Step behind the scenes of the vibrant sound of the fair and discover the magic of Kermis FM. In this interview, we talk to Ernesto Bleijenberg, volunteer and coordinator of the technical facilities. From creating unforgettable radio broadcasts to sharing special stories, Ernesto reveals the inspiration, passion and challenges that come together to bring this unique radio event to life. Get ready to dive into the world of Kermis FM and discover what it takes to convey the carnival atmosphere directly to listeners’ ears!
When and from what idea was Kermis FM created?
Our editor-in-chief, also former president, Arno Leblanc, along with some friends, had the idea of making event radio. He was from Tilburg himself, so the link to the Tilburg Fair was easily made. Together with a small group of friends, he set up Kermis FM. A studio was arranged and some editors were there. In the same location where we currently broadcast, in front of the Hill Church. Since 2009 (its first year), Kermis FM has covered the Tilburg Fair every year. There are now 200 volunteers who dedicate themselves to this great media spectacle completely free of charge.
What inspired you to get involved in this radio-related event as a volunteer?
I myself started in 2016. Back then as a young kid who had a mixing console and a microphone at home to one day hopefully end up on national radio. Some friends of mine tipped me to join Kermis FM, after which I immediately wanted to sign up. And from one thing to another and I stood for 10 more days that year working on this beautiful project.
How long have you been involved in this event and what motivated you to stay with it?
I have been working on this project with all my love since 2016, and I still do. It is a particularly friendly and close-knit group, partly because each volunteer wears a purple Kermis FM shirt. Everyone who contributes has the same goal and that is to put out a wonderful final product for the listeners and viewers (and of course the fun after parties every day, but we won’t talk about that for now ;-)). In addition, it has been a great learning experience for me. From operating a camera to reporting a particular moment on the radio, you’ll learn it all at Kermis FM. And above all, let’s not forget the network; there are so many colleagues working at all kinds of (media) companies in the Netherlands that you can always find each other later if you need it. Apart from Kermis FM, of course.
Can you tell us about your specific role or responsibilities as a volunteer during the event?
Since this year, I have taken on the baton of coordinator of technology. Here I am responsible for the technical aspect of the organization. This includes arranging the radio studio, director’s car, cameras for TV programs and editors, the 3 wireless live cameras at the fairgrounds to the computers to be edited on. Of course, there is quite a lot of engineering involved in such a project. Fortunately, at Kermis FM we have a wonderful team of technical heroes who also do this work in their daily lives. Together with all the crazy sponsors and partners, many of whom have been doing this for years, we can pull off such a big project with a relatively small budget. As early as January, we start planning that year’s edition, and work from there until July (the month of the fair itself). When all the puzzle pieces finally fall together during construction and everything is up and running, it gives a wonderful feeling.
What are some of the highlights and challenges you experienced while working as a volunteer for this event?
You work with a big purple family, as we always say ourselves. Sounds cliché, but it really feels that way. Everyone wears a purple shirt/polo with the Kermis FM logo. Even if it’s your first year and you’ve never seen each other before, you always greet each other when you walk by each other at the fair. That’s great right?
The big challenge is especially working with the budget. We are very honest about that as an organization. Since this year, I have been in charge of the engineering budget, and every year it’s been a bit of a trial and error to make it possible. We are fortunate to have many sponsors and partners eager to do their part to make this happen, including you at Broadcast Partners! And for that, every day, every year, we are immensely grateful.”
What makes this event different from other radio-related events you have been involved in?
During Kermis FM, almost anything is possible and allowed. If you come up with an idea you can be out and about 5 minutes later trying it out. Then it can become a huge top item or a teaching moment. And also on a technical level, we try things that we think of a week before the fair, those are fun challenges as well. You won’t find that in other radio-related projects any time soon.
How does this event contribute to the local radio community and what impact does it have on listeners?
Kermis FM is also a great promotional channel for the City of Tilburg and the Tilburg community. We show Tilburg itself, but also the whole of the Netherlands, how cool it is to be at the Tilburg Fair. If a visitor cannot make it to the fair, we often see them hooking up with us on the streams or in the app box, to still enjoy what is happening in Tilburg.
Do you have interesting or touching stories about encounters with listeners or special moments during the event?
Every year we participate in Pink Monday, which is an event for gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender (LGBT) people that takes place annually on the first Monday during the Tilburg Fair. We will join the Roze Maandag express (a train from Amsterdam to Tilburg entirely dedicated to this day), look at events surrounding this event and speak with exemplary figures on this day. These broadcasts are also taken over by the TV channel OutTV, which is dedicated to this target group 24/7.
How has volunteering for this event affected your understanding and appreciation of radio as a medium?
Good question. From my own perspective, that’s showing what we all do (especially behind the scenes) to make such a production possible. You give tours and explain that it’s not just a studio with a DJ. There is still a complete technical department and editorial staff behind it. Most are tremendously amazed by this, which also shows appreciation for us as volunteers and organization.
What skills or knowledge did you gain during your involvement in this event?
As previously reported, I started as a little kid with little knowledge in the media world and every year I learn. Even now, and I would like to keep it up in the years to come. You are also never done learning, I think. For me, mostly technical skills, of course.
What future plans or projects do you have for this event or for radio in general?
That’s a good question. We do have some ideas with studios, a VIP deck, editing rooms to grow. But there is little concrete to report on that yet.
How do you guys look back on this edition of Kermis FM?
Huge pride. We as a complete organization again put up something beautiful, which many listeners and viewers enjoyed. That’s what you do it for. We are already looking forward to next year!
What is your message to readers and listeners who are interested in radio and are considering getting involved as a volunteer?
Do you have any interest in the media world at all? In any field? Then sign up 100%. You come into a warm bath where you can learn a lot, even making mistakes is part of it. We’ve all done that, right?
When Kermis FM is over, you’ll see many volunteers posting photos and stories on their own social media about their experiences at Kermis FM. And oddly enough, you almost always read “See you next year 💜” in the last sentence. That is a wonderful addition to the great stories you read online, and you also see that it is alive and well among the volunteers. I carry that feeling wholeheartedly myself.
In conversation with Ernesto Bleijenberg
Photos from Kermis FM
Website: Kermis FM | Live radio and TV from the Tilburg Fair.