Now they regularly perform to packed houses, but it wasn’t so long ago that they were taking the first steps in their career in the Vrijhof: artists such as the poet Jules Deelder, the comedian Najib Amhali and all-round performer Jochem Myjer. Why the Vrijhof? Thanks to the longest-running theatre series in the Netherlands - Broodje Cultuur, which translates as ‘Culture Sandwich’. It was held at lunchtimes, it was free to get in and there were even sandwiches - a culture snack in between lectures. The perfect way to get students in touch with and interested in culture. It’s a tradition that came to an end after 47 years when Broodje Cultuur was relocated to the city center in 2014.
Broodje Cultuur was born in 1967, three years after the University of Twente’s first students arrived on the campus. And it went on to become a permanent fixture at the university for many decades. As Tineke Grootenboer (Performing Arts & Publicity Coordinator) explains, ‘Culture can be so inspiring. It gives you something that makes you stop and think. And that’s why we did it.’ Broodje Cultuur brought students into contact with culture in a fun and accessible way, in between lectures. After all, studying at the University of Twente is ‘more than just a degree’.
Big names and small names
Many established, well-known names performed as part of Broodje Cultuur over the years. Artists such as Jules Deelder, Rients Gratama, Peter Faber and Maarten van Roozendaal all put in appearances. ‘But there were also lots of people who weren’t yet famous,’ says Tineke. ‘Javier Guzman, Najib Amhali and Jochem Myjer were all here before they became well-known.’ And the great thing is, once they did become famous they still wanted to come back to Enschede.
Broodje Cultuur Audience’s Award
Right from the start of Broodje Cultuur, audiences were able to express their opinions on the performances they saw. They were able to give the performances a mark by writing in notebooks. In the 1990s, people were starting to ask whether anything was actually being done with those marks. And hey presto, the Broodje Cultuur Audience’s Award was born. Even though it was often impossible to compare the diverse performances on stage, the winner was given a certificate and was invited back to open the following season with a crowd-pulling programme. The first Audience’s Award went to an acapella choir in 1997, and the last award went to the Rob Mostert Hammond Crew in 2014. ‘It was wonderful! It’s also striking that the performers who went on to become more famous and to win other awards would sometimes say “and it all started with the Broodje Cultuur Audience’s Award...”’ recalls Tineke.
Broodje Cultuur in a new venue
In 2014, after 47 years, the show moved to the city centre and Concordia took over its management. So Broodje Cultuur moved to a new venue. It’s still there, but it’s not like it used to be. Truth is, audiences for Broodje Cultuur on campus had tailed off dramatically and so the theatrical series was ‘low-hanging fruit’ for managers looking to make budget savings at the university. Willem Jaap Zwart, a former Twente student and director of Concordia, was only too happy to continue the name and concept of Broodje Cultuur. At Concordia, there is now a regular Broodje Cultuur event with a wide range of performances: from comedy cabaret and music to theatre and literary performances. But it’s no longer a vehicle for introducing students to culture in between lectures. Now it’s more of a lunchtime activity for the cultural elite.
Culture on the campus
Although Broodje Cultuur has disappeared from the campus, the University of Twente still has a cultural programme for its students and staff. Whether it’s on the stage in the Agora or the Amphitheater, a surprise act on the campus boulevard or a singing ensemble in the Horstlift. All that fits in very well with the 'more than just a degree' motto, which has been the guiding concept of the campus idea since the very start. ‘There are people who don't go out looking for culture, but they still come into contact with it on campus. And it’s still a way of giving people something to think about. It really adds something to your time at university, to your way of thinking, and ultimately to how you live your life. And that’s why we do it. Broodje Cultuur itself might have gone, but there is still plenty of culture on the campus – it’s definitely still here,’ says Tineke.