'This is a typical city that suits me. The plants start to grow'

| Sanne Leenders

Connecting and moving society, working on stimulating projects and making people feel comfortable in their own skin. That is what Lois de Jong likes to do. This busy bee came flying in from the flamboyant city of Leiden, but was fortunate enough to be in a city like Tilburg. 'As a city we had to come from far away, but now we are catching up and that's possible here too!' Some examples? Take the Spoorpark as the city's new front yard, the Spoorzone with its award-winning LocHal and of course the Piushaven. These are all developments of which we, as Tilburg residents, can be extremely proud. Lois de Jong will tell you all about it.
Photo's: Camiel Donders

Lois de Jong has lived in Tilburg for half his life. The 44-year-old urban sports enthusiast came to our city in 1996 to study: SPECO at the Fontys University of Applied Sciences Tilburg, because he had a preference for marketing communication in sports. At that time, Leiden did not yet offer that kind of training. In the end, Lois completed his studies in 4.5 years, after which he was lucky enough to stick around! 'I had always thought that after my studies I would settle in another city. Especially at the beginning I had a double relationship with Tilburg. Now it is no longer an issue, but at the beginning I still thought that Tilburg had a long way to go. When I first came there and walked out of the station, I thought it was rather depressing. I'm from Leiden, so I'm a bit spoiled in that sense as well. Leiden is a real bonbon compared to here. Gradually I noticed that in Tilburg, precisely because of a lack of such things, it is about people and what they do. Don't complain, just do it!'

'Being active all the time typifies me'.
Lois loves to always do something innovative. Something that lies outside the comfort zone and stimulates. Those words also involve a lot of deeds. Lois started as an intern at an urban sports magazine. From there, other projects soon emerged. Now Lois is involved in what he calls 'story doing'. 'Preferably with a lot of positive ideas on themes such as: society, feeling good and sustainability.'

Deliciously contrary, delicious Tilburg
Lois is well established: 'When someone says that it's all a bit difficult, I do it nicely anyway. That contrary behaviour is reflected in Tilburg's DNA. That's probably why I thrive here.' Lois wants his projects to have a positive impact on the city. He already did this for the Library, the municipality and all the buildings in the Spoorzone. Once during Festival Mundial, for example, Lois organised Tilburg's biggest urban sports spectacle. Today he is, among other things, the initiator of Tilburg Fietst, he is busy with projects for youth work R-Newt and last but not least: frontman within the Spoorpark.

The Central Park of Tilbu
I'm sure you haven't missed the fact that Spoorpark is about to open its gates. A few years ago the municipality of Tilburg bought the former Van Gend en Loos territory. What followed was a considerable process in which citizens were allowed to put forward their ideas for the park. 82 plans had to be assessed. In the end, 8 frontmen were able to realize their dream. They have been involved from the first hour to make this 7.5 ha. large area and fantastic park for everyone. So the park has the following: Scouting Esjeeka, T-huis, De Rits, BEWEEGR, Stadscamping Tilburg, Living Water and the Outdoor Urban Sports Park. This has made the Spoorpark the largest citizens' initiative in the Netherlands. Something to be extremely proud of!


The Outdoor Urban Sports Park
In other words, the showpiece of frontmen Lois de Jong and Rens Verbruggen. Lois explains: 'Together with the Hall of Fame, we came up with a plan to bring Urban Sports to the Spoorpark. Sport has been my medicine for everything and I want to give that to the people of the next generation as well. In this day and age we have to compete against the mobile phones. It is so addictive! That was my motivation to make something that would be just as tempting. Take the pumptrack inside this park, it's really cool! You get totally absorbed in the flow and end up in the hyperfocus zone, so you can't be busy with anything else. I love that! It brings people from all walks of life with different backgrounds together.'

The Outdoor Urban Sports Park now consists of a pump track, glacier boulders where children can experience their first clamber sessions, a boulevard with skateable benches and a skate bowl which is a reincarnation of the one in the former Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame will soon be one of the parties that will organise activities within the Spoorpark. The skateboard scene will be taken outside. Later there are 3 more parts: a platform with different heights, skatable letters in the word TILLY and finally a skateobstacle with all kinds of plateaus and height differences.

Tilburg as the Rotterdam of the South
What Lois liked about Tilburg is that so much remains to be done. 'In a big city a lot of things have been done and you are not the first. Tilburg has a lot of room for development. I think that's a good position to take.' That's why Lois compares Tilburg to the Rotterdam of the south: 'I like the guts here. Frontmen really dare to stick their necks out here. And not only here, but also in the Spoorzone. The LocHal is my new office, it's awesome!

'It's happening, but you can do more. I was waiting so long for it to happen. At one point I really got fed up with it'.
According to Lois, despite all these developments, Tilburg still lacks a number of things. One of them is a connecting festival. 'Tilburg is a festival city. It's our DNA to party and we're good at organizing it, but we're still missing a connecting festival. For example, Festival Mundial already did this by bringing together all kinds of cultures, but unfortunately this festival no longer exists.' What that connecting festival should look like is still a bit of a guess, but Lois is full of ideas. He sees opportunities in Tilburg as a logistics hub. 'If we were to make an exchange in cultures instead of using stuff, we could make a nice connecting festival.'

Tilburg, get a little flamboyant!
What is really missing in the city next to a connecting festival, according to Lois, is something flamboyant. Something we can use to make the city a bit more beautiful and exciting. Something to stimulate people with, like Doloris does wonderfully. 'We are not really a flamboyant city yet. We have already caught up on things: People who want and can do something, policymakers with guts, but I'm just missing something flamboyant.' According to Lois, mural art is the best way to achieve this. 'You can use it to show the unique DNA of the city. Take, for example, a random tunnel in Tilburg. According to Lois, these are still quite boring at the moment, but with mural arts you can create connecting art, with which you can directly connect two zones of the city.
In short, just use the infrastructure you already have and do something flamboyant with it! Do you want Tilburg to be attractive to people who dare to stick their necks out, making it more attractive economically, and do you have people who continue to live here and are the driving force behind it? Then you have to create a canvas for it!'