When he introduced “The Last Ship” on his Twitter account, I found the musical on Youtube and watched it many times. All this time I wondered what he loved about that story. Was it because of similarities in his own timeline and perhaps he had plans of his own for this wonderful musical? You sometimes have to want to build something great to achieve something.
Perhaps he wanted the musical translated and introduced in his own setting, where the story fits so wonderfully. It is a story about Sting’s childhood, growing up in a town on the English coast dominated by a huge shipyard.
In a TED talk, Sting tells how at one point in his career he suffered from writer’s block, which even lasted for years. He found his way back during that time when he started focusing on the stories of the people who worked at the shipyard in his youth.
From these stories, a wonderful musical was developed nearly a decade ago, with a story line starring an array of different people in and around the shipyard. In that musical you get to know everyone. From a son with very big dreams and his sick father to the Queen of England, and of course Sting himself. They all play their own roles in this wonderful musical.
The timeline of the musical may at many points correspond to the timeline of several people and a major Dutch festival. I have often tried to find small similarities. In any case, the why is clear to me. The story of “The Last Ship” is top theater, with beautiful music and a story that a lot of people can relate to and enjoy. Something Joop loved and very much wanted to share with everyone. He then quietly enjoyed it when people responded to it online.
The shadows of the tents, festivities and objects fell over the islanders and villages like ships that dominated the surroundings and very occasionally obscured them. That wasn’t appreciated by everyone either, but you couldn’t avoid that ship. For ten days, instead of a year, the islanders were stuck with the festival. Many were able to make a living at it, but it wasn’t for everyone.
In the musical, a father comes into conflict with his son because he dreams big about a future far away from the shipyard. Joop also dreamed big, of a bigger ship; Sense of Place.
Nearly a decade ago, before the musical was first performed on a stage, Sting and a group of musical artists put on a special performance. Sting talks about his story behind the musical and sings a selection of songs from the musical along with the artists.
The musical is a reflection of people Sting knew to remember from his youth and he has managed to capture them so beautifully in his songs and the stories. People who are, still among us today, like Billy Connolly who is a friend of Sting’s and has told him about the time he worked in a shipyard when he was young.
It is perhaps the gratitude Sting mentions at the end of this concert that looks back so beautifully on Joop himself. He was always very thankful for everyone who built his ship with him, and that every year it succeeded, to launch it in June. A moment where many came to the island and where he himself then often watched from the sidelines and enjoyed that moment.
The 36th edition of the Oerol Festival took place in 2017, from June 9 to 18. On June 10, the first Saturday, Joop Mulder was symbolically “blown off Terschelling” by three hundred and fifty Frisian wind players, under the musical direction of Jos Zandvliet, who worked for the Dogtroep for thirty years. Standing on the upper deck of the M.S. Friesland, he left Terschelling for Harlingen bidding farewell to his ship Oerol. Six years earlier he had started to build a new ship called Sense of Place, a wonderful project with which, together with artists, he wanted to draw attention to the entire Wadden area with special projects along the coastlines. Joop’s dream had meanwhile grown enormously.
Jan. 10, 2021 We received the news that in Leeuwarden Joop, the founder of the Oerol festival on Terschelling, had probably died of a cardiac arrest. After a short trip on his last ship, his family said goodbye to him in private.
I am often reminded of him and of the time he paid attention to the musical of “The last ship” several times. You may think anything of it, but it is a part of my memory of a very special, but above all an inspired man, who I think very often dreamed of building a big ship, in which he enthused and involved a lot of people again and again. Building a new ship together and then launching it and then sailing together to an island on the horizon.
“If you don’t get scared of your dreams they are not big enough” – Joop Mulder
Of the concert is a recording video for sale and have also been released several CDs of it:
The above photos of Joop’s farewell during Oerol in 2010 were taken by: Annelies de Nooijer and Gert Kracht