A look at Sencity: ‘Bending over backwards to achieve something can lead to great things’

An experiential festival inspired by our ability or inability to hear sound, that is Sencity in a nutshell. Festival organiser Bas Wierikx invited the Centre for Science and Culture to produce the festival's science content. The result: a titillating experiment in which philosopher of science, historian and composer Susanna Bloem discusses our experience of music and time with the audience. What drives Wierikx? And what value will the collaboration generate? 

A shared experience  

“I love creating new experiences with a deeper social layer," Wierikx explains. "How do you get people to think and behave in a more inclusive way? That's what we’re trying to achieve at Sencity." A festival where deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing people mingle and party together. The music, art and science experiences are designed to be the same for everyone, regardless of their hearing.  

Getting deaf people to lose themselves in music might seem impossible, but that is exactly the kind of challenge Wierikx relishes. "Bending over backwards to achieve something can lead to great things." It is a pretty complex endeavour: "For example, we talk to musicians to find out what they're trying to express through their music so that we can share that through sign interpreters. 

Sensory designers help translate their performances into smells, tastes, images and movement with the help of a vibrating dance floor. That way, we can tell the same story in different ways." 

A valuable collaboration  

While the festival traditionally focused on music and art, organisers added scientific talks and experiments to the programme last year. Wierikx values the ongoing partnership with the Centre for Science and Culture. "From a scientific perspective, I'm interested in helping visitors learn more about the way our senses work. On the other hand, we also connect researchers with deaf culture and give them a new perspective on their research." 

25 March 2023 marks the festival's 20th edition, themed "The joy of failing". "After all, you can achieve a lot more in life if you aren't afraid to fail." While the issue is obviously important to everyone, it's probably more relevant to deaf and hard-of-hearing people who have to navigate a world that doesn't necessarily cater to their needs." 

Bas Wierikx served as director of Sencity Festival, part of the Possibilize Foundation, until 2022. He still plays a supporting role and is working on various projects at the intersection of culture and social impact.

Text: Tessa de Vries 

Susanna Bloem bespeelt een instrument tijdens Sencity Festival in TivoliVredenburg waar een doventolk aanwezig is
Philosopher of science, historian and composer Susanna Bloem with sign interpreter during Sencity


This article also appears in the third edition of the magazine Close-Up, full of inspiring columns, background stories and experiences of researchers and support staff.

Go to Close-up #3