Who is Manu Jacobs (30) the new director of the Geitestoet: “More stress than for a major musical production” (Wilrijk)

We speak to Manu Jacobs in a symbolic place, the terrace of Grand Café Georges. The statue of the Wilrijk goats keeps a close eye on the conversation and De Kern theater is also nearby. “This is where my career started,” says Jacobs. As an 18-year-old boy he wanted to make theatre, and it was the director of De Kern who offered him a stage. “When I get to the center, I always want to pass here,” he smiles.

In the early years of his career, Schouwburg De Kern was Jacobs’ home. — © Joris Herregods

He inherited this love for the theater from his grandfather Stan Bergmans, who, according to Jacobs, is an important political figure in the district. “It was my grandfather who told us there were two sides to the Goat Procession. On the one hand it is of course a nice fact, but it also costs a lot of money. So not everyone is in favor of it. That means that we cannot assume that the Geitestoet is an obvious thing to do.”

The very first Geitestoet went on in 1965, production was halted for years, until it was rebooted in 1990. “I’m from ’91, so I haven’t seen the restart,” says Jacobs. “But of course I was able to watch the subsequent editions. As a child you think those giants are gigantic, as you get older you put that into perspective. But I always link the goat parades to important milestones in my life, precisely because they only happen every five years.”

Lange Wapper in front

Due to the many productions in De Kern, the district asked to take over the directorship in 2015. “I definitely wanted to give it a try and now we are here”, Jacobs laughs. “You sometimes bump into a collection of traditions while as a young director you want to do your thing, but I can count myself lucky that I can realize it all.”

© Joris Herregods

For example, Jacobs approaches it in a different way than his predecessor. “The Lange Wapper, for example, runs at the front and not at the back,” he says. “We show the Wapper how society has changed in recent years. For example, we show an old camera on a car to the current selfie, and we talk about the history of defense.” That way the procession doesn’t sound very Wilrijk. “And that’s right,” he says. “Someone from, say, Boortmeerbeek will also agree with it. The procession is about the history of society and is Wilrijks because it was made by the Wilrijkaar.”

Jacobs’ musical background also gets a place in the procession. “It is the very first time that a choir will sing live,” he says. “Musician Hans Vercauteren has composed a song especially for the procession, and it will be danced to.” According to the director, that song will be the highlight of the procession. “At the end it is also sung for the Lange Wapper accompanied by a harmony. For example, the Wilrijkaar can finally stand arm in arm again, to sing along with full chest after the corona crisis.


Is he nervous for the big moment September 25th? “I have more stress for the Geitestoet than for a major musical production,” he says. You cannot rehearse a procession, you work with a huge number of people, horses and then you have to take the weather into account. “The r-word (rain ed.) should not be spoken during a meeting”, Jacobs chuckles. “We are talking about the end of September, it just might happen. And of course there is public opinion, which is not always as kind when a new director is on the job.”

© Joris Herregods

Still, the director thinks it’s all very nice to do. “I wouldn’t be a producer if I didn’t want to take on a new challenge. I’m especially curious about what it will look like once the last puzzle pieces come together.”

Why should the public come and watch? “Because they paid for it!” says the director resolutely. The Geitestoet is paid for with subsidy money, and we have done everything we can to spend all euros as best as possible on quality. So come on down and enjoy.” (svo)

The Geitestoet is still looking for some volunteers who want to help

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Manu Jacobs director Geitestoet stress major musical production Wilrijk

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