Jolmer Versteeg is a Zwolle native

'Zwolle is a city full of stories'

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Jolmer Versteeg is director and artistic director of Theatergroep De Jonge Honden. With the show 'De scheepjongens van Bontekoe' he will tour the Dutch theaters in the coming months. Traditionally, The Young Dogs kicked off the show in Zwolle. "I find it important that the premiere of each performance is in our hometown. That's where our heart lies. Because we have a fine cooperation with the Zwolle Theaters, I like to start in Odeon." A conversation about cultural city Zwolle.

Photographer: Jan Amse

"I moved from Dedemsvaart to Zwolle sixteen years ago. That was because I became a father and my girlfriend already lived in the city. In the meantime, Zwolle feels very familiar. It's my home, yet I don't really feel like a blue-fingered person. I probably wouldn't build such a bond with any city. It also feels to me as inhospitable. A bit 'us against the rest' While I think it is very important that people feel welcome. That also suits Zwolle, because I think this is a very hospitable city.

Huge history

Production Young dogs]( think Zwolle is a nice place to be. A city with an enormous history also. That appeals to me as a theater maker. With De Jonge Honden we like to tell hidden stories that fit within current themes. Two years ago, for example, we made the memorial production "Heen," about eighty Jews who were locked up in Gymnasium Celeanum during World War II and deported from there to Westerbork.

Special location

Recently I heard the story of a 15-year-old boy who was in the Zwolle resistance. He made a hollow tube in his bicycle that exactly fit the barrel of a rifle. Stories like that fascinate me. I especially like the combination of a good story and a special location. With The Young Dogs we want to make people aware of histories in the familiar landscape or everyday surroundings. Zwolle still has many such hidden stories, but as a theater maker you have to run into them. For example, I want to do something with the Ter Pelkwijkpark: there used to be a villa there that had to make way for new construction.

Ship boys

This spring we are traveling the country with The Shipboys of Bontekoe. On March 27 and 28, we will return once more to Schouwburg Odeon for three special school performances. The play is based on the well-known book I loved to read as a child. It fits very well within the current discussion about changes in society. There are some passages in the book that you would bring up differently now. We engage in dialogue about those in the play. The colonial history in the story will have a sequel for us later this year. Then, in cooperation with Collection Overijssel, we will work on the slavery past of Zwolle and the province.

Culture City Zwolle

Zwolle is working hard on its sense of culture. But it can always do more. I notice that the municipality increasingly sees that culture does something to a society and triggers innovation. And that is exactly what Zwolle wants. There is also a lot happening in the city. For example, I recently saw a performance by the artist duo BrotherTill in their own studio in industrial area De Marslanden. Then suddenly you discover another hidden gem of which Zwolle has many. Also in the hospitality industry, by the way. I think a very nice initiative is De Nieuwe Keuken in Assendorp, for example: a surprising place on the first floor of Eureka where you can eat very well.

Central station

An inspiring place in Zwolle I find the Central Station. And not only because it is a beautiful building. With De Jonge Honden we are located on the Westerlaan overlooking the railroad. A perfect spot for me because I have always had a thing for stations. There it is a constant coming and going of people. Even though you often see the same faces, you don't know most of the people. That also makes a station an anonymous place. And at the same time you are connected to the rest of the world: the feeling as if you can go anywhere from here and also return. I like that.

Photo: Jan Amse](

The top 3 of Jolmer Versteeg

  • "My favorite restaurant in Zwolle is the Belly of Paris. A classic bistro where you can also sit in the courtyard garden in the summer. I often go for the snails. Those are really unbeatable there."
  • "I love coming to Theatre Odeon. Sometimes for work and sometimes for meeting people. People are constantly walking in and out and you always run into someone for a nice conversation. And, of course, it's a beautiful old theater."
  • "I have a little boat that I like to sail on the canals. From the water you see Zwolle at its most atmospheric. And it's great to stop somewhere for a coffee or a beer. For example, at De Tagrijn: one of Zwolle's oldest and nicest pubs."

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