Favourite spot

Gijs Wilbrink: The Village

Prominent Utrechters talking about their favourite spots in the city. This month: writer Gijs Wilbrink tells us about The Village Coffee & Music on Voorstraat.

So, The Village?
‘Yes. I first met the owners Angelo and Lennaert on the Utrecht punk scene, so I’ve been going there right from the start. I’m drawn in by the music – from punk rock to Springsteen and hip-hop – and the relaxed, alternative vibe. They’re never afraid to make a lot of noise, even on a Sunday morning. I often go to The Village in the mornings to get some reading and writing in. It’s where I worked on my debut novel De beesten, and where I presented it last November. With an afterparty with punk bands in ACU, of course.’

Biggest disappointment?
‘It’s such a pity that the city’s lost its rough side. The former squat Ubica, for instance, which features in my book, is now a  rosé wine bar. But the worst example is the fact that dB’s has to leave the CAB building on Cartesiusweg to make room for the new Cartesiusdriehoek housing estate. It’s as if the project developers are trying to make all the good spots move to the Werkspoorkathedraal, which is rapidly becoming an amusement park for alternative spirits.’

Guilty pleasure?
‘A can of Fernandes: it’s a sickly-sweet, bubble gum-flavoured, Surinamese soft drink. I don’t normally like sweet things, but the purple cherry-flavoured one (my favourite) is a constituent part of my working day. When I’m working at the International Literature Festival Utrecht, colleagues often bring me one in the afternoon. It’s good for the 4 o’clock energy dip.’

Best memory?
‘After I graduated, I spent two years living on an old farm near Lunetten with a couple of friends. The space and freedom were unreal. We set up one room as a home cinema, organised parties for 200 people and had all the creative space we needed, to make music for example.’

Best food?
‘Café Saar on Catharijnesingel. It’s one of few places in Utrecht with fabulous food and a great, informal atmosphere. They also have plenty of vegan and vegetarian options on the menu. I love good food, it’s an important part of life, and I’m always looking for an excuse to eat out. A reprint of De Beesten: go to Saar. A good review: go to Saar.’

Good film?
‘Actress Anna Drijver, director Ivo van Aart and I make a podcast called Nooit gezien. Part of the format is confessing which film classics we’ve never seen, and then dedicating an episode to Titanic or Ghostbusters, for example. We’ve got 8,000 regular listeners now. This summer we broadcast an episode of the podcast live from the Louis Hartlooper Complex. It was about E.T. and it sold out within two days. This film is amazing; I adore the 80s and the music won an Oscar. I normally go for indie films, like Fargo or Paris Texas. They were a huge source of inspiration for my novel.’

Latest discovery?
‘The book Ik ben jullie meester by Jeffrey Spalburg has blown me away. Based on the life story of his father, it’s beautifully written and deals with an important topic. Spalburg was born in Hengelo and has Surinamese roots. When his son was told at school to “bugger off back to his own country”, he felt a strong urge to start writing. This forced him to revisit the life story of own father James, who emigrated to the Netherlands from Suriname to become a teacher. Spalburg shows us the sacrifices his father made, and how they continue to affect following generations. It’s a story that many Surinamese families will identify with: they helped to build our country. The writer lays bare the hypocrisy of the words used against his son.’

Gijs Wilbrink is author of the bestseller De beesten, maker of the film podcast Nooit Gezien and editor-in-chief of the online platform of the International Literature Festival Utrecht (ILFU).


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