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Over The Top started in 2010. Members of the first hour, Nienke Penterman and Roel Stoltenborg, look back on the first decade of this unique festival. “Although the event has evolved into a full-grown and professional festival in recent years, our mission has remained the same over the years. We want to entertain the audience with surprising performances in music, art and theater. We are a festival for all ages, but definitely not mainstream. And we still have so many ideas that we can continue for many years to come.” – Written by Annekee Cuppers

Starting from Kultuurkuur to Over The Top

Over The Top was born in 2010 out of ” Kultuurkuur”, a festival organized by young people under the leadership of youth work at the time. When this festival became a success and the local authority no longer wanted to be responsible for the costs, the event was continued independently under the name Over The Top. Nienke explains, “We started with about 10 people, almost all from the former Kultuurkuur organisation. Everyone had their own area of expertise and responsibility, it actually pretty much ran itself.

We raised the festival from scratch and moved from the rugby field (today’s Wentholthpark, red.) to the grounds at De Swite. While Kultuurkuur was more focused on art and culture and had a more alternative image, Over The Top was more and more about ambiance, atmosphere and leisure. Things that Kultuurkuur didn’t have money for and we didn’t have experience with. In this respect Kultuurkuur was a good school for Over The Top. Some people still think that Over The Top is an alternative festival for hippies, but that is definitely not the case. There is something for everyone, although we definitely don’t want to be mainstream. We do things in our own way and that’s often the little difference between us and other festivals.”

Roel adds: “Here in the region, a lot of tribute and cover bands perform at parties and festivals. There’s nothing wrong with that, you can have a nice party with it, but with us about 80% of the artists are musicians who bring their own tunes. People go to Over The Top for the atmosphere and fellowship, the exact line-up of bands is not really that important. In this respect, the approach of Over The Top has not changed in recent years. We want to continue to surprise people with music and theatrical performances that aren’t obvious, but are very cool.”


The creativity of the young organisation is also reflected in the ambiance of the Over The Top festival. In the second year of Over The Top, the organizers built pallet houses in which an art route was exhibited.

It was a great success, which also caught the attention of the Black Cross organizers. Roel: “They approached us to ask whether we could also build pallet houses on the Black Cross festival (Zwarte Cross). It became a whole pallet arena, a big task, but also a special challenge.

Now we get to take care of the main entrance to the Zwarte Cross grounds every year. It’s a great job that brings some money back into the Over The Top Festival.”

Without subsidies

And the money is also urgently needed, because Over The Top does not receive any subsidies and is entirely supported by volunteers and sponsors. Nienke: “In the first years we did everything to get money. We worked at all kinds of festivals, decorated weddings and rented out decorations for other events. At Pentecost we also had the lucrative little festival Pimppop on the terrace of the Tapperij Van Ooijen (a bar in Lichtenvoorde), which earned us money that we in turn used to fund Over The Top.

At that time, Over The Top was still held in August. In retrospect, you can say that it was not a favorable time since the Black Cross (Zwarte Cross) and other festivals in the region had already taken place and people didn’t want or were able to spend more money on festivals. Then we abolished the festival at Van Ooijen and moved Over The Top to Pentecost, a weekend when most people already have a bankholiday anyway. That turned out to be the right decision. We can also save a lot of costs by swapping volunteers and equipment with other festivals in the region, such as Reurpop and Paaspop. That way we help and support each other.”

230 volunteers

Throughout the year, the die hard organisation of about 10 members work full-time for the festival for an average of one month. Where in the early years each member took on a sub-task, such as logistics, social program, music line-up, stage design, finances, PR and communications, these members now lead one or more teams of about six people to work on tasks and responsibilities together. Roel says, “And then, of course, there are the actual festival days. Every year we need about 230 volunteers.

Three years ago, we extended the festival from one day to two days, and it worked out very well. Many of the volunteers would like to celebrate one day as well.

The Volunteers really like it here, they appreciate the  attention we give them, the good support and, of course, the legendary annual Volunteers’ Party. We really try to pamper them.  Many volunteers come back every year and in turn bring a friend or a hardworking neighbour with them.

This really makes us happy, because despite the loyal group of volunteers, we need more people every year due to the steady growth of the festival.”

Basically it's madness

Every year all over again. All the hours you take off, the stress, the exhaustion. Why invest so much time and effort in a festival where you do all the work yourself? And what are the plans for the future? Roel: “Everyone has the thought “Why am I doing this to myself?” at some point during the process, but these two days of Over The Top are so fulfilling, all these happy people everywhere. And yeah, it’s actually insane, but we still have so many ideas that we want to realise. We just want to do our best to make that happen.

As for the atmosphere and the line-up, we still have some wishes, but we are taking small steps. We want to stay on this terrain and have no ambitions to expand further.” Nienke adds, “We want to remain the comfortable, small and uncluttered festival for everyone. Since its launch, we’ve seen an increase in visitors, although there could be more visitors on Saturdays. We hope to put up the “sold out” sign for the first time, and if the weather cooperates, we expect that to happen!”


Luister in ons containerdorp naar de creatieve rijmelarij van Dichtercollectief Warrig. Laat je meeslepen, laat een persoonlijk gedichtje schrijven of typ er zelf een fijn rijmpje. Woord voor woord maken we met alle bezoekers ons eigen wonderlijke gedicht.

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