What can we do to find a way out of the climate crisis, the energy crisis, the health crisis, and all those other global issues? One of the possibilities is to reduce these problems, to look for solutions nearby, so that we can practically engage with them in our daily lives.
In this train of thought, the project Leidsche Rijn Luistert (translated: Leidsche Rijn Listens) was initiated. A project by Casco in collaboration with the artist collective ‘The Outsiders,’ who are concerned about the world and the local residents around them, curious about the connections with the surrounding area of a new residential district.
At the heart of the Leidsche Rijn Listens project was the west side of the city of Utrecht, with the exceptionally large Vinex district, Leidsche Rijn. A modern suburban area that shares many similarities with other urban (new construction) neighborhoods bordering the surrounding area. The project can thus serve as an inspiration for anyone interested in or working on the relationship between the city and the countryside, and curious about the role that art and artists can play in this context.
The city and the surrounding area have gradually become estranged from each other. Numerous social, economic, and practical factors play a role in this process, and for both farmers and city dwellers, local, national, European, and global issues complicate the situation.
Today, we know Leidsche Rijn as the largest new residential district in the Netherlands. But if we could turn back time, we would see an agricultural landscape that produced food for the city for centuries. A few old farms are silent witnesses to this time before the grasslands, orchards, sandpaths, and polder ditches disappeared to make way for rows of houses, luxury homes, apartments, shopping centers, and a grid of new roads and green spaces.
Yet, farmers are still active in the heart of this new city. And in the surrounding area, right next to all the new developments, they feed, graze, milk, cultivate, thresh, store, plant, and harvest!
The Leidsche Rijn Listens project shows that a mutual interest has developed between artists and farmers, and they worked together to connect with the residents of Leidsche Rijn. With excursions, workshops, dialogues, exhibitions, and a harvest festival, they succeeded in establishing a connection with the citizens of Leidsche Rijn. The artists are the connectors, the visualizers, and the persuaders. With mobile installations, adults and children, along with the artists, went exploring and discovered how vibrant their surroundings are, what products can be obtained directly from the farmers, how farmers and caretakers gently manage the landscape, and how ecology, heritage, and sustainability can be put into practice. How a bigger goal can be achieved with small steps.
The Leidsche Rijn Listens project perfectly aligned with the vision of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, which places a vital, sustainable agricultural sector, the quality of nature and the environment, and the livability of the countryside at its core. Thanks in part to funding from this fund, the Leidsche Rijn Listens project was successfully realized.