Favourite spot

Jasper Albinus: the Savannah Bay bookstore

Prominent Utrechters talking about their favourite spots in the city. This month: Jasper Albinus, spoken word artist and poet, talking about the Savannah Bay bookstore.

So, Savannah Bay?

‘I couldn’t imagine Utrecht without this bookstore. I discovered it when I was 17, while working on a secondary school project about gender diversity. I’ve been one of the family ever since, ending up in an open community of writers, activists and lovers of literature.

The owner of Savannah Bay, Marischka Verbeek, recommended certain books, which really smoothed my way to becoming a maker. I even organised a Queer Open Stage once: an open mic evening for the queer community. Savannah Bay takes a critical look at the cultural range on offer in the city and adds what it thinks is missing. The bookstore has had a huge impact on Utrecht in the forty years since it opened.’

Biggest letdown?

‘I’m really worried about what the lack of housing and extortionate prices are doing to the city. I love performing on stage, but at the same time I wonder who’s sitting in the auditorium. Art should be accessible to as many people as possible, low-threshold. But if Utrecht becomes too expensive for ordinary people, you can forget low-threshold.’

Best memory?

‘In October, I performed at the Mooie Woorden Festival at De Nijverheid with the musician Marc Alberto. The theme was Thank God that everything comes to an end. During the performance, everything fell into place, something that doesn’t happen very often. My text and the music were perfectly in tune with each other. The audience was visibly moved. I gave a playful, yet primitive portrayal of death – asked people to ritualise the process and suggest tips for grief. I started walking around the room being funny, but the emotion gradually took over. I feel blessed that I was given the opportunity for this performance.’

Favourite food?

‘I’ve made a habit, usually at lunchtime on Saturdays, of buying a sandwich at Bigoli, Broodje Mario or some chips and going to the bar De Zaak. You can eat whatever you want there, as long as you order drinks. It’s one of my favourite places, because of the homely vibe. Everything hanging on the walls gives it an eclectic, Alice-in-Wonderland feel. What’s more, the staff are really kind and friendly and the place has a lot of good memories for me. I think I even had my first date in this bar.’

Last thing you saw/heard?

‘The animation film The Tale of Princess Kaguya by the Japanese studio Ghibli, at home on Netflix. Anything with animation is pure poetry to me. Animation rewrites the rules about how the world and people should look, including flying dragons and three-headed beasts. Although these films may initially seem childish, they actually reflect the real world, often addressing philosophical and psychological issues. The Tale of Princess Kaguya is about alienation, a very sensitive subject. Being part of day-to-day life can be an ordeal, but at the same time, it can be a source of strength and beauty.’

Inspirational Utrechter?

‘I’m a huge fan of the historian Nancy Jouwe, who explores themes like women’s rights and the history of slavery. I’m proud to have worked with her recently for Cape X Utrecht. I wrote a poetical diptych for this exhibition, which revolves around the relationship between Utrecht and the South African Cape colony.
Nancy was also involved in the city of Utrecht’s apology for its part in the slavery past, at the beginning of last year. She set out the Traces of slavery city tour as part of this project. I look up to her because this has been the focus of her life and work for many years, something that moves me as a person. It’s down to her that I can see the city in a different perspective.’

Follow Jasper Albinus on Instagram: @jasperalbinus

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