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There is a stately, old-fashioned bandstand on Pijnacker Square (Pijnackerplein), smack in the middle of Rotterdam’s working-class Old North neighborhood. Until about a decade ago, it had fallen into disuse. But in 2009, this beautiful pergola got a new lease on life thanks to Guido de Groot, a local resident, cartoonist and bluegrass enthusiast. Guido came up with the plan to let the bandstand be host to a festival featuring a variety of bluegrass bands. A festival was born, with 250 visitors enjoying the joyous neighborhood party in a corner of the Square.


Following a period of evaluation, Guido regrouped and professionalized the organization, presenting the festival’s second edition in 2012. Since then, the Rotterdam Bluegrass Festival has been held every year, celebrating its tenth edition with a record 18,000 visitors on Pijnacker Square. Having grown from a neighborhood party to a music event with international allure, the festival attracts both locals and music lovers from all over the world. To realize its goal of continuing this growth in the coming years, the 2023 edition will move to the North Square (Noordplein). Just a few blocks from the old location, the upgraded environs will offer visitors more concert venues, better facilities and a better all-round festival experience.


Each year, more and more visitors come to hear the growing and increasingly prestigious lineup of bands coming from around the world to converge for the festival. On top of world-class music, the festival offers an exciting lineup of activities for young and old. The JamZone, for example, is the festival’s lounge space and a place to jam together without inhibition. There’s a stage focusing on new talent. And in the many children's workshops, both children and their parents can learn to express themselves fully and creatively. Renowned musical artists will give workshops geared toward musicians ranging from amateur to professional. At the Bluegrass Market you can browse to your hearts content and enjoy an extensive range of street food and libations. In short, the Rotterdam Bluegrass Festival is not just music… it’s a total experience. And all that for an entrance fee that’s accessible even for music lovers on a budget.


The ‘Old North’ neighborhood is characterized by a low socio-economic status and therefore not a likely host for a successful festival on this scale. But the residents have embraced the festival and banded together to make it a rousing success. Many of the professional staff live nearby, and Guido, the festival director, is both a celebrity and a local fixture. Because of the home-grown nature of the festival and its low entrance fee, it attracts a mix of residents who generally don’t attend cultural activities. The result is a unique and diverse audience and a relaxed and amiable atmosphere. The festival offers various crossover programs, thereby encouraging fans of other music styles to become acquainted with bluegrass. Also, in advance of the festival, elementary school children are taught to play the ukulele, gaining an appreciation for bluegrass and forming a band that plays at the opening of the festival. The alumni of this school project are destined to someday form a band that, armed with bluegrass music, will surely conquer the world.