Writing 1 letter CAN change your world, take my word for it !
How I got invited to speak to the mayor of my hometown Utrecht. Just by writing one column addressed towards him on behalf of “The Utrechts Verbond”. I shared my discontent about the climate for Creative Entrepeneurship in my town and now we are actively involved in changing this !
What about the Utrechts Verbond ?
The “Utrechts Verbond” is a covenant (or alliance) of 200+ of Utrecht’s finest creative entrepreneurs. Founder Roswita Warmerdam and a few other brave pioneers started this movement in 2013, after the failure of the Utrecht-bid to become European Cultural Capital in 2018. By setting up the Utrechtst Verbond, they channeled the common disappointment about the loss of the bid. Also they connected a lot of creative entrepeneurs, who all had expressed their worries about the climate for Creative Entrepeneuring in Utrecht.
Most of them were dissatisfied with a lack of vision in the municipal organisation of Utrecht and missed impulses stimulating Creative Entrepeneurship. To check this, Roswita and her team, started researching thoroughly if and why this was the case in Utrecht. They asked entrepeneurs, government employees, politicians and other deciders or participants to come up with reasons and proposals for change. Also they looked at projects in other large cities in the Netherlands, that had proven to be succesful in stimulating Creative Entrepeneurs in a sustainable and powerful way. After finishing this report a toolkit was developed with more than 70 points of advice for the Municipality of Utrecht. This toolkit will be the basis for further development and discussion on Creative Entrepeneurship in Utrecht….
In 2015 the Utrechts Verbond started publishing columns written by their supporters. These posts are taking on current subjects and are shared in collaboration with the local website nieuws030.nl. Since then Utrechts Verbond has been invited by several politicians to talk and think along about the issues that were addressed. A proof that organizing yourself, connecting with like minded and speaking out DOES make a huge difference !
Great ! But where does the mayor of Utrecht come in ?
Feeling disappointed after visiting the New Years Reception of the Utrecht Municipality, I wrote a personal column, expressing my discontent. This column got published at february 5th 2015. In the days following the column got shared a lot on social media by fellow Utrechters. Online and offline, I got a lot of positive responses. But one unexpected response really proved to me I had hit a sensitive spot. At February 9th I received an invitation for a meeting with the mayor of Utrecht, whom I had addressed personally with my writing….
On March 4th, 2015 I was present with Roswita Warmerdam for what turned out to be a positive conversation in the mayors office. We left with the feeling that the mayor was genuineley interested in our point of view. We made arrangements with him on how to continue. He advised us to plan follow-up interviews with decision makers within the municipal organization. Also he told us he was willing to pull some strings to help us get opportunities for structured dialogue and cooperation. It seems the Utrechts Verbond now has the status of a serious organisation that has to be taken very seriously by the “Powers that Be”….would you expect that to bet the result of just one letter written by a small-scale entrepreneur ?? I wouldn’t !
The new Stadskantoor (Cityoffice) of the Municipality of Utrecht. Utrecht’s mayor, Mr. Jan van Zanen, invited us to have a talk at the 20th floor of this building…..
In the next months, the volunteers of the Utrechts Verbond will work hard to initiate a long-term collaboration. Please watch our website and Facebook page or read the columns….
Dear Mister van Zanen,
This year I celebrate having spent exactly half of my life in the Dom-city. Once born a “Liwadder”(local slang for a citizen of Leeuwarden, Friesland), over the past 18 years I have evolved into a genuinely proud “Uteregter” (local slang for citizen of Utrecht). My personal and professional identity got shape in this city. Utrecht is the city where I could fall and stand up numerous of times. It is the city that tempts me to stay withe her for 18 years already. Without any trouble really, although Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Berlin firmly flirted with me in the meantime.
As proud Utrechter I recently attended your New Year’s party in the U-shaped City-palace. I attentively listened to your “maiden speech” as the new mayor. You told about not understanding that Lonely Planet and BBC spoke in prouder manner of our city than the residents themselves. You spoke a petit mot en Francais towards the grand staircase, where Mr. Preud’homme soi-même had prepared himself. You left three model-Utrechters with blushes on their cheeks admitting they only had just transferred from Eindhoven to our beautiful “Amsterdam-Light”.
You “Aquedaat-ely” used catchy twitterlanguage like #UtrechtMakenWeSamen and #Walkable #Bikeable #Likeable. These hashtags will undoubtedly do well during the 100 days of celebrations in our city, prior to the start of the Tour de France. But hearing these hashtags brought up some very acute questions. “Was this Uteregse feesie actually a fake?”; “Got the binnestatter, ‘t ballebof humanity and the true value for money?”, “Was the cup of coffee made by Utrecht’s barista heroes ?” …
I must admit: it is no coincidence that I did this.
Almost every day I am working in the production of events or catering for events. Both in and outside of Utrecht, I am part of the most beautiful and creative productions. Often these events are designed, produced and catered for by professionals from Utrecht.
May I pose a few questions coming from my experience with that ?? You maybe missing a huge chance to change a dull city event into an inspiring and real Utrecht-worthy feesie.
Did you for example not rather let your guests enjoy Coffee from the “Leute” while enjoying coffee made from beans, roast in your own village. The best espresso, prepared by Utrecht Independent Barista’s, Blackbirds and Brandmeesters? Did you know that next to the impressive scale models of the new City Center project, you could have built a full koningshof, stacked with fresh entertainment from local gardens? And for less dough than the currently served (vegetarian) bitterballen Vocking Sausage and cheese sticks?
Why did you tuck away a cheesemaker and sausageproducer in the dark corridors of the Town Hall ? Why not leave the musical selection to Hollands Best Festival programmer. You could have an awesome mix compiled by -Guess Who — the Pitto’s, Nuno’s and 030 303 of this city ?
With a little luck you can already book them for the new years reception of next year, DO send them a “save-the-date”. Or would you perhaps like to organize a midsummer-city reception with these pearls from Utrecht ? We will surely help you, but we probably are too modest to throw us in before your feet. So: a phone call would be nice, or maybe an email? Anyway, look first take a look at: http://www.utrechtsverbond.nl. We presented ourselves there together, to make it easy for you!
Having lived here for years they will not easily leave this town. They often remained Utrechter very consciously. They celebrate each other’s creativity and support each other unselfishly. They dont accept big money because they find the small things so beautiful. They built their own Klubs, shape magical orchestras, invent award-winning cabaret or cook starclass meals in their Gastropub. They brew leading European coffee and beer and serve it during their own intimate events and festivals, financed and produced by them. And they have recently united in the Utrecht Verbond ( The Utrecht Covenant).
Will you have a look at the Utrechts Verbond sometime?