Capital of Culture is powerful engine for innovation in the region

Capital of Culture is powerful engine for innovation in the region

We dare to think big in the Northern Netherlands. Just look at the Top Dutch campaigns and the ambition to become the first man-made Blue Zone in the world. Moreover, with Leeuwarden-Fryslân as European Capital of Culture this year, we have a powerful engine for innovation in our region. Oeds Westerhof of the LF2018 Foundation explains why.

Big thinking was needed to bring this unique European event to the northern Netherlands and the initiators of LF2018 did so in a surprising way. Deeply rooted in the Frisian sense of mienskip, they allowed the value of the small to merge with big ideas, in order to set in motion a large, broad and above all supported movement. Throughout the province, initiatives arose from the bottom up, which is unique for a Capital of Culture. 'Our commitment to the mienskip was quite a risk,' Westerhof realizes. 'Yet we saw this approach as the way to mobilize a regional force that will soon be unstoppable.'

New answers

That driving force is needed, because the commitment of LF2018 extends far beyond being European Capital of Culture for a year. As director of Legacy, Westerhof hopes that this year is a tipping point in the way we address social issues in the northern Netherlands. 'The relevant themes in our bid book from five years ago are very much in line with the Global Goals for Sustainable Development and the increasing values of a meaning economy.

Capital of Culture is powerful engine for innovation in the region

At its core it is about caring for each other and caring for our earth, which is why we see social, economic and ecological issues in conjunction. Especially here in the North, we know that new answers are needed to continue shaping a livable and thriving region and in this we can be a forerunner.' 'How does LF2018 fit into that? Culture is a powerful engine for renewal that affects all facets of society,' Westerhof argues.

Art and culture allow people to experience different perspectives and it is a wonderful way to touch different groups and bring them together. The two together make the Capital of Culture phenomenon a unique opportunity. Because we need new horizons and shared ambitions, but also creative ideas and the courage to set them in motion. LF2018 helps us do that. It touches us in our heads and hearts, allows us to meet each other and discover new paths together. Culture in itself is not an answer to social issues, but it is a very essential means of finding those answers.

Broad movement needed

Everyone is needed to sink their teeth into a new era together. The entire community, with all its residents, entrepreneurs, social organizations, associations, businesses and governments. 'That is why we have already involved as many parties as possible in the prelude to 2018 in the preparations,' says Westerhof. 'To have a real impact requires a broad movement from the bottom up, and to mobilize that was our biggest challenge. That proved quite difficult in the beginning. The way we want to use culture as a flywheel for more is a story that requires explanation, but also simply experiencing how it works. Fortunately the ball is rolling and more and more people are joining in. Because this year everyone can join in, but it is even nicer to do something, to bring something about together with others.

Siem Jansen: 'Culture versus Economy'

To initiate social movement with a cultural program obviously requires money. The business community also plays a significant role here. 'In many ways,' Westerhof emphasizes, 'because financial resources are certainly needed, but flat sponsorship is no longer of this time. It's about partnerships and initiating initiatives that fit the spirit of the plans.

After all, we desperately need entrepreneurs when it comes to thinking along in social issues. That's why I think it's great to see, for example, that a sponsor like car company Haaima not only supplies cars and vans, but also gets inspired to work with new leasing arrangements that include solar panels. Then you catch the time.

International visibility

That is also what Westerhof wants to pass on to northern entrepreneurs: 'Read the time, immerse yourself in the urgent issues, find a connection with pioneers and look for new directions together. This will create new, future-proof business. We have taken on a positive task with LF2018 and can generate enormous energy in the region as Capital of Culture. Just take the visibility through all the media attention at home and abroad. We are even in the lists of National Geographic and The Guardian as one of the top destinations to visit in 2018! However difficult the spin-off is to measure: Leeuwarden and Fryslân are firmly on the map and we can benefit from that throughout the Northern Netherlands.'

Even when it comes to the economic boost that a year as Capital of Culture can bring, the director of Legacy deliberately looks beyond direct profit. 'It's about so much more than visitors coming here to sleep, eat, attend events and spend money. It's about the commotion that makes the city and region's business climate attractive. The awareness that something is possible here, that we have a strong mienskip, but are also at the center of Europe and that we are a forerunner on many fronts. It is time to manifest the creativity and entrepreneurial power in the Northern Netherlands. Look at Innofest winning the European Enterprise Award. Or how Claudy Jongstra's Farm of the World puts us in the shop window as a circular region. Investing in culture really pays off and we are going to show that on a large scale with LF2018.'

LF2018 in operation

Entrepreneurs support LF2018 from the full breadth: over 400 Frisian companies are affiliated with the Club2018, the Leeuwarder Ondernemersfonds (LOF) is - in addition to Arriva and ING - an important main sponsor, and Club Diplomatique Fryslân and the economic Network De Verbinding also provide support. Moreover, the LF2018 organization also finds a lot of SME support in other Frisian towns for local initiatives in the context of the Cultural Capital.

Engaged entrepreneurs also play a role in the legacy of 2018. Over the next few months, the LF2018 organization is gathering across the community - from businesses and governments to associations and civil society organizations - the themes that concern us: what are we dreaming about, what do we want to say goodbye to, and what will we take with us from 2018 into the future? The goal is to end the year with a challenging agenda to 2028, so that the movement set in motion with Capital of Culture continues at full speed. For the current program of cultural activities, visit

Leeuwarden creates innovative fog cloud

For the Centre of Expertise Watertechnology (CEW) in Leeuwarden, LF2018 already led to an innovative challenge: project manager Bob van Bijnen was asked to create a cloud of mist for Jaume Plensa's fountain. The artwork - two serene white children's heads - stands in front of the Aegon building opposite Leeuwarden train station. Thanks to CEW's invention, the fountain will soon rise from a magical cloud of mist.

Van Bijnen devised a concept of 25 water tanks from which a total of 300 PVC pipes stick up. The misting process is triggered by ultrasonic vibrations produced by
modules in the water tanks. The mist cloud is created by very small droplets that float because they are lighter than air. A fan inside the container propels the droplets to the
pipes. Due to sensitivity to frost and strong winds, the system is turned off in winter. The mist cloud appears starting in April and can be seen an average of 120 days a year. The mist fountain is part of the LF2018 project 11 Fountains.

Capital of Culture is powerful engine for innovation in the region