting legacy of our term as city of culture, no influx of investment or jobs no benefit to the residents, in fact most of the ‘events’ this year have passed them by without trace.

In fact may people agree that the only thing we will be left with is a whacking great bill.

Mouldy bread is the least of our worries because if estimates are to be believed at this rate we wont be able to afford the bread for the mould to grow on!

Yet again this province has been let down by decision makers, as the years pass I understand more and more the feeling of isolation the people have, the feeling that people in power don’t understand or care what happens in this little backwater province which is only good as the butt of their jokes and to house the German tourists, and yet in a way coming home on the train yesterday I realised I don’t care I don’t mind. I looked out of the window and watched the fields go by at level crossings perfect strangers raised and hand and waved a friendly greeting, I walked my dog late last night without a worry and for most of the day our back door is left unlocked.

Would I really want this to change by having big business, big investments and big city ways move in?

The answer is a simple No.

Leave us alone we are happy with our griene tsiis, our cows and our open fields.

Our idea of culture isnt glitz and glamour , its tradition, its history, its heritage, its found in the land and the people and I've come to realise its fine just the way it is..


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