I conversation with Jill van Raan
We had a pleasure speaking with Jill van Raan.
Jill, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I'm Jill, I live in Amsterdam. I started my internship at ID&T when I was 19 years old and have never left since. I quit my studies and jumped into a full time job. I was young and very motivated and still am, learning the job by actually doing it. I started working at ID&T as an office manager, and from there I graped every opportunity and slowly started making some stage designs for smaller stages. I made some moodboards and every year my role within the creation team was getting bigger and now I am responsible for the whole creation part for Mysteryland.
What are your first memories with music that you connect to?
That's a song by Toni Braxton. It was “Unbreak My Heart” and I was singing that from my living room and didn't even know what I was singing. But I think that's one of my first music memories and my first festival memory is Mysteryland. I was 17 years old, too young to get in – but I was in. Standing on the massive fields during the end show of Bart Skils at the main stage. Yeah, that feeling of your first festival. Nobody ever forgets that.
What does it mean to be the creative lead at Mysteryland for you?
As a creative lead, I’m responsible to create experiences before, during and after the festival. When the visitor enters the Mysteryland ground you need to make them feel comfortable and once they are comfortable, their journey will start. We want to surprise them with a lot of unexpected moments. But also after Mysteryland, it's important to stay in the mind of the visitors and we want to keep reminding them of the good times they have had in a creative way. We stay connected to our audience throughout the entire year with music, photos, videos and limited edition merchandise. So it's not only during the festival, but also before and after the festival I'm responsible to keep those happy vibes going throughout.
How is there any difference nowadays, especially with the lives we live at the moment? Has that been more challenging to maintain? That creative after flow after the experience, because it's been a while since the last festival.
It's difficult because you don't have memories from last year that you can show, but we did a livestream last year to give something back to our visitors in these challenging times. The livestream was very successful, we created a whole new festival world where DJs recorded their sets in hot air balloons! You can still check it out on our YouTube channel if you search for Let’s Get High!
We got a lot of love from our visitors and they really liked it. During the livestream we sold limited edition merchandise and the DJs were also very grateful and happy that we created such a large exclusive online event. So it's difficult. But yeah, that's also my job; being creative during these times.
Guide us through your creative process. How do you work towards the final look or the theme of the stages and the merchandise?
Well every year it starts with the artists department looking for the right sounds, brands, and partners that match with Mysteryland. Once the hosting partners are selected, my work begins. I zoom into each brand and look for the right combination and angle with Mysteryland. I mix the flavors of Mysteryland with the flavors of the hosting partner and create a state that matches with both brand DNAs.
In this process I get a lot of inspiration from different places like nature, pinterest, books, clothes, music. I draw the idea or illustrate it, then I check in with the technical producer to see if my ideas are realistic. At first, my ideas are usually not realistic enough to actually create and we need to make some concessions. During the process, new ideas for using alternative materials come up. Making all those changes is a part of the process and it takes a lot of time before you get to the final design. But it doesn't stop with the stages. That process is necessary for everything: show elements, acts, lights, smaller decorations that you can see behind and in the trees and so on..
And don’t forget the merchandise. This year we wanted to have a more basic collection that is easy to wear and has an everyday style. Next to the basic collection, we also wanted to have more unique pieces, limited editions and clothes that are based on the latest trends.
What kind of experience do you want to create for the visitors of Mysteryland? Does that differ each year with a different theme?
No, we don't really have a theme. I want to create an escape from reality. I want our visitors to forget their day to day business, create new memories, enjoy themselves and to celebrate life. There are three words that we work with – mysterious, surrealistic and colorful. That is what Mysteryland is, and you can express that in a lot of different ways.
What do you think makes Mysteryland so unique, compared to so many other festivals that are also in the Netherlands? What makes it stand out for you?
I think Mysteryland is unique because it's the longest running dance festival in the world. It doesn't matter what age you are. Everybody knows Mysteryland and for a lot of our visitors their first festival is Mysteryland. We offer so many different sounds and experiences. I think there's no other festival that offers such diversity in sound and culture. It’s also the only festival in the Netherlands where you can consistently see legendary dance artists and talent from every electronic music genre. At the same time you get the chance to get lost in a fantasy festival world, there’s something for everybody!
What are some of your biggest influences from the world of creatives, art and design when it comes to Mysteryland?
At first, I wasn't aware of it too much, but I found out that Es Devlin has inspired me so much without even noticing. She's a stage designer and has worked for many big artists like Kanye West, Beyonce, and The Weekend. It’s inspirational for me to see a talented woman who works with such big artists. She’s amazing at thinking about the different perspectives visitors have in the crowd! Tim Walker is also a great inspiration, he’s almost a one on one fit with Mysteryland in my eyes!
Would you care to give me a comment on your perspective on sustainability when organizing festivals nowadays? How does that come into play with your job or the festival itself?
We pay a lot of attention to sustainability and have even won awards for it in the past. We always have. Our aim is to run the festival with power in combination with batteries in 2022. This year we are working towards a post system on drinks with reusable materials. We encourage organic and vegetarian food and all of our disposals are compostable. We are part of the international green deal, a circular festival where we work together with other international festivals on circular pilots. The trick is to consider waste as raw material and for me, especially in our stage design, I always want to make sure that we make something for the long term to use. So one year it's the stage design and the next year it’s decoration for the entry gates. Most of the time, nature products are my favorite. A lot of people recognize it because almost every time there's something green in my stage designs.
What's the best part of your job for you, actually? What’s that one key thing that you would emphasize?
The best part of my job is during the end show. You've worked the entire year to create something for just this one weekend and everything comes together. During the endshow, you know that the day is over and you did a great job. That moment is super short, but so powerful.
To know more about Mysteryland please visit their website: https://www.mysteryland.nl
Timotej Letonja & Magdalena Roe