NEERPELT.- It is a well-known fact that 1953 is the birth year of the European Music Festival for Young People (EMJ). Less-known however, is the fact that only in 1966, the EMJ got a logo. It was EMJ Coordinator and Board Member of that time, Theo Van Baelen who drew the two kissing birds. The birds were approved by the EMJ directors of that time and were processed in a logo for EMJ. Today, 50 years after they saw the first daylight, the kissing birds are still the trademark of the EMJ.
Theo van Baelen, the spiritual father of the festival birds, from 1966 to 2011 first was Coordinator and later board member of the EMJ. Currently he is member of Obligato, an Association for board members and judges, who, for years, have done their utmost to make EMJ a success.
Theo was employed as teacher at the Sint-hubertuscollege in Neerpelt where he taught art history, aesthetics, graphic- and scientific design.
"When I had just started as a coordinator, I noticed that the EMJ had no badge, no symbol" Theo Van Baelen says. "One evening in 1966 I sat behind my desk and started drawing. I drew two loving, kissing birds with a colorful feather splendor. The little birds stood for music in the world. The kissing for meeting and friendship. The eighth note above the two birds refers to love for music. The colored tail feathers refer to the flags of different countries, symbol of Europe. Today still, the birds are the indisputable symbol of the EMJ. "
Theo Van Baelen made sure that in all these years no changes were made to his original design. Even when sometimes variations or copies of his original drawing popped up, the original design never changed. "Then again…," says Theo. "at first, there is a printing error. In my original design, the outline of the birds was not equally black. A thin white line went through it. In the first edition the white line had disappeared. In the original version there was a Danish flag in the colorful tail of one of the birds. That flag has been replaced by the Czech flag because I had friends in the Czech choir ' Severáček ' from Liberec. "
Soon, the market square in the Centre of Neerpelt will be completely renovated. The festival board of directors is thinking of having a statue of the festival birds put up on the market square. Negotiations on this subject are currently ongoing.
Anyway, during the 65th Edition of the EMJ (April 28th – May 2nd 2017) the 50th anniversary of the festival birds will receive extra attention.
Theo Van Baelen, spiritual father and designer of the festival birds. (photo: Louis Weckx)