Between the 13th – 16th of March, Pakhuis de Zwijger organised a four day festival in Amsterdam. Contrary to popular belief, it was not a music entertainment, but a festival on urban journalism. The Urban Stories Festival (USF) shared relevant stories from cities all over the globe, during workshops, lectures and documentary screenings, uniting worldwide ‘professional storytellers’. What did we learn about the act of urban journalism?
In a time when urban transformations are occurring at a rapid scale, sharing the stories of our cities become powerful tools to address urban issues. Urban storytelling, or urban journalism, provide awareness of best practice examples on issues such as migration, inequality, while at the same time offering innovative solutions on how to explore and understand cities.
The practice of urban journalism, coupled with the pros and cons of ‘solution stories’ kickstarted the festival, with the main event focusing on the ‘how to’ of urban journalism. Among the guest speakers, Gregory Scruggs, senior correspondent for Citiscope, offered his take on the pursuit of urban storytelling and journalism.
Read his brief write-up on the Urban Stories Festival and watch the kickoff event video below.
Four-day festival on urban storytelling kicks off in Amsterdam
In an era of polarized national politics and “fake news”, what is the future of urban journalism?
That’s the question this week in Amsterdam during the first-ever Urban Stories Festival. For four days, journalists, filmmakers, architects and urbanists are exploring tools for telling stories about cities. From traditional print to online websites, podcasts to documentaries, the festival will offer something for just about every flavour of media in the form of workshops, screenings, roundtables and exhibits.
Pakhuis de Zwijger, a waterfront cultural centre with a strong interest in urbanism, hatched the idea for the festival after last year’s Habitat III summit on the future of cities. Over several weeks in October, the center’s curators decamped to Quito, the Habitat III lost city, to put on a temporary installation called Fábrica Ciudad.
I participated in last night’s festival opener on a panel with Dutch journalist Saskia Naafs. Jörgen Tjon A Fong, who runs the theatre outfit Urban Myth, peppered the two of us with questions. We discussed the state of urban journalism and debated whether its practice can be allowed an implicit bias in favour of cities. We also discussed the growing field of “solutions journalism” as a strategy for covering urban innovations that cities can learn from.
A number of other Citiscope contributors are speaking at the festival, including Simone d’Antonio and Letty Reimerink. On Thursday, Stephanie Bakker and Yvonne Brandwijk will debut the fourth installment of their Future Cities project with a feature on how Medellín turned itself from a murder capital to a “smart”-city hub. The festival takes place as Pakhuis de Zwijger celebrates ten years as a creative center on the banks of the river IJ.
Feeling inspired? Watch the event video to find out more about the act of urban journalism.