Untitled document collage1 Every year the festival depicts itself in a different way in the streets of Neerpelt. In the beginning of April all families living in Neerpelt receive a festivalposter to put up in their front-window. It may well be considered to be a musically inspired work of art. We wanted to find out about the story behind the poster. As a result we got together with Theo van Baelen.
He has been actively involved in the festival for 46 years and he has dedicated a lot of his free time to the organization. Theo is not just the designer and/or inspirer of most festivalposters but he also created the festivalbirds. He thought of or drew or designed or even painted posters or he sat down next to "computerpeople" to give advice. He also inspired others to make designs which resulted into an impressive variety of ideas and anecdotes in the course of time and the history of the festival.
As an art-teachter at Wico-campus St.-Hubertus Theo was asked to design posters for the festival. Refusing was no ussue, and not much later he became a board-member. For no fewer than 46 years he has never let down the festival, even if it meant spending the Easter-holidays to the organization; he did everything he could do for the sake of the festival, but usually in the backroom.
Theo is still involved in education, teaching as a guest-teachter at various venues, challenging youngsters to be guest-designers, and thus helping them find their spot in the world of arts. Meanwhile he has passed on his role to Carine Van Gerven who works with her students to create new ideas for the festival.
The very first festivalposter is lacking in the collection. But the 1963-poster still exists; it is a linocut just like the 1965 one, which is very colourful and quite modern for that period.
The hatching of the festivalbirds
The birds turned up in 1967. A brilliant idea of Theo's; he painted two "birdies" with magical and colourful tails. A dry brush was enough to add some artistry with the lack of full lines. If you study the birds with care, you will see the N of Neerpelt in their beaks. In the course of time some people tried to make varieties or even copies, but Theo has always protected "his" birds not to be abused.
A Czech friend
In 1971 the EMY-symbol was adapted; in the original design the left-sided bird had the German, Danish, French and Polish flag while the bird to the right wore the Belgian, Dutch, Swedish and Spanish colours. And then in 1970, Theo met Mr. Uherek and his choir from Libérec, picking them up at the Belgian-Luxembourg border and conducting them to Aalst for a guest-appearance at a Cantate Domino-concert, the then most outstanding Belgian boys' choir. Theo and the choir became best friends and Theo promised them to integrate the Czech flag in the birds' tails. Unfortunately that included the disappearance of the Danish flag. The year after, in 1971, one of his Czech friends designed a festivalposter, as a gesture of gratitude, with a handpainted staff, a real piece of art.
Theo also loves the 1969-poster, based on a Paul Coninx-photo to the negative of which Theo added a few contours with a brush.
to be continued...