Can you introduce yourself for the people who don’t know you? Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Joke, 30 and originally from a little village called Koudum in Friesland, NL. I’ve been living in Groningen for 13 years and earned my degree in Medical and Radiotherapeutic Techniques here. I’m currently working at the UMCG hospital as a coordinator for the children’s team for radiotherapy. This work is a lot more serious than what I usually do, but I invest the same amount of love and passion as I do with all of my other activities. I love my colleagues and working with children in this sector gives me a lot of energy. The strength, purity and imagination of the children I work with is really impressive to experience. I keep myself busy with a number of things, as I’m definitely doer! I’ve done modelling work, been photographed, had my own magazine (FARTmagazine), bouldered (a form of climbing), gave anatomy lessons and was a student coordinator at the Hanzehogeschool Groningen.
I love being creative in my daily life, channeling this through drawing, painting and designing tattoos. My SO and me have made it a habit to enjoy festivals together, travel around the world and generally enjoy life with our amazing friends!
What do you do at Paradigm and how did you get involved in the first place?
This is now my 6th year at Paradigm with the first years as a volunteer and the last as a freelancer. I started helping at the festival grounds back in 2012. That was a very fun and also cheap way for me to earn a ticket. *Working with dozens of other volunteers behind the scenes to come up with crazy new ideas for the festival and seeing them come to fruition, only to be enjoyed by the thousands of visitors each year. I really get a kick out of that!
My first year consisted of assisting at several projects, such as implementing artistic objects around the festival grounds, painting a bunch of things and creating plant sculptures that were implemented in the Glazen Loods. I worked with a bunch of pallet wood during my 2nd year, creating an access gate from the chillout to the main stage. Harmen (SO) and me got involved in the regular creatives team in my 3rd year, which enabled us to create new things for and party in the old club at the Helsinkistraat! Both of us are pretty skillful with our hands and I’m not the type of girly girl who’s afraid to break her nails. You make me way happier with a drill and a jig saw, rather than new shoes and a manicure! It’s probably because of my father, who was a carpenter and passed his genes onto me. I did a couple of wall paintings for that 3rd year, as well as a poster design, created a few painted and crafted lions for Kingsnight and Kingsday. We also created a photo booth for the 2014 edition of Paradigm Festival (La Maison de Paradigm), where we made a homely atmosphere with true Grandma & Grandpa style decorations! For the last festival, me and Harmen created several seats made from car tyres to be used in the chillout! These were all relatively small but very enjoyable projects to think up and carry out!
The new festival location at the Suikerunie has grown a whole lot bigger compared to the Helsinkistraat. Last year, during the first festival edition at the new location, they’ve asked me to take care of the decoration in the forest stage. As I love nature, I immediately saw a bunch of opportunities to work with! I was inspired by other festivals for our brainstorm sessions as well, such as Fusion, Psyfi, Burning Man and Wildeburg. I started to work with my team whilst keeping the main theme (Jules Verne) in the back of my mind. It was then when my experience as a coordinator in the hospital paid off. I was constantly playing to the strengths of my team and tried to let the individual qualities shine of each of my team members. When I started, I sort of expected me and Harmen to do all of the work, so every added team member was a true blessing that I made use of! We had people paint a number of masks from their home, people who were spreading tree bark shavings all over the forest, people who recycled plastic bottles and transformed them into mushrooms and several tough-looking carpenters who’ve build the DJ-booth and the bar on top of the forest stage!
The most important person here was definitely Harmen. Whenever I wasn’t around, he coordinated the different volunteers to work efficiently with the materials available and took it upon himself to create several walkways and little bridges throughout the forest! I didn’t originally plan this, but it turned out great!
I definitely loved working with a large group of enthusiastic volunteers. Everyone took part in the greater whole that is Paradigm Festival, not just by working, but also sharing their ideas and giving suggestions. A lot of these ideas were also created, which you could see throughout the forest. Maybe you can remember a teeter totter, several hammocks made from fishnets and a really cool looking swing made from an enormous tractor tire! Visitors could explore and feel like children again during the 2016 edition of the festival.
It wasn’t all that easy though, as I had to combine my activities at Paradigm with a fulltime job at the hospital. I had all these plans and images in my head that I wanted to realize, but I just didn’t have the time to do it myself. I’ve got a little bit of a control freak and perfectionism in me. That enabled me to write a really detailed plan on how I wanted to see things done. This way, I was able to communicate exactly what I wanted to the decoration team, but I think it’s important that everyone has a say in the matter and expand on my ideas. In the end, we were all very proud of the decorations that were created. And I never could’ve done it without my team!
I think that Paradigm’s management didn’t overlook the fact of how I went to work during Paradigm Festival 2016. They want to see this sort of work ethic grow within Paradigm and its community and I think they saw certain creative possibilities and skills that I can bring to the table. That’s why they invited me to be terrain decorator for the whole festival this year! They thought that I was the perfect fit to make the festival grounds more intimate, practical and even more beautiful!
So you’re an important cog in the wheel here! Which aspect do you enjoy most about your work?
I love the dynamic range of activities here! Not one day is the same as the other. I might be walking around in my pink overall and working shoes whilst busy with construction, starting new projects or help clean up around the terrain. I might also be coming to the office with a pair of high heels on, carrying my laptop and meeting/coordinating with other managers regarding the festival production, food & drinks or the volunteers. Everything is intertwined, so communication is key!
What does your team look like this year?
It’s a very diverse team. We have visual artists, carpenters, highly educated and practically schooled people. People with a past and care-free folk. Doers and thinkers. Stubborn ones and people that are never cross with others. Whatever the case, I love them all! The sheer diversity is something to be admired and, as I mentioned before, I learn a lot from everyone. Hopefully, I can have them learn something from me as well. This is what Paradigm is all about for me, one big crazy family from all walks of life that creates something beautiful together.
Can you tell us something about the theme? Which aspects of the theme are we going to see in the decoration and/or on the stages?
This year’s festival theme is Reincarnation, which is the last phase of our Circle of Life theme that’s been paramount throughout the year at the Helsinkistraat. Everything you’re going to see will be very diverse but within this theme. For example, we have a decoration team that’s busy with surrealistic life forms, a team that found inspiration in the Renaissance (which literally means rebirth) and a team that’s going to work with the big bang where life originated from. One thing they have in common is that they give salvaged materials new life. We have been salvaging materials (such as wood) for years and we’ve agreed most of the decoration materials have to be recycled. We hope to make our visitors more aware about what you can do with “trash” and that it’s important to think green and take responsibility for our environment. Everyone knows that we can do better in this aspect, but we don’t want to make this some sort of a boring lecture during the festival. We want to inspire people to just do the same as we do: see opportunities in otherwise waste material.
You’re responsible for the main stage yourself. Can you tell us something about your plan?
I’m just a small part of what happens at the main stage, because it’s been segmented into 3 parts: 9 big poles that are placed in a circular shape, the DJ booth and the 2 towers. There are 2 other teams that are working on the booth and the towers and I’m responsible for the circle. We received feedback from our visitors last year that the main stage wasn’t intimate, cozy and personal enough. I understand this completely, especially if you compare the new terrain with the old at the Helsinkistraat, which was smaller and less stretched out. I was lucky that I got to decorate the forest last year. That area already has a great atmosphere from itself. The main stage lacks this trait. I actually made a conscious choice to challenge myself by taking on this particular project and creating a cosier atmosphere for the main stage!
I’m obviously not going to tell you everything as it is always great to be surprised by what we have in store for our visitors! I’m excited to see which of the little details we’ve created are being noticed and what everyone thinks once the work is done!
Firstly, we’ve made everything smaller and more practical by creating a functional storage unit are through the use of our sea containers. We’ve also created a giant mandala right next to it, consisting of all sorts of greens. This creates a chill out where people can relax.
Next up is the circle at the main stage! I’m going to “green” all of the poles by adding all sorts of plants. I will be transforming a couple of them into life energy trees where the 4 classic elements are going to be a key factor. These won’t be regular trees but a sort of human trees, spanning their arms to the heavens, which will create a highlighted leaf roof! I’ve created a couple of sketches that you can see, along with a moodboard for inspiration. The “humans” will be created from waste material and every people will have platforms for people to dance or sit on.
What do the coming days entail for you?
Well, I’ve planned to start with the human trees, salvaging willows, finishing up the mandala, recruiting more volunteers for every aspect of the festival and also for my own decoration team. There will also be some meetings to get everyone on the same page again. But there’s never a dull moment at Paradigm, so it’s very possible to suddenly have a lot more going on and a lot more to do!