Festivals as a Catalyst for Integration - How to Empower Newcomers
Thu 17 Jan | De Oosterpoort, Back 12 (up) | 13:30 - 14:30
Thu 17 Jan | De Oosterpoort, Back 12 (up) | 13:30 - 14:30

Festivals as a Catalyst for Integration - How to Empower Newcomers

Anna van Nunen Innofest (NL), Frans Somers Vluchtelingenwerk (NL), Hayan Mezher New Faces Participant (SY), Nienke Bodewes Into The Great Wide Open (NL), Romy Jochems VSB Foundation (NL)

Festival | Event production

English spoken

In times of widespread humanitarian crisis, how can festivals offer solutions without completely changing their DNA or investing large sums? The project "New Faces",aimed to tackle challenges for newcomers in the Netherlands including the lack of a social network, unfamiliarity with Dutch (working) culture, access to the labour market, isolation, and despondency. At the same time festivals were struggling with adding diversity and new energy to their predominantly homogeneous volunteer-pools and teams. By introducing up to 10% newcomers to three major music and theatre festivals in 2018, New Faces was able to address all the aforementioned issues.
As an ESNS special, this will be first time a social impact study will be revealed to the public and be open for discussion. The toolkit will also be made available to all visitors in English and Dutch.

New Faces was made possible through co-operation between Leeuwarden-Fryslan Cultural Capital of Europe 2018, iepenUP, Society in Motion, Innofest, VSBFonds, Welcome to the Village, Into the Great Wide Open, and Oerol & Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.


  • Anna van Nunen

    Anna van Nunen Innofest (NL)

    As founder of Innofest, Anna van Nunen is entirely into bringing together innovation, sustainability and the world of festivals. Innofest uses festivals as living labs for innovation testing, providing entrepreneurs with a safe and contained environment to test their prototypes. Van Nunen is part of the ‘Young Sustainable 100’ and FD’s ‘entrepreneurial talent’.

  • Frans Somers

    Frans Somers Vluchtelingenwerk (NL)

    Trained as as an artist but working in the field of software development, Frans volunteers at the Dutch Refugee Council (VluchtelingenWerk Nederland). Frans helps refugees to adapt to their new home, and he also enrolled in a vocational course on Social Work at the Institute of Applied Sciences at Utrecht (HU). During his holidays, Frans works at music- and art festivals as constructor and handyman. His last gig was at the ITGWO festival on the island of Vlieland, an experience which brought him in to close contact with the people he usually helps. Working, eating and sleeping alongside each other gave him a new perspective on refugees.

  • Hayan Mezher

    Hayan Mezher New Faces Participant (SY)

    Hayan was born in Sweida, Syria in 1999 and is part of a big five-member family. Through his own determination and ambition, he studied physics and participated at the Physics Olympiad, where he placed 6th in the country. Hayan also played viola in a chamber music orchestra and gained top qualifications to enter the Conversatory. On the sport side, Hayan practiced Martial Arts, such as Judo and Aikido, next to other ball sports such as basketball, tennis and table tennis. Hayan feels a sense of accomplishment so far and is looking forward to becoming a researcher in the field of neurology, physics, biology and also to commit to a life as a scholar in history pertaining also to his own cultural background.

  • Nienke Bodewes

    Nienke Bodewes Into The Great Wide Open (NL)

    Nienke Bodewes is the festival manager of Into The Great Wide Open on the island of Vlieland, where she joined the team at the very start. She also works for its sister festival Here Comes The Summer. Furthermore, Nienke worked as a producer for ESNS in Groningen and for the past five years she has been producing the Le Guess Who? festival in Utrecht. Defining roles and responsibilities for every team member to encourage developing their skills, Nienke focuses on long term policies, politics and management of each organisation.

  • Romy Jochems

    Romy Jochems VSB Foundation (NL)

    Romy is a senior advisor for the Dutch fund “VSBfonds”, where she focuses on topics of culture and arts. She ensures that new requests for subsidies are sustainable, structural and in line with the fund’s goals and vision.

    VSBfonds is one of the larger funds in the Netherlands supporting festivals all over the country, with a focus on social inclusion, self-reliance of individuals and as a community.

    Romy also is a member of the board of “Vluchtelingen Ambassadeurs”, which offers discussions, workshops, lectures but foremost storytelling sessions with refugees, who share their own personal journey as a refugee and their experiences of day-to-day life in the Netherlands.


  • Matthea de Jong

    Matthea de Jong Leeuwarden Friesland European Capitol of Culture 2018 (NL)

    Matthea de Jong works in the field of media, art and social change. Currently she is programme manager of Iepen UP (open up), the discussion programme of Leeuwarden-Fryslan European Capital of Culture 2018. A series of programmes, art projects, talkshows and media productions (vlogs, podcasts, videos) dealing with pressing social issues (such as migration, inclusivity, freedom of expression, and climate change). She was co-founder of Movies that Matter Foundation, a platform for cinema and human rights. She set up a grant and workshop programme for new film festivals worldwide for which she was nominated for the Impact Award 2015. Currently, she works as an independent programmer and consultant for artists, funds, NGOs and governments. She worked on several participatory cross-media projects and is co-author and co-editor of the book Setting Up a Human Rights Film Festival.

  • Hooman Nassimi

    Hooman Nassimi Society in Motion (IR/NL)

    Hooman Nassimi (born in Iran, raised in Germany, working in NL) is commied to creating an inclusive society through and with newcomers, both locally and globally. For this he started the social enterprise Society in Motion in 2017. Here, a multidisciplinary team is working towards the vision of empowering newcomers around the world through events and festivals, but also by promoting social cohesion and consulting on policy and participation for government. Feel free to check out for more information about the projects.