Felix Meritis - A European Centre for Arts and Sciences
Felix Meritis is many things to many people. It is a centre for debate, dialogue and international networking. It is the Netherlands’ oldest concert hall. It is a modern and flexible theatre space. It is an excellent cafe where, sooner or later, you will meet a remarkably high proportion of Europe’s opinion formers. It is the site of a Summer University. It is a place where politics and culture meet. It is one of Amsterdam’s finest 18th century buildings - a monument to the enlightenment. It is home to a cable television station - Kunstkanaal (the Arts Channel). It has been the scene of fierce arguments - political, cultural and intellectual - for over 200 years. Yet it is also an institution so radical in its thinking that there are no convenient categories in which it fits comfortably. It is an institution that many discover and come away from excited and curious.
Felix Meritis aims to bring people together for a purpose - to stimulate them to inspired invention. It strives to achieve for ideas the process that a linear accelerator achieves for particles; speeding them round, watching them collide so that energy is released and new concepts are created. Unlike a conventional think-tank or foundation, the interest lies not so much in measurable results but in the vitality of the process. If one project spawns many, permeating European thought so that it shifts direction and matures, then Felix Meritis can claim that the outcome of its work is indeed being fulfilled. Felix Meritis is non-political (though it welcomes political discussion) and takes a neutral position on most issues. This is important to its role as a facilitator, allowing the most interesting ideas to be presented, wherever they come from. Most of all, Felix Meritis is international. It has a broad view of the boundaries of Europe, working closely with many former eastern bloc and ex-Soviet countries, as well as having strong connections within the European Union. It provides Amsterdam with an environment that is unique, helping to put the city in the forefront of international cultural activity while keeping in touch with local concerns and initiatives.
Since 1987 Gulliver has been a mechanism for debating change in Europe. Set up on the instigation of, among many others, Gunter Grass, Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Andrei Bitov. Gulliver is an informal but continuous working body, linking 100 writers, academics, film-makers, composers and architects throughout Europe.
Gulliver’s Connect is a practical programme for improving mobility among cultural activists in Europe and beyond. Gulliver’s Connect links 25 previously eastern bloc countries (from Albania to Mongolia) and is a work placement programme between those countries for professional arts practitioners aiming to improve international co-operation, training and career flexibility by becoming agents of their own learning.
Like all Gulliver projects, Essay International is about forging links and spreading ideas. The essay has long been the form with which political and aesthetic discussion is taken forward. Essay International is creating a network of editors, able to select the most important contributions to their journals and circulate them to colleagues in other countries so that the essays can be translated and reprinted
Felix Meritis Papers and Theatre Journal
As part of its mission to open minds, Felix Meritis has published an extensive series of papers and journals containing many of the contributions to debates given in the course of the centre’s activities. Between them they constitute an important record of ideas from some of the world’s most distinguished thinkers in the arts and social sciences. The Theatre Journal is published in Dutch, English, French and German, the Felix Meritis Papers in English.
The Amsterdam Maastricht Summer University Every July and August Felix Meritis hosts the Amsterdam programme of the Amsterdam Maastricht Summer University (AMSU). This multi-disciplinary curriculum provides short courses for over 500 young professionals from all over Europe (with 40% drawn from the Netherlands), mostly aged between 25 and 35. The lecturers come from a wide variety of academic and professional backgrounds and are drawn from many countries.
The Arts Channel (Kunstkanaal) is a combination of cable television network and programme provider. As well as scheduling its own allotment of hours on the cable systems of several Dutch cities, it provides a world-wide service, Programmes on Demand. This packages arts programmes (and takes care of the rights to them) for cultural organizations, festivals, education services and conferences - as well as providing an expert editorial service for other broadcasters. Kunstkanaal’s dual role makes it a unique point of contact between the worlds of broadcasting and the arts.
European Foundation on Social Quality
The Foundation was established in June 1997 during the Dutch Presidency of the European Union as a network of academics in a variety of related disciplines. Since January 2001 it has been housed in Felix Meritis. Its purpose is to facilitate dialogue between social scientists and policy makers and to explore the concept of social quality - the intelocked outcomes of economic, social and cultural policy. As a theory based on democratic relationships between disciplines and their impact on the citizen, the concept has been recognised as an important element in the priorities of the European Union’s Social Agenda. The Foundation works with Felix Meritis in its capacity as a centre for debate, dialogue and international networking, forging links with other NGOs.
The Dutch Association for a Democratic Europe
The Association is a Nongovernmental Organization for the stimulation of public debate about the quality of democracy in Europe. Its foundation arose out of the perception that there was a complete lack of debate about the main processes of European integration in the Netherlands - for example the thinking that led to the decisions on European Monetary Union. Political and philosophical debates on the nature and consequences of European Union enlargement, and the resultant constitutional changes, have been conspicuous by their absence. The Association will examine these processes and their effect on democracy in the context of everyday life, through projects like ‘The Voice of Civil Europe’, initiated in conjunction with the European Foundation on Social Quality.
Stichting Max Wagener
The Max Wagener Foundation was formed to increase the impact of collaborative arts projects between the Netherlands and Central and Eastern Europe. It aims to improve the visibility of productions which are brought to the Netherlands and help Dutch organizations liaise effectively with partners in the region. Training programmes, schemes for the mobility of artists and large-scale presentations are at the heart of the work which links 8 core Dutch organizations - Aida Netherlands, Felix Meritis, MAPA, the Netherlands Theatre Institute, Groningen Grand Theatre and the ’Schouwburg’ theatres of Haarlem. Rotterdam and Utrecht. The foundation is named in memory of Max Wagener (1928-96) who was a sailor, journalist, dance critic and, for more than 20 years, Director of the International Theatre Institute’s Netherlands Centre.