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An interview with Marijn Nagel - Production Coordinator at Noorderzon and alumnus of the BA Arts, Culture, and Media

"Production is the best possible translation of the creative idea into practice"
20 August 2018
Marijn Nagel
Marijn Nagel

It’s that time of year again: Noorderzon will start next week. “Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival Groningen is the somewhat curious combination of a cutting-edge international art festival and a large-scale summer fest for 135,000 visitors. The heart of the festival is the idyllic Noorderplantsoen (a city park) where, for eleven summer days, a freely accessible festival village appears almost out of nowhere to provide a setting for theatre, dance, music, literature and visual art in combination with eating, drinking and social encounters. Performances take place in tents or on outdoor stages in the Noorderplantsoen, as well as at many locations in the inner city of Groningen.” [1] Marijn Nagel, 29, alumnus Arts, Culture and Media, is currently very busy with setting up and preparing the festival. Why did he choose the ACM programme and how did he end up at Noorderzon? We asked him!

Why did you choose the Arts, Culture and Media programme?

"In 2006 I came to Groningen to start the Dentistry programme. After two years, I thought, "This is not for me." In high school I was already very interested in music and festivals. The arts side, really. I knew I wanted to stay in Groningen and when I read about the ACM programme on the website of the University of Groningen, I was immediately drawn. A roommate of a good friend of mine also did ACM. I asked for her experience, and she said she really enjoyed it. So then I decided to enrol.”

What did you enjoy the most about your time at ACM?

"The atmosphere was very good. I immediately made great connections with a lot of people. The year also started off great with an introduction camp organised by the study association. I really enjoyed all the courses from day one. Everything just clicked. The programme is very diverse, especially in the first year when you take courses from different disciplines. I particularly liked the courses in Art History and Music History."

How do you look back on your time as a student?

"It was a very happy time. I’ve been pretty active at the study association IK. I organised the foreign excursion to Istanbul, for example. I also organised a conference and was part of the book committee. I also loyally went to their monthly drinks with my group of friends, who I bonded with right from day one. I wasn’t always the most diligent student, but I always studied for exams and didn’t have to take a lot of resits. I especially enjoyed writing papers."

You started your own company (Nailed it!) during your studies. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

"In my third year I did an internship, which was optional. You could take elective courses, do a minor, also at another faculty, or you could go abroad. But my preference was to do an internship. Then I ended up at the Night of Art & Science, a festival here in the city. It was a very nice internship, I got a lot of space to come up with my own ideas. After my internship, my supervisor had a few job opportunities for me and he advised me to register with the Chamber of Commerce, so I could invoice. I then had to complete two more courses and write my thesis, but I was able to combine my studies with the projects. From that point things started to move forward. For example, I organised the POPgroningen Talent Award, a band competition for the province of Groningen. During the summer I worked at a lot at festivals, such as the Festival der Aa, Welcome to the Village and Noorderzon. People have usually approached me for projects or jobs instead of the other way around, that really feels like a luxury."

How did you end up at Noorderzon?

“I started at the ticket sales. The following year I was asked to coordinate a production of a theatre company that was performing at Noorderzon. Since last year I am the production coordinator of Noorderzon, before I did the production of the Noorderplantsoen for two years."

What does your job as a production coordinator entail?

"Among other things, coordinating the production of the park, i.e. helping to make the drawings, ordering tents, fences, containers, furniture, you name it. Together with the programme producer and the safety coordinator, I am responsible for the big picture. The three of us ensure that everything turns out as planned. I would say production is actually the best possible translation of a creative idea into practice."

How long do the preparations of Noorderzon take?

"On 7 September we will clean up the last items from the park. Then I will spend the rest of the month processing, checking invoices, evaluating and making plans for the upcoming edition. That means: taking materials in option, making the first drawings, seeing if and which major changes we want to make. Also consider whether there are any external factors that we have to take into account. This year, for example, we are a week later than usual. This has to do with Leeuwarden, the European Capital of Culture. During what would normally be our opening weekend, they had their performance "the Giants." We decided to move our opening date to a week later, so we would not be in each other’s way. Because we are not on our usual schedule, we had to face some logistical consequences. For example, tents that are first used on Lowlands, then go to Noorderzon, after which they go on to Into the Great Wide Open on Vlieland and now we coincide with them. That meant that we could not get some things this year, so you have to think about solutions. The intention is to open uring the last weeks of August again next year."

What makes Noorderzon special for you?

"What I really like about Noorderzon is the mix of the festival. On one hand it is a big end-of-the-summer party, where people just come to have a drink and listen to great music. On the other hand, there is a high-end international theater and dance programme. The location also makes it special. The Noorderplantsoen - which is already a beautiful place - will be transformed into a magical festival location with beautiful tents, terraces, squares and lights. Even if you’re not necessarily into theater, you can still go to Noorderzon and have a really great time."

What is the best / finest / funniest / most special thing you have experienced at Noorderzon?

"To me, the moment we open is always special. We start building on Monday and after 11 days of construction, it’s suddenly Thursday, 4 PM. One moment you are crazy busy with the last preparations and the other moment, visitors are entering the park. And then suddenly you’re a festival. That’s always very special to realize and experience. That we pulled it all off together."

Can you also enjoy Noorderzon as a visitor or do you still have a lot of work to do durig the festival?

"No, I'm still working working hard. The morning starts with a meeting with the management team, in which we discuss the day before and the day that is to come. From then on it’s a matter of making sure that everything runs smoothly. In an ideal world everything always goes as planned, but that’s not always the case. We have daily consultations with the municipality, the police and the fire brigade to see if there is anything out of the ordinary going on. I do try to visit at least one show, but in doing so I always make sure I have my phone on hand, and that I have a chair near the exit, so I can easily get out if necessary."

What do you like the most about your work in general?

"The variety. I am involved in many different festivals, projects and events, and every one of those projects is different. For example, I also do the transport coordination for Eurosonic, which requires a completely different skill set. The variety and diversity of it all makes my love my job. Also, a lot of my study mates ended up in the same field. So you run into each other everywhere which is nice, and also very valuable in this industry."

It sounds like your work is your hobby too.

"Yes, it certainly started off as a hobby. During my studies I organised a lot with my friends. We have organised a dance party in the Subsonic and a singer / songwriter evening, for example. So yes, I really turned hobby into my job, which I am very happy about. But it took some hard work to get there, of course."

What are your tips for (prospective) students?

"For people who want to end up in the same field, I would recommend to showcase yourself as much as possible during your studies. You can’t start working at festivals early enough. Sign up as a volunteer and indicate that you would like to learn more about the organisation part of it. Make use of as many opportunities as possible during your studies. Organise a congress, for example. This way, you start with something very small, but you really learn the basics how to organise an event. During your studies you get the space to explore and discover. You don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money, you have good guidance, and the freedom to create cool things. Don’t think 'once I have that piece of paper, employers will be lining up to have me,' because that’s generally not the case. You have to know people. And those people need to know what you want, and what you’re capable off. At that point the ball will generally start rolling."

Curious if the BA programme Arts, Culture and Media might be something for you? Get more information here!

[1] Noorderzon, 2018. About Noorderzon,

Last modified:21 May 2019 3.42 p.m.
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