Back in 2001, Rotterdam had the honour to call itself European Capital of Culture for a year. Among those asked to put together the programme 21 years ago was Motel Mozaïque initiator and founder Harry Hamelink. “MOMO was one of the few organizations set up at the time to carry on after that celebratory year, thanks in part to the city’s generous funding support.” Over the years, MOMO has kept pace with changes in Rotterdam, becoming a platform where people can discover music, art, culture and the city itself.

Originally, the organization was conceived as a showcase for music, theatre and visual art. Above all, says Katrien van Leeuwen, who recently joined the team as head of marketing & communications, it is a space for engagement. “The events we host, such as festivals and concerts, give people a chance to discover new music by artists with high potential or who are just breaking through. Besides that, we also offer programming that can be more provocative.” Harry and Katrien’s enthusiasm is palpable in how MOMO is organized. With a brand-new overarching festival theme each year and suitable venues sought for each individual act, it all involves a huge amount of bespoke work and hundreds of partnerships.

By bringing together diverse forms of expression, artists, musicians and programme makers, MOMO has crafted a space that fosters connections and out of which fresh initiatives take shape. Katrien explains, “the links and convergences of artists, venues and musicians is super interesting, plus social innovation is immensely valuable. We also have a Young Talents Club that gives candidates a chance to build experience in the art and cultural sector.” As a self-proclaimed pioneer, MOMO is always looking for ways to innovate. In sustainability, for example. Five years ago, they organized the very first plastic-free festival in the Netherlands. “Our approach to the 2007 edition at Hofbogen was dubbed ‘festival architecture’ by the architecture firm ZUS”, says Harry, eyes gleaming, “because we literally used the city as a backdrop to see what that would engender”.

The 2023 edition is sure to offer another exciting and diverse line-up. The Central District will also be in on the action, with Perron and Roodkapje serving as venues. “Our new tagline is MOMO Makes You Wonder”, Katrien proudly reveals, “alluding to the festival as a journey of discovery where you can expect the unexpected.” Harry and Katrien share their most anticipated acts for next year’s festival (13th until 15th of April): “The Cavemen host an incredible show where dancing is guaranteed. On top of that, Debbie performs soul from the soul and has already won the hearts of Mahalia and John Legend.”