-Mick ter Reehorst
Everyone has a story to tell. This particular story starts in 2015. After graduating from Amsterdam University College, Marije and me went to Barcelona to film a documentary about the Catalan local elections. The sudden resurgence of separatist sentiments intrigued us both, and hey – Barcelona is a nice city. On Montjuic, overlooking a sea of Catalan flags, we started interviewing young Catalans about their views on Catalonia and Spain.
A multifaceted identity like that of the Catalan people can only be captured through a multiplicity of voices. We set out to talk to as many Catalans as we could – from both sides of the political aisle – and tried to paint a nuanced picture of a polarised situation. Every person we interviewed had a different story – but collectively, they told the story of Catalonia. Are We Europe was born from that realisation – in Barcelona, on Montjuic, in 2015.
In the years that followed, we started collecting stories from all over the European continent, and tried to tell the story of Europe. Because the European essence is not found in the suitcase of a dusty bureaucrat; it is not found in the wallet of greedy CEOs; it is not found in beautiful values like progress, peace, and prosperity. The European essence is found in its people – and in the accumulation of their stories.
Since we started in 2015, the Are We Europe community has been growing every day. We are a group of young Europeans, exploring who we are – individually and collectively – by showing our diverse perspectives, by sharing our different opinions, and by making our voices heard. This cacophonic choir answers that one simple question – ‘are we Europe?’ – with an increasingly more resounding ‘yes!’
I strongly believe in the aesthetic and poetic value of closed circles. Last week, I went back to my alma mater – Amsterdam University College – to attend a TEDx pitch event and tell the audience a short version of the story called Are We Europe
. The challenge of giving a Ted Talk was to condense the rather complex Are We Europe idea into a 3 minute elevator pitch. The art of storytelling; the art of sharing ideas. Preferably, an idea has to stick and has to ring in people’s ears long after you left the stage. All I could do was to write, pitch, gather feedback and rewrite. Move from version to version until I felt comfortable enough to get on stage. That’s where it happens: the storytelling magic.
I kept reminding myself to savour that moment. Being on stage is special. Scary as hell – but special. Naturally, it was a great compliment to be the jury’s choice, but the real validation came from the people that loved our idea.
I eagerly look forward to standing on that big stage to talk more about our collective European Storytelling project, on the 13th of March at the KIT, the Royal Tropical Institute, in Amsterdam. The process of writing and rewriting has started – I am looking forward to telling the AUC Community the Are We Europe story – and I hope I can encourage everyone to tell their own.