Frie Leysen Innovative festival maker with an international outlook
With innovation, curiosity, daring, stubbornness and a critical attitude, Frie Leysen made a name for herself in the international performing arts. She was the liaison between older, established and young, unknown experimental artists.
After studying medieval art history at the KU Leuven, Frie Leysen, born in 1950 in Hasselt, came into the spotlight in cultural circles. The start of a rich career. In 1979, she was asked to help prepare the opening of the concert and theatre hall of the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp. This resulted in the arts centre deSingel, for which she was the driving force and which, under her inspirational leadership, has grown over a period of eleven years into an internationally renowned cultural meeting place with a unique programme. In 1994, she threw herself into a new project: she became co-founder of the bilingual Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels. When she retired as director in 2006, it was firmly on the international map as an influential place that attracted theatre, dance, performance, film and visual arts from home and abroad. In the meantime, foreign countries themselves had begun to beckon. Frie Leysen organised a number of major arts festivals, in particular the multidisciplinary Meeting Points in nine Arab cities in 2007 and Theater der Welt in the Ruhr area in 2010. In 2012, she was curator of the Asian Arts Theatre in South Korea, artistic director of the Berliner Festspiele and, in 2013 and 2014, of the Wiener Festwoche, in 2015 co-curator of Ashkal Alwan in Beirut. Since 2012 she also headed up the festival Ervaar daar hier theater (later Get Lost), which toured a dozen Dutch theatres with international theatre and dance performances.
This much talent and tireless dedication has, of course, been rightly rewarded with prestigious prizes and distinctions, such as the Ark Prize of the Free Word in 1991, the Prize for General Cultural Merit of the Flemish Community in 2003, an honorary doctorate at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in 2007, the Erasmus Prize in 2014, the annual French-language theatre prize Prix Bernadette Abraté in 2018 and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the European Festivals Association in 2019.
Frie Leysen passed away on 22 September 2020 in Brussels. She was the twin sister of actor Johan Leysen and the daughter of Bert Leysen, the very first director of the NIR, the predecessor of the current Flemish public television broadcaster VRT.
Foto Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung from Berlin, DeutschlandT