Looking back on a succesful online Winternachten festival
The Writers Unlimited Foundation looks back on a successful first online edition of the Winternachten festival. When in November 2020 it became clear that the theaters would be closed to the public during our festival period due to corona measures, in a few weeks the intended plans were changed and an online festival edition was made.
From Wednesday, January 13 through Sunday, January 17, 2021, the festival streamed seventy-five minute programs in the evenings from Theater aan het Spui in The Hague. In each of these five programs, the festival theme 'It's up to us' was highlighted from a current perspective. The Istanbul Convention, women's rights, climate injustice, happiness and activism, among others, were discussed in interviews and newly written texts. The programs were made by Ilonka Reintjens, Ellen Walraven, Joëlle Koorneef, Meltem Halaceli, Nisrine Mbarki, Gerlinda Heywegen and Fleur Jeras.
Writers Unlimited director Ellen Walraven says: "It's up to us, that was the theme of Winternachten 2021. And yes, it was up to us. But more than that: it became an 'us'! We made five wonderful live programs.
We want to thank everyone for that.
And how we missed the audiences! But: we were able to capture the special conversations and talks in a great way that we will soon share and preserve. We are grafting new content onto it in our slow festival that will continue through the last winter night on March 20.
We'll stay with you, will you stay with us?"
Here's some comments from participating authors:
Congratulations on an amazing and thought-provoking event. I am happy everything went well. I particularly thought PEN president's speech was powerful, entirely perfect and delivered with amazing grace and beauty. I hope it motivates people to support the fund.
Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe)
Thank you so much for such a wonderful night, it was the closest thing I've come to * an atmosphere * in a long time and it was such an honour to hear the other poets before. Let's hope there is a future where I one day make it to The Hague and we can have a glass of wine!
Leena Norms (UK)
It was a beautiful festival and I was very happy to take part.
Sulaiman Addonia (Belgium)
Approximately one thousand ticket buyers followed online the interviews, conversations, readings and contributions by a very international group of thirty-nine writers, poets, performers and moderators. That is less than the approximately five thousand people who visit the festival in "normal" circumstances in The Hague theaters, district libraries, universities and high schools. Many viewers showed their appreciation and responded with 'likes' on social media or with positive comments via mail, chat or tweet.
Highlights of the online Winternachten festival 2021 included the presentation of the PEN Award for Freedom of Expression to writer Tsitsi Dangarembga in Zimbabwe and the online interviews with authors Koleka Putuma from Cape Town, Alexis Wright from Australia, Arnon Grunberg from New York, Dilara Gürcü in Paris, Zsófia Bán in Budapest and Mithu Sanyal in Düsseldorf.
These interviews were interspersed with pre-filmed contributions and live performances. Simon(e) van Saarloos, Chihiro Geuzebroek and Laura van Dolron, among others, recited powerful, newly written texts live. The vlogs with essays, stories and poems by Mona Eltahawy, Leena Norms, Sulaiman Addonia, Annemarie Estor, Amahl Raphael Khoury and Jens Meijen, among others, proved to be visual and aural literary jewels.
Singers Benjamin Fro, Shishani and Bahghi and choreographer-dancer Gil Gomes Leal performed new work and poignantly emphasized the live nature of our programs. The moderators Mirthe Frese, Fiep van Bodegom, Nicole le Fever, Chris Keulemans and Hassnae Bouazza knew how to hit the right note and navigate the viewer along conversations, lectures and contributions.
In the Grote Zaal of Theater aan het Spui in The Hague, conversations and performances were recorded in a beautiful setting designed by Reier Pos. The programs were surrounded by animations by graphic design studio Eindeloos. The whole event was expertly directed by video and live stream producer VideobriX, recorded with five cameras and broadcast as live streams.
About Writers Unlimited
Writers Unlimited brings together writers, poets, thinkers and scientists from all over the world to discuss current themes in literature, art, science and society. Annually in January in the Winternachten international literature festival The Hague and throughout the year on location in The Hague. The activities of Writers Unlimited are made possible by contributions from the Municipality of The Hague, the Dutch Foundation for Literature, the VSB Fund, Dioraphte, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Fonds 21, Lira Fund, Stichting Vrienden van Writers Unlimited, PIP Den Haag, PEN International and Novotel Den Haag.