Get Familiar: Level Up
Interview by Passion Dzenga | Photography by Kyleon Weijers
Productiehuis de Valk en Garage Noord has been involved in the local communities in the North of Amsterdam respectively and during the last couple of years, they joined forces to see what difference they could make together. One outcome of this collaboration is 'Level Up' which will be hosting an event this weekend at Garage Noord. We want you to get familiar with the project so we spoke to Valk's Renee Daniels and Garage Noord's Bram Owusu.
Firstly, can you let us know who you are and what you are working on?
Renee: Hi there, I’m Renee Daniels - I have been a Youth Worker for 14 years so far in Amsterdam Noord. I try to support every young person who has a disadvantage, regardless of what that disadvantage might be - providing that extra bit of support that they need to step correct and make the right choices. Nothing is too crazy and everything is possible, as long as you do your best and show that you want to. In the last few weeks, I recently became the Area Coordinator so I now manage a team of Youth Workers.
Bram: And I am Bram Owusu, program-maker and all-around behind the scenes person at Garage Noord. I work on many different musical projects with GN, butt we're here to talk about a special one in Level Up; A project Productiehuis de Valk and Garage Noord have been working on together since the summer of 2020, surrounding seven talented young artists; Brokem, Dougie The Wolf, Yomi, Devlaux, Pharo4h, FAR, C3 & KB. They will perform on the 3rd of July alongside Yung Nnelg, Styn, Bao G amongst others, and were included in the process of working towards that goal, by organizing the event from scratch. A key element were the freestyle sessions that we recorded together and that can now be found in our feed.
How did you get this group of young people together?
Renee: I have known most of this group for almost 10 years. They first came to the youth centre looking for something for themselves I guess. Here they learnt how to DJ, write and make music, tap beats, play the drums and many other things. The cool thing is that as a youth worker you are constantly working on providing tools. This group has also addressed that. Three boys have already been admitted to the Herman Brood Academy!
Bram: We simply tagged along with this already existing group.
Major cities around the world have been losing funding and resources for youth projects, how can we combat that in Amsterdam?
Renee: I feel that Amsterdam is good at seeing and estimating what young people need - as we continue to provide plenty of opportunities, so I hope that we are not in the line of fire for the time being. But we have to do it together, the more you connect with your neighbourhood and the residents, the more indispensable you become and the more you can do for the community. By setting up broad, projects that serve multiple goals, we can really do anything.
Productiehuis de Valk is a legendary space in Amsterdam, how did the partnership come together?
Bram: Bram: Covid was good time creatively for us at Garage Noord to rest and reflect on the almost 3 years that we’d been open. In that 3 year period, we did a lot of what we wanted but also didn’t do things because of the rush that we were in when we are open. Productiehuis de Valk is indeed a legendary space like you said. Many artists, including some famous ones like Adje, have started out here. It also happens to be on the exact route most of us biked on our way towards Garage Noord. Being into music and talent development ourselves it actually felt odd that we didn't collaborate earlier.
Renee: Thanks for finding it as legendary as I do! We are really very proud of the place. What Bram says is absolutely correct, we should have found each other much earlier because the possibilities together are endless. From the first moment, we have been able to strengthen each other and the guys from Garage Noord are always ready to support us with projects. Not only during the music projects but also during our entrepreneurial dream project they gave a lecture to young people about starting their own company. This input was priceless!
The north of Amsterdam has been going through a lot of gentrification, how does this affect a space like yours and how do you think you affect gentrification yourselves?
Bram: As for Garage Noord, there is a clear paradox at play. We’ve pretty much been gentrified out of the city centre and have managed to find space in Noord. But this isn’t coincidental. We were deliberately ‘placed’ here to serve the long term interest of real estate developers. We will have to leave as soon as the ground is profitable enough. It takes time to see the big ‘problematic’ picture and we were naïve in some of our efforts before to combat this sequence of events. That being said, there is a big overlap in the objectives of a place like Productiehuis the Valk and the objectives that we have set for ourselves in a place like Garage Noord when it comes to talent development and the crossing of cultural boundaries.
I believe that working together on projects like Level Up is a step forward when it comes to working and living together instead of at cross purposes. These projects make sense if they are of a structural form and build from the ground up by all participants. Level Up is focused on the sharing - and not the using - of experiences, ideas and resources. The artists were involved in the decision making process; from creating the Logo, coming up with the project name, discussing promo and budgeting. Mees van den Hurk, Post Neon, Het Raam Digital Cinema B.V, Bureau Punt and Patta were all so generous to share their resources and expertise as well. No communal funds were applied for this project and all the artists, including the Level Up talents, that perform on the 3rd of July will be paid an artist fee. Also, we have affordable ticket links available for the financially less fortunate people who still would like to come.
What is the goal of the Level Up Sessions?
Renee: For us as youth workers, the goal in just about every project is to broaden their horizons. This time not only in terms of talent but also really getting to know the neighbourhood, people and its possibilities. Knowing that if they have a question that we can't answer, they have even more people who are always willing to think along with them, as the guys from Garage Noord have done so well.
Bram: I think Level Up can be the start of a structural collaboration between de Valk and Garage Noord. The Valk is really rooted in the local youth community so of course, we can learn a lot from them. We are of course very happy to do whatever we can in return.
What can we expect from the event at Garage Noord?
Bram: The 3rd of July BAR40, the upstairs room, will open at 23:00 and will be open until 01:00 with most of the Level Up team performing there. In the downstairs room, Yung Nnelg is headlining the night with a tape show at 02:00. HerrieSchopper’s are the support act and infamous producer Styn is DJ’ing as well as Bao G will perform as well.