Four-day festival on urban storytelling kicks off in Amsterdam

Italian journalist and Citiscope contributor Simone d'Antonio (left) talks with Jörgen Tjon A Fong at the Urban Stories Festival in Amsterdam.

AMSTERDAM — In an era of polarized national politics and “fake news”, what is the future of urban journalism?

That’s the question this week in Amsterdam during the first-ever Urban Stories Festival. For four days, journalists, filmmakers, architects and urbanists are exploring tools for telling stories about cities. From traditional print to online websites, podcasts to documentaries, the festival will offer something for just about every flavour of media in the form of workshops, screenings, roundtables and exhibits.

Pakhuis de Zwijger, a waterfront cultural centre with a strong interest in urbanism, hatched the idea for the festival after last year’s Habitat III summit on the future of cities. Over several weeks in October, the center’s curators decamped to Quito, the Habitat III host city, to put on a temporary installation called Fábrica Ciudad.

I participated in last night’s festival opener on a panel with Dutch journalist Saskia Naafs. Jörgen Tjon A Fong, who runs the theatre outfit Urban Myth, peppered the two of us with questions. We discussed the state of urban journalism and debated whether its practice can be allowed an implicit bias in favour of cities. We also discussed the growing field of “solutions journalism” as a strategy for covering urban innovations that cities can learn from.

A number of other Citiscope contributors are speaking at the festival, including Simone d’Antonio and Letty Reimerink. On Thursday, Stephanie Bakker and Yvonne Brandwijk will debut the fourth installment of their Future Cities project with a feature on how Medellín turned itself from a murder capital to a “smart”-city hub. The festival takes place as Pakhuis de Zwijger celebrates ten years as a creative center on the banks of the River IJ.

Watch a video of the kickoff event below.

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Gregory Scruggs is a senior correspondent for Citiscope. Full bio

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