Article by Patricia Gonzalez
Time flies. So with places as with people. From 1868 to 2011, the Spoorzone was an industrial site – a place where trains were built and repaired for Nederlandse Spoor and “migrants” from Utrecht came to work on the railways. Today, the Spoorzone is home to the Red Cross, an intended hub for entrepreneurs, a skate park for youth and, during Mundial festival or one of the many market weekends (e.g., Bazouq, Swan Market, Pasar Malam), a bustling event space. Three years ago, I was a newcomer to Tilburg meeting other foreigners at TIC’s Open House. On 26th September, I was one of the “old faces” welcoming newly moved buitenlanders and sharing my own stories about living in this city.
Welcome Day began with a tour of the Spoorzone led by Stadsgidserij Tilburg. In the span of an hour, our guide walked us through history, bringing to life tales of railway workers – a smaller segment of the population in the then mostly textile-focused town. He made us smile to hear of the one-cent increase in workers’ hourly wages (big money then!) and how lunches used to be delivered via small pass-throughs in the imposing wall that enclosed the spoor zone. He also told us of the city’s future plans for the area, helping us imagine what’s in store for the space: the new public library, a passageway for bicycles and pedestrians traveling from above the tracks into the city center, and a possible seats2meet venue – all exciting additions to the city.
We ended our tour at Restaurant De Houtloods, the oldest building in the 13-hectare zone. Under the steel trusses and the clear blue skies, Wethouder Marcelle Hendrickx gave a speech that was warm and welcoming – apropos for the day. Afternoon very quickly turned to evening, as happens when you’re having fun. There were drinks and borrelhapjes, old friends to catch up with, new acquaintances to make, and the shared experience of living and working and loving Tilburg to discuss. It was a pleasant way to kick off the club year.
If you couldn’t come to Welcome Day, don’t worry. There are still plenty of activities in store – a whole year’s worth. But don’t blink or you might miss it!