Updated: May 25
We are a community of people in every profession and sector using music to create more value in towns and cities all over the world. In the special series #InConversationWith, we talk to accomplished members of our community and uncover their journey.
This story features Merlijn Poolman, Nightmayor of Groningen (The Netherlands) and founder of both G2C (Gateway to China) COSIMO Foundation.
Profile at a Glance
Full Name: Merlijn Poolman
City, Country: Groningen, The Netherlands
Work Profile/Designation: Nightmayor, City of Groningen, founder of G2C (Gateway to China) COSIMO Foundation.
Current Company: City of Groningen
Previous Notable Work: Concert and tour organiser. Worked as an intern for Epica (famous gothic metal band) and worked for Simplon music venue when it got revamped after its bankruptcy in 2013. Founder of underground nightclub Subsonic in Groningen in 2011 as part of his final university project. Organised a music festival on top of the Chinese Wall. Founded Gateway 2 China, a service that allows Western artists to be found on Chinese social media channels and currently we also sell their merchandise over there. After being elected to be the Nightmayor of Groningen founded COSIMO Foundation, which aims to bridge the gap between cultural projects and corporate funding.
How did you get to where you are today, professionally?
It all started when I was 8 years old and started playing drums and piano. After being taken to several concerts by my father I realised that I would like to be working in a field where people experience something that makes them happy and unites them. Originally that made me aim to become a movie director or study history at the university, since I am quite a nerd with the topic of World War One specifically as my main interest. But gradually I turned out to be doing more and more with music and organising concerts so during my study at the Academy for Pop Culture it led me to organise and arrange funding for my first tour through South America with my metal band and a headliner in 2009. After organising one more tour for a Brazilian band through Europe I did an internship at the manager of Epica in 2010 and programmed some club nights in genres that I was not familiar with but therefore that gave me a more professional attitude towards it. This opened the way for being the founder of underground nightclub Subsonic in Groningen in 2011, which was my study finishing project. During those years I exported many artists around the globe and came in touch with China in particular, by organising tours there and a festival on top of the Chinese Wall. After being there for 10 times in 2018 we founded Gateway 2 China, a service that allows Western artists to be found on Chinese social media channels and currently we also sell their merchandise over there. In that year I was also elected to be the Nightmayor of Groningen and I organised a performance in Prague that went through 100 years of music history at exactly 100 years after the day that WWI ended in 1918. After that year we founded COSIMO Foundation, which aims to bridge the gap between cultural projects and corporate funding, in a way that benefits them both and leaves the creator to operate independently. These facts together always guarantee that my week is very dynamic and fun
Which would you say it’s your main project right now? For those who aren’t familiar, please describe it and talk a little bit about it.
The 'Nachtstadhuis' (Night City Hall) is a project that has a lot of focus right now. Together with my night council (which I founded in the summer of 2019) I am developing a place, for which we currently are putting in lots of effort to have it funded, where every visitor of our nightlife can get help or information regarding sensitive topics. That ranges from help regarding sexual harassment, to substance abuse and nightlife violence or physical injuries. In the 'Nachtstadhuis' you can speak with professional social workers or medical experts that can help you with dealing with these topics or helping to prevent these problems. In this way, everyone can feel safe in the nightlife and speak about topics that might be a taboo but should still be addressed. In the daytime we also have our office there and can plan meetings with student board organisations or bar owners that need our training. This all together makes the 'Nachtstadhuis' a hub where everything regarding a safe and fun nightlife comes together under one roof.
Groningen will be the first city in the world with this but we aim to eventually export the same concept all over the world!
Walk me through a typical day-to-day working as the Nightmayor of Groningen
My day is not always as rock & roll as people imagine it, since it consists of a lot of emailing, going through my Asana tasks overview and doing a few calls. But every hour of the week feels useful and apart from the computer work I structurally do a lot of daytime meetings. I live by my personal quote 'the best ideas come out at night with a beer and are worked out during the day with a coffee'. This brings me to travel a lot through The Netherlands or abroad visiting conferences, doing lectures, or being in a talk with the Secretary of State regarding the decibel limit at events. I deal a lot with public servants and sometimes politicians, but stay fully independent myself, which allows me to hover in between left wing progressives and right wing conservatives to eventually achieve my goals. On the weekends I structurally visit concerts, parties and other events for pleasure but also to do some 'field research' in order to see the state of nightlife and hear stories of entrepreneurs, visitors and artists. So I could say I think I have the best job in the world!
How does your work impact the music ecosystem of your city? Do you have any milestones that you’d like to share?
During covid we set up a campaign (which was our firstly funded COSIMO project) called Local Legends, which we did in collaboration with GoFundMe and my friend Chris Carey, who worked for Ticketswap at that time. We made a house style and formula for every venue to make their own GoFundMe to allow their visitors to get them through the difficult covid-period in november 2020. In Groningen alone we raised 225.000 euro for 48 venues. A few of them even raised more than 25.000 euro and this helped many of them to get through that harsh period relatively unharmed. We also have achieved with our nightcouncil that students can receive trainings on how to deal with the prevention of sexual harassment in their fraternities and study organisations, as well as the topic of responsible substance use. Recently this also led to bars and clubs that can receive this training for free and we hope to grow our pool of trainers soon to speed up this process