I have lived in Amsterdam since 1985 but was born in 1962 and grew up in Emmen, Drenthe. In those years, a melting pot of people from all over the country who were trying to build a new future in a fast-growing industrial town at the end of the railway line. New ideas and a lot of young energy, but also far away from the establishment and the culturally much richer West. Historically and geographically it was much more connected to the German hinterland than to the Dutch provinces and therefore lagged behind in the development of the Netherlands.
Thanks to a visionary and innovative primary school and parents who encouraged me to develop my creative and artistic talents, I was able to flourish in that environment and later escape. I moved to Amsterdam in the 80s to become a dancer and stayed there after my dance career because I like and appreciate the energy, diversity, challenges and relative tolerance of the city.
I see a lot of my own history and old desires reflected in the children, young people and young adults I work with now: children at schools in today's multicultural Amsterdam, young people in East Africa. Children and young people who want to develop creatively and artistically in an unstimulating environment. Students and young artists in Europe and East Africa who want to use their talent in a socially relevant way.
I now live on the Amstel, in the center of the city, and I enjoy it every day. But the covid pandemic and lock-downs of the early 20s have made it even more clear to me than before how the community in this part of town has been eroded by mass tourism and how it no longer seems to be connected to large parts of the rest of Amsterdam. Loneliness, the disappearance of social cohesion, quality of life and housing are things that need attention and care. I want to do something about that. In my own life, neighborhood, city and community. Amongst others through the TurnClub Amsterdam.
Not that I occupy myself all day with the big social issues, but I do try to apply my experiences and knowledge of working from the mindset of an artist in my work as a consultant, lecturer and trainer in education and as a project coordinator and trainer in my social artistic projects in East Africa. But also in my work as an independent trainer and teacher in many other places.
Since my adolescence, I have dedicated myself as a volunteer, activist and professional to the LGBT+ movement. During the struggle for more rights and an equal position in society in the late 70s and early 80s, through the HIV-AIDS pandemic and now in the middle of a new movement of young LGBT+'ers fighting for more rights, visibility and recognition. I focus on supporting and strengthening this movement among other things as a board member of Document Our History Now, which helps LGBT+ people in South-East Asia to become more visible and to record their history, and as an advisor to GUMZO, an organisation for LGBT+ people in the rural west of Kenya, and also as a facilitator for the Amsterdam Velvet Rage group that deals with questions concerning the mental health of gay men.
As an educator, trainer, artist, manager and supervisor, I have learned in many different ways the value of allowing 'uncertainty' and 'not knowing'. In learning processes, in co-creation processes, in change processes, in design processes and in processes of personal growth. Moving between all kinds of different interests and forces, allowing 'free play' can get these processes going, loosen patterns, bring in new insights, products and solutions, and increase involvement and pleasure for everyone involved.
The combination of learning and working experience that I have built up in the first 60 years of my life is perhaps not the most obvious but it 'fits' for me. This is who I am and this is who I want to be. And so this is what I have to offer the world.