- 26 August 2017
People from many different countries live, study and work in Eindhoven. Every week, E52 has a talk with an international about what brought them here and what life is like in Eindhoven.
Name: Juliet Gagnon
Country of origin: United States
Work: Artistic director of Watershed and freelance writer
Just outside the city centre of Eindhoven is Pand P, a theatre, restaurant and the home of Stichting Watershed, a non-profit literary platform. We speak to Juliet Gagnon on the terrace. “It´s the last week of the summer holiday, so my daughter Frankie joins us,” she says with a smile. After we are settled with some coffee and a soda, Juliet tells more about Watershed and her dreams and ideas. “I started it with the intention to create something to bring writers together. As a writer, you can learn from other writers and get useful feedback. On our own we tend to look at our work with blinders on.” Juliet started Stichting Watershed in 2014 and it has been growing ever since.
“Our goal is to set up an academy for writers. We believe in the power of ‘Relentless Learning’. The educational system in the United States is slightly different compared to the Netherlands. There are a lot of people who go get experience in the professional field and then return to school later to further their field or search new fields. This way you can find out where you want to specialize in and where your passion is. I found that very useful, it gave me time to grow. At Watershed we are working on developing a model that answers this need to keep learning here in the Netherlands. We have started with organizing residencies, these are a sort of literary boot camps, each year called Camp Cushy. And of course we have our public programming with Radio Slik, stage program with SLIK live and for the first time, we will have a literary evening in the Parktheater on the 29th of August. The program is bilingual, Dutch and English. During our matinees and evenings, we talk about the larger social topics and how they are unravelled through the lens of literature. Literature enables you to look at life through the eyes of other people.”
Juliet came to the Netherlands for the first time in 1999. “I was supposed to go study abroad for a semester and at first chose China. But the trip got cancelled. So, I had a whole semester of free time. A friend lived in Amsterdam and asked if would come to visit. That was my first visit, and later I came back for short breaks, like 15 or 20 times. And in 2009 I ended up staying for good. Less than two months ago, I became a Dutch citizen, that is very special to me. In December there is the city ceremony and we will have a big party after. By learning the Dutch language, the way I looked at the Netherlands changed. Although, it is still difficult to joke around in Dutch. I come across differently when I express myself in Dutch or English.”
“In Brabant, in general, there is a great support for new things. People open up their network and make time for you. For example, one of our board members Joep Huiskamp is one of these people- with such a great and varied knowledge, openness and network that helps me a lot. He introduced me to Giel Pastoor, director of the Parktheater. Giel took the time to listen to my vision for Watershed and helped me with inspiration and insight to develop my ideas further. Tthese sorts of relationships create a domino effect especially for smaller start-up cultural organizations. In a city that is so dominated by technology, culture is needed. More and more people here want to see that flourish. But I hope the cultural landscape doesn’t get pushed into a system. Not everything has to be labelled or put in boxes. Where the avant-garde is, things are happening.”
“Running Watershed takes up a lot of time, and with a 6-year-old who I also want to be present for so I am often working from home and long hours in between,” Juliet tells when asked about her spare time. During the conversation, Frankie has been drawing, but when it comes to doing fun stuff, she joins in: “We do nice things, like eating ice cream. We like the flavours of Intelligentia Ice. My favourite is Oreo, with a bit of cotton candy on top!” And when asked what her favourite playground is, she doesn’t have to think long: “Philipsdorp. It’s the best!”
Read all the internationals stories here.
Photography: Diewke van den Heuvel