Jörg Albrecht was still a teenager when he wrote his first literary text. “Ausgerechnet Lyrik” (Calculated Poetry). He has to smile at the thought of what he put to paper back then and quickly adds: “I had stopped by the age of 19.” But the 37-year-old continued to write, published four novels and received literary prizes quite early on. Now he sits on the terrace at Burg Hülshoff in Havixbeck, the birthplace of the poet Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, and speaks with DeinNRW about his new job as the founding director and artistic director of the “Center for Literature”. Almost as if he has come full circle here.
It is a most beautiful summer day when we visit Jörg Albrecht at his new workplace. The hydrangea are blossoming with magnificent colour in the park at Burg Hülshoff. Walkers rest in the shade of a tree. They cast an interested glance at the bust of the poet and enjoy the view of the largely preserved Renaissance ensemble with the manor house, outer bailey and pretty pavilion at the end of the avenue that leads directly from the castle into the forest. Annette’s little tea house. In the castle moat, the ducks swim around happily, dive under and come up again, and stretch their tails in the air to cool down a little. A group of cyclists are waiting in the inner courtyard to be let into the castle. Temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Celsius have not stopped them from visiting the extensive library of the von Droste-Hülshoff family and the many personal souvenirs of the poet on their tour of the Münsterland. Other day-trippers stand before the over-sized, artistic portrait of the poet in the entrance to the outer bailey in order to then secure their place under an umbrella at the little Burgcafé. Others look to cool off immediately in the vaulted cellar.
“That is fantastic” our host says suddenly and looks around, as though he were discovering the beauty of this place anew every day. A place of historical significance that he is supposed to take care of and make hip for the future.
“First, you have to have such a treasure, a place where people like to be and where you can insert yourself and invite guests.”
That sounds like exciting work. Not a bit of it. Because Albrecht did not come to Havixbeck as lord of the manor. Or even to hold court. The man with the round glasses, baseball cap and carefully groomed beard has a mission, or better, a vision. Under his direction, Burg Hülshoff is to become a multi-functional event and exhibition venue where there are no longer any boundaries between the genres. His task in doing so: “To conceive the transformation, break old patterns and design new perspectives.”
Poetry and politics
In order to set this process of “Events, Research and Residencies” in motion, the 37-year-old left the busy metropolis of Berlin at the beginning of the year and decided to live in Münsterland. Some of those around him questioned this step, but Albrecht - who grew up in Dortmund - appreciates the region. Dozens of castles and fortresses line up here like a string of pearls, and hardly any other region is better for exploring by bicycle than the countryside around the student city of Münster.
“Many people underestimate the countryside”, says Albrecht, even before we ask. “But what do city and countryside actually mean? What is different today than it was ten years ago? What makes places what they are? These are the questions that we are addressing here.” He doesn’t have any answers to them yet. “But that’s exactly why I am here”, says Albrecht, and sees clear parallels to the works of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff in his work. It was she who once turned the castle into a place of poetry and astute contemplation of the world. Her admirers not only called her a “language magician”. She is particularly impressive because her works deal with themes such as urban development, the role of women, nature, religion and finally with globalisation too. “All themes that also concern us today.”
Therefore, Albrecht not only wants to bring fellow writers to his new home and host readings. The castle is to be opened up to other art forms too, such as theatre, performances, music, media and architecture. The new boss wants to encourage exciting debates about social themes and invites all visitors to follow the process. The renovation of the historical location in both senses of the word will begin in autumn with the “Schaustellen” literature folk festival, a kind of cultural carnival with the castle as the focal point. Videos will be projected onto the walls and an over-sized jack hammer is to symbolise the beginning of the construction work. Events such as lecture performances, a language laboratory, sound comedy and an audio installation with the title “Dienstbare Geister” (Subservient Spirits) are still to come.
Research institute planned
It will be a few years before the spatial renovation is completed. The outer bailey, an old cowshed, has already been gutted, the floor is still sandy. Only a few old fuse boxes are still hanging. As an exception, Albrecht takes us up to the still somewhat dilapidated garret. Such a treasure, which he wants to make accessible to the public. Because, hopefully, international artists willpresent their perspective on the world here soon. In another part of the building, accommodation and meeting rooms are to be created. And perhaps even an office for Jörg Albrecht at some stage. Because for now his desk is still in Münster. “There’s just no room at the castle”, explains the man who only recently had the three words ‘Liberté, egalité, diversité’ tattooed on his lower right arm. Freedom, equality, diversity.
Three words that not only describe the life motto of the writer and actor. They also stand for what is to happen at Burg Hülshoff over the next few years. In addition to events and discussions, new formats and experiments, the focus at the “Center for Literature”, will of course also be part of the legacy of the former daughter of this house. Once a year, the Drost Tage festival will be dedicated to her as it has been previously. In addition to this, the setting-up of a Droste Research Institute is planned, that is to “take the poet out of the region and present her to an international audience”. All dreams of the future? For now. But the foundation stone has been laid and just the right architect has been found in Jörg Albrecht.
Three questions for Jörg Albrecht
Out of Westfalen, into the Ruhr Area or back to the roots
Jörg, you have 48 hours of free time. What would you definitely do with this time in NRW?
Jörg: If I had so much time, I would visit all of my family and friends in Ruhrpott and the Rhineland. Of course, I would go to see my parents in Dortmund first and then on to Bochum. There, I would visit my godchild. I also have family in Düsseldorf and in the countryside, between Cologne and Bonn.
Which place in NRW did you most recently discover for the first time?
Jörg (smiles): I just have to say it. Burg Hülshoff of course. Where else? I discover something new here every day. And that will probably increase in the coming years. The places are gradually being transformed. What we do here is a scheduled change of perspective, so to speak.
Your personal favourite place in NRW.
Jörg: Definitely Ruhr University Bochum. It’s fantastic. I find it incredibly beautiful... The wonderful architecture too.