The city of Haarlem is a city with a birth date: November 23rd 1245. This is when Willem II, Count of Holland granted the citizens of Harlem city rights. The city on the river Spaarne grew into a cultural city with a rich history, beautiful monuments, rustic courtyards and a Burgundian atmosphere.
Haarlem is famous as the cradle of the Dutch Golden Century and as a Flemish city. Following the fall of Antwerp in 1585, thousands of refugees from Flanders came to Holland. Most of these refugees had been employed in the textile industry. By absorbing them into the city and allowing them to resume their former livelihoods, the city government ensured an unprecedented economic and cultural blossoming.
Painting underwent a period of innovation, the high point of which was the lively portraits of Frans Hals. City architect Lieven de Key fathered the ‘Dutch Renaissance’, visible to this day in monumental buildings like the town hall and the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church).
Alongside this, Haarlem has a reputation as a writers’ city. Many renowned Dutch authors were either born there or have worked there, including Nicolaas Beets, Lodewijk van Deyssel, Godfried Bomans, Louis Ferron, Harry Mulisch, L.H. Wiener and Lennaert Nijgh.
Today too, many artists and writers call Haarlem home, and the city boasts a rich cultural life with literary events, theatre, exhibitions, music and festivals like the biennial Stripdagen Haarlem.
citybooks Haarlem gets underway in 2017, and the residencies will take place spread over four years. We’ll be inviting four authors and two visual artists to each create a city portrait.
In October 2017, Belgian author Kristien Hemmerechts kicked things off on the first of our two-weeks’ residencies in Haarlem. Next was graphic novelist Ulli Lust, visiting the city in February 2018. The Spanish author Andrés Barba resided in Haarlem for two weeks in April 2019. The citybooks residency of Cynan Jones has been postponed from the spring of 2020 to 2021, due to the corona lockdown. Dutch author Gerda Blees will write about her home town, her citybook will be ready in the autumn of 2020.
Two graphic novelists will realise the visual dimension of the project and draw city portraits inspired by Haarlem. Ulli Lust imagined a city under water, her citybook drawings were exhibited during the Stripdagen 2018. In 2020, the renowned illustrator Thé Tjong-Khing realises a citybook inspired by his home town.