A conversation with Arne Huysmans from Volta
We really feel for the many cultural organisations who are suffering from the current Corona crisis. Especially the local initiatives that have spent years growing into solid household names in the city. Such is the case for Volta, a truly great music venue located in Anderlecht. Yet, to define Volta as solely a place for gigs would be a serious understatement. It offers rehearsal spaces and workshops as well as guidance and support for musicians in Brussels. Honestly, what’s not to love. We had a little talk with Arne, the co-founder who shines a light on the impact of the crisis and how they are preparing for a post-Corona era.
Hi Arne, how are you experiencing the Corona crisis on a professional level?
Volta’s core value is to guide and support musicians in and around Brussels. People involved in the music scene have been hit incredibly hard during this time. They were the first who had to put down their work and will also be the last to start again. Therefore we’re turning this crisis into a new form of solidarity by offering different ways of supporting the scene.
Did you get a chance to prepare Volta for the crisis?
Just like most organisations, I think things moved faster than expected when we entered the complete lockdown. We personally didn’t expect that it would come this far.
Being a fairly fresh venue on the scene, what has been the impact for your business? What have you learned from this dramatic period?
Unfortunately, but for everyone’s safety, all activities were stopped in Volta. From residencies to concerts, rehearsals, workshops and small try outs. The impact should not be underestimated. In the short term, you run into financial arrears. In the long run, I fear that the damage will only be bigger. That’s why we think it’s important to be inventive and look for other ways to roll out our organisation.
In spite of all this, we feel a huge solidarity from organisation to organisation, from musician to musician. Everyone tries to help each other out where possible. If we extend these thoughts so that the bigger ones can reach out to the smaller ones, a lot can happen.
What have you learned personally from this crisis?
The first weeks of isolation were a huge kickback. Normally there’s always work, emails, phone calls, etc. I had to find a way to transfer this constant energy that I usually put into Volta into something else… This crisis gave me time to look back. Over the past years we have put everything aside to realise Volta. We literally built this place with our own hands. Something I’m still very proud of. Shout out to my homie Flor. It’s nice to stand still for a while and look back on the crazy ride we have taken. The lockdown makes me realise who I deeply love and what gives me energy.
Volta is, of course, a multifaceted organisation. Besides hosting gigs, you guys also offer rehearsal spaces and organise workshops. Are you working on new alternatives to connect with your audiences? Perhaps, going on a more digital route?
You had to cancel loads of upcoming events. How did the artists react to the unfortunate news?
Everyone was really understanding of the situation. Of course everyone wants to play but we all want this to be over as soon as possible so that we can return to our old lives. Because of the crisis you feel how close you are connected to each other. These are difficult times for the music scene. We will come out of this in a very different way and for that very reason we will need each other’s support more than ever.
Do you think people will change their behaviour in your industry, post-Corona? How will a visit to Volta look like in the future?
Hard to say. It’s a subject I’ve already discussed with some friends and colleagues. The reason for this gigantic pandemic has to resonate as a message that the world needs more extreme measures regarding our environment and health. Volta will take the necessary measures to ensure the most enjoyable experience possible for visitors. We are now working on the decoration, hygiene and new sanitary facilities for Volta. All of which will be of greater importance to visitors in the future.
The cultural scene has been quite vocal about the severe impact this crisis could have on their survival. Could you elaborate on the measures that are necessary to keep young, cultural initiatives afloat?
It is undeniable that government support must be sought to help during this drastic period for artists. We’re talking about a sector that has seen a complete loss of income for months and that regularly runs on freelancers and day contracts.
It is sad sometimes to see how the cultural sector is expected to rely on some sort of self-sufficiency. The importance of culture within our society has not been taken seriously enough. It strikes me that for too many people culture is considered a non-essential sector.
I challenge anyone to endure this lockdown without film, music, games, documentaries, books … you name it. Culture is what brings people together and is an important outlet for a healthy society.
And finally, any tips for our readers on how to pass the time during this lockdown?
Yes! Definitely go check out our live video session with schntzl and also go check out our Volta podcast. We have already launched two podcasts: one with Fenne Kuppens (Whispering Sons) and one with Alan van Rompuy of a z e r t y Klavierwerke.
Thanks for having me!