Oi, you, open up!

Modern day society offers a maelstrom of competing pressures on our time, attention and emotions. Sometimes, we can feel disconnected from the people and places around us; lacking a little joie de vivre.

Modern day society offers a maelstrom of competing pressures on our time, attention and emotions. Sometimes, we can feel disconnected from the people and places around us; lacking a little joie de vivre.

How we express ourselves and make connections is essential to our well-being, which school and work can sometimes feel like it is chipping away at.

Iepen up is a Frisian production house, based in Leeuwarden, which tackles current and controversial social items through debate and culture in an accessible and often surprising way.

The word ‘iepen’ translates into English as ‘open’ – the production house, which focuses its attention on the younger generations (although this is very broadly interpreted) poses this simple proposition: open up.

Open society

The concept, which debuted in 2017, comes in the form of weekly, live broadcast, talk shows, hosted by young people and showcasing new forms of journalism. Taking place in a large hall, the Neushoorn café, on Wednesdays, people are encouraged to turn up or watch online.

At the core of the project is the idea of equality and respect, so that as many people as possible participate to exchange knowledge, ideas and opinions. And its multiform production see ‘conversations’ expressed through various cultural mediums including language, poetry, music, performance and art.

Jacco de Boer, who manages the project, says, “we do not want this kind of one-way traffic, but that everyone thinks along with us and, above all, talks along.”

As such, the weekly formats of these societal debates vary. In fact, as de Boer explains, “the programme lasts from one hour to five minutes. Because we are not tied to a television format, we have a little more time and can let people speak.”

Nonetheless the formats do assume a set of basic principles: multilingualism (Frisian, Dutch, English); interaction with the public; making a contribution to societal challenges; and stimulating labour participation and offering new opportunities for talent development.

On the last point, six trainees from ROC Friesland College get the opportunity to run IepenUP Live each Wednesday, giving them a chance to get to grips with stage and TV technology. They also become responsible for the weekly broadcast, working together with production staff who are sometimes reintegrating into the workplace after an illness or accident.

New voices, new hands

The production helps to bring young Friesian voices, including their ambitions and goals for an inclusive and liveable society, to the attention of the wider public, doing so in an appealing and accessible way.

Over time, IepenUP has offered various techniques for engaging the public, interviewing guests and presenting different opinions – always trying to capture the full breadth of Friesian society in terms of demographics, social circumstances, education level and gender.

As de Boer explains, “for example, we sit at long beer tables, then you are already close together and you have quicker contact with your neighbour.”

This also includes paying a lot of attention to Frisian poetry and literature – this is always featured as a permanent part of the live broadcast, but has also developed, for example, into special poetry productions.

Another format includes “regular lectures,” which according to de Boer, “mainly involve an older audience and the speaker tells a story and some questions can be asked and afterwards everyone drinks a glass of wine.”

​The team behind IepenUp has a plan for the coming four years: they want to put it on the map as an indispensable incubator of new talent and as a place known for having its finger on the pulse of cultural and societal trends, granting it its own unique, and independent, spot in the Friesian media landscape.

Maybe it’s simply time to iepen up.

Particpants to iepen up meet each Wednesday in a convivial setting at the Neushoorn café
Over time, many different formats have emerged, such as lectures
Everyone is encouraged to share their views

Author:
Alex Godson Media Coordinator

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