When the KVS gave shape to its project for the 2006-9 subsidy period, it was a radical reformulation of the traditional pillars of the civic theatre: city, repertoire and company. No stone was left unturned in the effort to develop a new KVS project: an inclusive and generous artistic project, in modern infrastructure in the heart of Brussels, which opts for contemporary stories and voices that are heard all too infrequently in society and in the theatre. Brussels does not just serve as the setting for the theatre; it imposes itself as content and touchstone, not only in its multicoloured, multilingual and cheerful potential, but also in all of its communal, social and economic discord.
Underlying every aspect of the programme (production and hosting, multimedia) is a collective dialogue in a multi-functional company in which the individual artists relate to a shared whole in a productive and creative manner.
At the back of our mind is the desire to give each inhabitant of Brussels a good reason to come to the KVS at least once a year. We are aiming to create a place in this divided city which does not belong to a single class, culture or form of expression, but is instead a place with which everyone can identify. The residents of Brussels do not have a common past, but they can build a common future. The KVS wants to be one of the places where that future is represented. Furthermore, it is abundantly clear that the KVS will not let go of Flanders. Since the opening of the new infrastructure, audience numbers from Flanders have been permanently on the rise: they now form more than one half of the KVS audience and thanks to joint ventures with the other civic theatres, we also have strong artistic connections with Flanders. With the Toneelhuis we share an interest in particular artists (Bart Meuleman, Olympique Dramatique) and support given to artists (Benjamin Verdonck) and this is also leading to a number of co-productions. With the NTGent we share an interest in the work of the Enthusiasts.
The basic principles of the project the KVS set up for 2006-2009 are equally valid today. The plans for 2010-2013 will build further upon these principles.
We are opting partly for continuity, because nothing has been secured in Brussels, although the cultural sector has given a hopeful signal with a cultural accord between French-speaking, Dutch-speaking and multi-community organisations to which the KVS also made a contribution. We are also opting for continuity because the path taken is delivering good artistic results, highlights being Singhet ende Weset vro, Nine Finger, Onschuld, Global Anatomy and Missie in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
In addition, we are also making room for clear and important new emphases.
For example, we want to intensify our collaboration with the city (and therefore not just about or for the city): artistic productions with small partners (Union Suspecte and the Kruistochten project) and large, and far-ranging plans concerning the renovated KVS building in Lakensestraat will play an important role in this regard.
We are also marking out 2 international projects in the form of a joint venture and exchange with Congo (>> read more) and Palestine (>> read more) which are genuinely ground-breaking in the history of Flemish theatre.
As a result, our activities are becoming both more local and more global.
The various ways of providing support for projects by like-minded artists remains of crucial importance.
In addition to sustained investment in an extensive in-house artistic team and the work of Benjamin Verdonck, we are also choosing, in partnership with the Théâtre National, to support a part of the work of an artist who, until now, has never yet worked with us: Josse De Pauw.
Another priority is to systematically stage longer performance runs in-house. In this way, we shall each season aim, for every production if possible, to reach as many different new audiences as possible for the contemporary repertoire that the KVS is attempting to develop in Brussels. These new audiences are of critical importance for the KVS and our sector.
And finally, as a result of careful expansion, we now have a presence outside Brussels. For the first time in years, the KVS is again performing in Flanders, at our sister theatres the Toneelhuis and NTGent, which themselves have both been guests at the KVS on an annual basis. However, we are also showcasing our work outside the ‘golden triangle’ of Brussels-Antwerp-Ghent
Against all expectations, the new round of subsidies under the Arts Act has not turned out to be an exercise in belt-tightening. This is striking and heartening at a time when The Crisis is brought up as the reason for all sorts of decisions, from painful and essential savings to criminal maximisation of profit.
If money had been saved in the arts, probably no one would have turned a hair, after all, doesn’t everyone have to tighten their belts in times of crisis?
Yet no one should be under any illusion that this issue will be off the agenda for the next few years. A complex period awaits us, when painful questions will have to be asked and answered.
The KVS did not do too badly in the recent subsidy period. All the governments, the Flemish Community, the Flemish Community Commission and the City of Brussels, renewed their commitments to this multilingual and intercultural Brussels civic theatre. However, the fact remains that these commitments will not suffice for us to be able to continue our previous activities unchanged.
When it comes to running costs, for example, we have felt the extra expense of our new and expanded infrastructure. What is more, the increase in funds provided by the Flemish Community does not quite match the leaps taken by the RPI over the last year. So although it looks like more money for the KVS, in reality we cannot maintain this standard and will have to focus our efforts more precisely on those things that are most important to us.
The KVS programme will remain varied, dynamic, high-quality and accessible, but we are embracing the principle of ‘less is more’, though you will not necessarily notice this when perusing the overview of the season.
In addition, the KVS wants to continue to play a prominent part in the social debate on the role and importance of a strong cultural sector in our society. And above all on the importance of substantial long-term government support for this sector. Let us make it clear: we believe that cultural workers are citizens like any other and must assume their responsibility at a time when everyone in our society is being forced to exercise restraint. However, this crisis may not be used as a pretext to fundamentally question or remove the much-needed subsidies for artists in the broad sense of the word. After all, these artists are now needed more than ever. Whether currently in the Congo, in New Orleans following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, or in Brussels at a time at which the whole of Europe is experiencing a deep economic recession, artists are always essential figures in helping to bring about reconstruction and a new beginning. It is precisely now that investment in culture is needed. The market can also play a part in this, but that role will be limited. Stubborn, adventurous and fragile work pays for itself in all sorts of social ways, but not because it generates financial profit. The United States offers an example from which a great deal can be learnt. Even opera houses and classical orchestras are suffering greatly as a result of the crisis and for the fragile performing arts there is no longer any place at all. We refuse to entertain the possibility of such an artistic landscape. In terms of artistic results, employment and audience participation, the Flemish subsidy policy has achieved good to very good results. Reflection and adjustment are always worthwhile, provided they lead to a strengthening and not a dismantling of the policy. We must foster what has been built over the last 20 years.
In the season’s brochure (download), you will find detailed information about the artists and projects we believe are of great importance in the coming season in Brussels. Artists who can make a difference in this city, projects which in times of crisis can help point the way towards revival and reinvention or continuity and renewal. Of course, many of these projects involve the KVS company: Ruud Gielens, Guy Dermul, Hildegard De Vuyst, Mieke Verdin, David Strosberg, Willy Thomas, Ivo Kuyl and Raven Ruëll.
Many others will also be making an appearance, including Wim Vandekeybus, Mauro Pawlowski, Johan Heldenbergh, Olympique Dramatique, Josse De Pauw, Bruno Vanden Broecke, Bart Meuleman, Peeping Tom, Benjamin Verdonck, Faustin Linyekula, Fabrizio Cassol, David Van Reybrouck, Lemi Ponifasio and Koenraad Tinel to name but a few.
In the next few years, the KVS wants to continue working with all these artists on the city and society of tomorrow and continue reflecting on the dimensions and horizons of our lives. We will certainly have to be inventive and flexible and not all our dreams will become reality. However, we have a rock-solid belief in the new situations and unknown possibilities we will be exploring in the season 2009-10 and in the coming years with these artists.
Jan Goossens, artistic director kvs
A community centre for the city and the world
In the 2008-2009 season the KVS has a whole list of very good reasons for you to come down to Lakensestraat and Arduinkaai. Dutch- and French-language theatre from Belgium, international theatre from Europe, the Middle East and the Congo, lots of dance, concerts, debates and parties and more. This means that yet again we will have a hybrid cocktail of artists and visions, languages and cultures, disciplines and styles, and hopefully also of spectators and audiences.
We believe more than ever that the KVS should not revert to a past about which you might wonder whether it ever really existed. The KVS does not want to be merely the Brussels offshoot of a national Flemish theatre that sees its main task as making a prestigious Dutch-language repertoire for Dutch-speaking audiences. Although the KVS is and will continue to be a Flemish theatre, it is not compulsively so, but openly and self-confidently. The KVS therefore positions itself both at the heart of Brussels and its many communities, and at the centre of the world, as there are direct lines linking Brussels with the rest of Europe, the Congo and Palestine.
Is this an artistic project? Probably, yes. Every day Guy Dermul, Hildegard De Vuyst, Ruud Gielens, Nedjma Hadj, Ivo Kuyl, Raven Ruell, David Strosberg, Willy Thomas and Mieke Verdin help to shape it. In 2008/09 it will once again comprise vital contributions from artists like Benjamin Verdonck, who is also on the KVS team, plus Kristian Smeds from Finland, Tom Lanoye, Wim Vandekeybus, Alize Zandwijk, Faustin Linyekula from the Congo, and Alain Platel. At the same time, it is an artistic project in which the creation and discovery of a new repertoire is more important than simply repeating and preserving what already exists, where the main thread is the diversity of artistic visions and where bringing together new audiences is as important as maintaining a loyal audience. It is self-evident, and fortunate, that this artistic project also has a sound social dimension, since all the artists who work here do not do so from a base in one or other independent vacuum, but because at heart they relate to their own and other communities. Consequently, the aim of the KVS is not to be a theatre for Flemish artists and audiences alone, but also to be a meeting place for a wide range of people who all still, and perhaps increasingly, live side by side in this city.
This brochure also contains all the information you could possibly need about the new productions the KVS has planned for the coming season. The theatre-makers and choreographers already mentioned above will be venturing into a wide range of themes and content: the life and work of the very Belgian writer Georges Simenon, Europe, young people in our city and society and what drives them and interests them, and the role of popular music today in the divided and poverty-stricken Congo. Apart from this there are of course also directors who take on large works, both existing and new, such as those by Max Frisch and Dea Loher. Additionally we also carefully maintain the new repertoire that we have presented to the city and the world in recent years: Singhet ende weset vro, Nine Finger, Kroum, Global Anatomy, Missie, Onschuld, MENSKE and Spiegel were not only staged in Brussels but throughout Belgium and abroad. Finally, the KVS will continue to be an open house for other companies and artists such as Toneelhuis, NTGent, Tg STAN, Les Ballets C. de la B. and Peeping Tom, as well as Rabih Mroué from Beirut, where collaboration with partners in Brussels and elsewhere, such as Het beschrijf, Ars Musica, Théâtre National, Kunstenfestivaldesarts and Behoud de Begeerte also play an important part.
We also hope to awaken your interest in several exceptional items in our programme. In September there will be a second series of Toernee General, in which the KVS and Théâtre National will introduce their audiences to powerful performances 'from across the language border'. Indeed, in these delicate times for the language communities, collaborating with our French-speaking neighbours in Brussels and the Walloon province continues to have top priority; in this respect the media agreement between the KVS and Le Soir newspaper is also an important step.
In the years to come, the KVS hopes to invest more in collaboration with people and groups of people in the city of Brussels. The production Gewonnen brood/Pain perdu fits into this plan, but apart from this we also aim to do something with the historical KVS building in Lakensestraat. We feel that the building is too often closed and, in collaboration with many different types of organisation in Brussels, we would like to make it accessible during the day as well. You can expect to hear about the first results by Christmas.
In the coming season Benjamin Verdonck, whose career is supported by the KVS, Toneelhuis and Campo, will not create a new theatre performance in the new season, but will focus throughout 2009 on interventions in the cities where he lives and works. So you will regularly encounter him outside the KVS too, but in Brussels.
Another thing that this brochure will make quite clear is that the KVS is going on tour again. We shall be touring Flanders as well as Bergen and Charleroi. We will be appearing in neighbouring countries close to home as well as in less obvious regions such as the Balkans. We shall continue to be an important 'driving force' with regard to 'other', but nevertheless very important, forms of international cooperation with, for example, the Congo and Palestine. You will regularly see the fruits of this in our programme in Brussels.
As you can see, the KVS will once again be presenting a hefty programme in the coming season. We can now only hope that all the authorities will meet their financial commitments. In recent years the KVS team has proven itself able to cut its coat according to its cloth and bring about a healthy financial situation. However, if the authorities break their commitment to provide the necessary funds for our work and overheads, it will leave us powerless and fighting a losing battle.
Is the KVS a community centre? I truly hope so. Brussels really needs a dynamic community centre where conversation and encounter are possible, free of political and community agendas. Nevertheless it is a community centre that has a strong artistic heart with feelers that extend throughout the world. We hope that in the coming season you will once again allow us to embrace you.
Jan Goossens, artistic director KVS
Join the ZAP MAMA CHOIR!
Here you'll find all information about the World Music Choir of Brussels, led by Marie Daulne.
DOMO DE EUROPA HISTORIO EN EKZILO reopens in September!
On the 4th December a debate took place in KVS on repertoire in theatre, with guest speakers Guy Cassiers, Faustin Linyekula and Amir Nizar Zuabi. As an introduction Jan Goossens, artistic director of KVS, wrote the following text.