The aim of BluesinWijk is to make Blues accessible to everybody who loves music. At least that was the idea of the founders in 2009 and this idea is still key to everything that the organisation does.
In this year Bluesfans Anton Winkel, Frans Hoving and Arie Verheul decide to start BluesinWijk. They join the local festival JazzbyDuurstede, launch their plans in the media and succeed in getting a perfect line-up on the first Bluespodium. Hundreds of spectators enjoy the music of toppers such as Sugar Ray Norcia, Buddy Whittington and Danny Bryant. It is the start of a very successful history of the blues in Wijk bij Duurstede.
This year the idea of a Blues Academy was realised in the form of the first workshop for harmonica. It is a tested formula that in later years attracted hundreds of enthusiastic participants to guitar workshops (to play the guitar and to build your own guitar), and visitors to films, bluesquiz drives, school concerts, photo exhibitions and theatre performances.
‘BluesinWijk gives Wijk the best of the blues’ was our motto for many years. Top bands from the sixties such as Barrelhouse, Flavium, Livin’Blues and Cuby + the Blizzards had been on the bucket list of the Bluesmen in Wijk for some time. Cuby kicked off on 28 May in a packed and sold-out Calypso theatre. Successful performances of the other top bands took place in quick succession in the years to follow. The local fans are really ecstatic to welcome the ‘old’ idols in their home town.
As Wijk is situated on the river Lek, it was obvious to start experimenting with a bluescruise. Just like the first event in 2011 the river cruise was sold-out in no time. The perfect ingredients for an excellent event came together in this cruise: sailing together, meeting other people in a relaxed setting, with beautiful views on the river floodplains of the Betuwe region and the woods of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, while tasting the food of delightful buffets and listening non-stop to blues.
Already at the start in 2009 some 150 inhabitants of Wijk bij Duurstede embraced the initiative of becoming a friend or a sponsor. Promoting and stimulating the blues in Wijk seems to appeal to many people. Within a few years the numbers increased to 400 friends and 25 sponsors. To this day these loyal supporters provide BluesinWijk with a permanent and solid financial basis.
The first few years had flown by and before anyone knew it the fifth anniversary arrived. Our savings were enough to give this anniversary some weight by organising a photo exhibition and publish a photobook, plus contracting some big names for a memorable night in theatre Calypso topped with a workshop in blues dancing! If we now look back, it can be said that BluesinWijk had matured in those first five years, was very much alive and kicking and had managed to acquire a prominent place in the local community.
Working together with other organisations and partners proved to be an important cornerstone of BluesinWijk’s successful growth. Together new initiatives were launched for a growing number of people. Together with JazzcaféWbD outstanding New Year’s concerts were organised, together with Kasteel Cultureel many sold-out Blues@theCastle concerts were held, together with the local Filmhuis bluesfilms were screened, together with local pubs and restaurants we had splendid Blueskroegentochten, together with the Dutch Blues Foundation we presented the winners of the Dutch Blues Challenge and together with the local broadcasting corporation Regio90FM and their radio programme Highstreet Jazz & Blues we further promoted the blues in our region.
Our organisation now consists of a team of about 25 male and female volunteers with a small primary team for the managerial tasks and a bigger team for the organisation of some ten blues events every year. From day one onwards we have a close-knit and steady team that enjoys working together and that is always prepared to boost the image of BluesinWijk at each and every event. In 2016 this passion is rewarded with the municipal prize for volunteers (vrijiwlligersprijs). A reward we are very proud of!
It was also one of our aims to encourage local and regional blues musicians to enter the stage (again). The band Pauze, legendary in the seventies, became all the craze again after a very successful performance at an evening for friends in 2009. New blues formations such as Littlebylittle, the Pillars, the Caverns and the Vaults followed suit. They now play at many parties bringing the blues alive, exactly as was hoped at the start of BluesinWijk. It proved to be a perfect way to promote the blues at a local level.
No in-depth market research was needed to introduce the blues in a small community. The idea was to just follow our gut feelings and enable people to listen to any good music. What we did was to provide a mix of free and cheap concerts, good bands, different locations, blues at school, workshops, blues in a home for elderly people, independent with our own funds, constantly with new initiatives (Blues at your Neighbours, Bluescruise), loyal friends and sponsors, newsletters, and a passionate team that had built up a lot of credits. It was a perfect and satisfying mix that gave us strength.
After all those successful years, the 10th anniversary could only be celebrated in one way. Exuberant and grand: a beautiful blueskrant, original shirts, beer mats with a link to 10 years of video, and 10 euro concerts for absolute top bands. The supporters’ appreciation translated into sold-out concerts. We were ready for another 10 years!
What started with another sold-out New Year’s concert ended shortly afterwards in what proved out to be a disastrous Corona year. We had completely new plans again: the Wijkse Blues Week with blues in primary schools, a blues walk, blues films, concerts and parties – these all collapsed like a house of cards. Just like all other events for the rest of the year. More than 200 musicians were called off. Musicians were without income for months on end and our home theatre Calypso had a hard time too. Where we could, we gave them a helping hand financially. We stopped collecting the annual contributions of friends and sponsors and encouraged people to transfer their money to the theatre. Luckily we were able to start with Corona-proof mini-concerts again in autumn.