In September, staff of Middelburg Municipality and members of the Foundation Zeeuwse Truien paid a visit to the TextielLab in Tilburg. At the lab, which is part of the Textile Museum of Tilburg, professionals and students are able to study and experiment with different manual and industrial techniques. The stakeholders discussed whether such an initiative can be set up in Zeeland.

The fisherman sweaters of Arnemuiden were a huge success and gave new life to traditional crafts, and such a lab as in Tilburg could bring more attention to the craft of weaving in Zeeland. In Tilburg visitors can walk through the lab and experience the techniques that are used to develop new fabrics. By making new designs based on old traditions, the people involved at TextielLab try to keep the Dutch traditions alive and give them a new economic boost.  

The stakeholders discussed the possibilities of a design lab in Zeeland and agreed it would be very important to involve youth. Learning programmes of different schools could involve activities at the lab. A Living Design Lab:

  1. will inspire young people/designers with aspirations to keep traditions alive by new concepts and designs.
  2. should facilitate the liveliness, social and economic development of the fishing communities.

The fact that TextielLab is integrated in a museum makes it more future-proof than it would be on its own. Therefore, the Living Design Lab would also need such an arrangement. The Lab can collaborate with different sectors in order to make it more viable and to promote cultural heritage even better. For example, a small shop where people can buy the products designed at the lab, the creation of educational activities and material for children and adults, cooperation with the local archives to collect cultural knowledge and skills, and restaurants that already provide a catch to table experience.

However, there are some challenges attached to running a living lab. The lab needs the right location and facilities, and it has to be funded in some way. The future OP-Zuid Programme plays an important role in this as it values initiatives that contribute and strengthen the economic climate for fishing, recreation and tourism in Zeeland.

The visit to TextielLab was very inspiring and brought new possibilities to the attention that fit perfectly within the efforts of CHERISH. The success of these kind of initiatives can greatly contribute to the protection and promotion of cultural heritage of fishing communities.