[Go Green] STROOM Festival

19 Dec 2023

STROOM Festival

21 Jun 2023 - 14 Jul 2023

Berlare, Belgium

STROOM is a nomadic festival that runs all along the river Scheldt between Antwerp and Ghent through the brand new Scheldt Valley National Park.

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STROOM runs all along the river Scheldt between Antwerp and Ghent through the brand new Scheldt Valley National Park . It is a nomadic festival active in 24 towns. One of the concepts is the 'River Bank Concerts', a series of musical interventions where the musicians perform on a boat and the public is seated along the river bank. So far, it looks like a great way of enjoying music. But there is a strong idea behind it in the terms of sustainability. The boat is a sailing yacht 35 meters long, the kind of boat that has never been sailing on the river Scheldt before. It was rebuilt in the winter of 2022 and spring of 2023 to be a completely CO2-neutral ship, with sun panels, a windmill and an electric engine. The fact that it has all that, plus a mast that was made pliable to be able to go under the bridges of Dendermonde, half-way Ghent-Antwerp, meant that this ship was ready to sail the river Scheldt in Flanders. Before every concert the presentator outlined the context, the reason why we organise the River Bank Concerts, to make clear that we can all do something for the planet. We encountered some innovation & nature problems:

1. The rebuilding of the engine was ready 24 hours before the first River Bank Concert... rebuilding this ship is one of a kind, so a lot of lessons had to be learnt by the captain and this team.

2. We had to take into account the water level of the river, which so closely connected to the sea that there is a 7m height difference between ebb and flow. So in order that the public would be able to see the boat with the artists at eye level, we sometimes had to organise concerts at 8 in the morning or 10 in the evening. The arts follows nature.

3. An electric ship needs to be charged along the way. There is no charge infrastructure for ships yet along inland waters. Different solutions were considered: from a long cable to car chargers further away in the centre of the towns or villages, to bringing green batteries with green trucks to different concert locations. We worked together with technicians from private companies to find the solution of batteries.

4. Some jetties were quite far away from the river bank, depending on the water tides. That meant we had to amplify the musicians sometimes. But wind gets quite strong above the water surface. We managed!

Social sustainability:

The concerts were for free. That resulted in a completely new public. The region has not much to offer in cultural terms. We fullfilled a cultural gap, while being sensitive the climate. We organised 12 concerts, in 12 towns, what lead to a part of the public becoming nomadic too, just like the festival. They followed the music along the river. That's how we create mobility and connection between inhabitants - a river can connect, but also divide. This project stimulated social cohesion because we organised a great summer bar before and after every concert to enjoy a local drink and an inspiring talk with each other. STROOM innovates together with the inhabitants, the companies and the tourists for a flourishing National Park. Cheers to the next series of River Bank Concerts!

More info: STROOM Festival

(General editor: Simon Mundy)