A photo book and a documentary film by Paul van der Stap and myself about the struggle of Julia (85) for her pub in Belgium, nearby the Dutch border.

My essay in the book deals with the landscape of vanishing traditional pubs, the community around Julia’s Café Bostella, and the persistent need of people for places where to come together. A fragment:

(…) Like many pubs, Café Bostella is not impressive on the outside. It is housed in an insignificant square red brick building, partly plastered white, with a flat roof. If you did not know any better, you would drive past it with ease. Inside though, it’s a totally different story: the interior is warm, cosy and welcoming, even at the first sight. Why this is, is difficult to pinpoint. It could be the tablecloths with their oriental motives and the flowered curtains, it could be the knick-knacks in the cupboards and the paintings on the wall. The wood-burning stove, significantly present during the winter, contributes to a general cosiness. This is a place to stay put, you can feel it.

Nobody who knows her could ever imagine that Julia started the pub more or less on a whim. She is one with the pub, a barkeeper personified. Success has not come easy; Julia knows that all too well. It demands perseverance as well as a little bit of good luck. Augmenting that, her firm conviction: ‘What you do, you must do well.’ That attitude has been fruitful: pub regulars come not only for a pint of beer or for socializing, but first and foremost, for Julia.

(…) Café Bostella is not a relic from times past but a rare opportunity to slow down and connect in the present day. ‘Let it stay as it is now’, say the regulars. Julia adds: ‘There are workhorses and fancy horses. I like to work.’

All texts and subtitles in Dutch and English.

Slowdocs Publishers, 2016 (ISBN 978-90-809375-7-4)

Available at Slowdocs.

‘Brought into view with a lot of patience and a great empathy.’ – De Volkskrant

‘Intriguing film.’ – BN De Stem

‘When I watch this film, I’d love to live in that pub. And never leave! – Midas Dekkers, Dutch writer and biologist

cafe bostella