The international fame of Ruigoord is mainly due to the Amsterdams Ballongezelschap (ABG), a performance group of musicians, poets, artists, clowns, and activists, operating in and from Ruigoord. Right after the Vliegerfestivals, the ABG focussed its attention to the former ‘Vlakte’, a lowland bordering the village, where they gave shape and content to the later so famous Landjuweel (Land Jewel), At the same time, from the early 80s onwards, they realised many performances in the Melkweg, the Roxy and other venues in Amsterdam. The annual performances in Paradiso became famous and are still a strong tradition. During the exhibition Magic Center Amsterdam in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 2019, a butterfly-confetti cannon was used to celebrate 50 years of Insektensekte, creating a real happening with the audience, all dressed up as insects. Creating happenings is in the Balloonies’ blood.

One year after its establishment, the following pamphlet appeared in 1974: “What is the Amsterdam Balloon Company? A hovering movement that strives for freedom in the sky and anyone who loves balloons, kites, birds, and other soundless celestial vehicles (sun, moon, stars, comets etc.) can consider himself a member”.

Thanks to the donation of the famous Magic Bus in 1978, renamed Airbus by the ABG, Ruigoord became mobile. Undertaking joint trips to and from free cultural spaces was and is unique in the alternative circuit.  In special collaboration with the children’s circus ‘Why Not’ and the Poets’ circus, the ABG staged wagon plays, improvised shows, happenings, and exhibitions. And because these trips went to and via other alternative places and alternative festivals, the festivals and Landjuwelen in Ruigoord consequently became a household name all over the globe.

Festivals are a part of the free space culture and during the happenings organised by the ABG the boundaries between artist and audience are meant to get blurred. Not the audience, but the participants characterise the festivals and annual shows in Paradiso. The Landjuweel festival developed into a ‘meeting of tribes’, including groups of friends who created their own act, ritual, performance, or object. Those were the days! The Sculpture Route remained a permanent part of the programme, a meandering fairy tale in which everybody took part.

When institutionalisation became necessary, the ABG formed the foundation Stichting Landjuweel, but never institutionalised itself. Unique. It still is an organically grown group that only exists by the grace of individuals working together. In 2023, we plan to return to the very roots. We will make it one big happening!

On behalf of the Hard Core of Soft Aviation