King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima will be accompanied by several sidekicks during their tour of Groningen on King’s Day. One of the sidekicks is Denisa Kasová, general director at the Noordelijke Innovation Board, who is originally from Slovakia and will be speaking with the Dutch royals about the energy transition.
By Traci White
The Northern Times: What was your initial reaction when you heard that you were asked to be one of the sidekicks?
Denisa Kasová: I was approached by mayor Peter den Oudsten because of my work at the Noordelijke Innovation Board, and I thought, “Wow, this is really a great chance to show the rest of the country what we’re up to up here.” It’s a wonderful podium, even though it’s a fairly small role in the grand scheme of things. It’s great to have a few minutes of the king and queen’s time, so that was my first thought. But I also thought personally that it’s an honour to be asked.
TNT: What will your role be on the king’s route?
DK: The Noordelijke Innovation Board has really prioritised finding an alternative for natural gas production and what you can do as a region to keep existing jobs and create new jobs. So one of the stations on the route is focused on the energy transition, which will also draw attention to the ongoing earthquakes due to natural gas, and shed light on what the future looks like and what opportunities exist in the region, in particular the green hydrogen economy.
TNT: So they wanted to have various themes represented on the day, and this was one of them?
DK: Yes, there was a special project team from the municipality that has been working on the programme for quite a while. They came up with the walking route for the king and queen’s visit. At the various stations, there are people who have been asked to talk about certain topics to show off the diversity of the north and the real character of the region. The other stations are focused on children, innovation, entrepreneurship, culture, sport, etc. I think that it’s a nice reflection of how liveable Groningen really is. It’s great living here because there are good resources, good jobs, good nightlife in terms of culture and the bars, and we’re really focused on the future. Everything is part of the economy, and Groningen is really the heart of the north
TNT: Speaking of diversity, you are the only sidekick with a foreign background [editor’s note: Syrian-born dramaturg Ola Mafalaani was also going to be one of the sidekicks but had to withdraw]. Do you see your role as being in any way different due to the fact that you were born outside of the Netherlands? Or do you just see your role as representing your professional field?
DK: I can’t say how someone who was born in the Netherlands would see their role, I don’t have that frame of reference. I’ve been living in Groningen for 20 years, which is longer than I lived in Slovakia, so I don’t see it at all from the perspective of someone who came here from abroad. When I was approached, I know that it was based on my professional work.
TNT: What are your plans for celebrating King’s Day in addition to your official role?
DK: I was planning to take part in the King’s Night festivities in the most beautiful city in the Netherlands, but I’ll have to do that in moderation this year since I have to be up pretty early the next day. It’s a birthday party for the king, so it’s not just business – it’s a very different atmosphere from a formal meeting. It’s fantastic that you get to shake the king’s hand and wish him a happy birthday.
|Who are the sidekicks?
Kasová is one of a handful of Groningers who were invited to speak with the royal family during their visit about what makes the region unique. The children’s mayor Javano Zwiers and deputy children’s Rosalyn Martina, both of whom are children themselves, will meet with the king to talk about sports and other activities in the province. Loppersum mayor Albert Roodenboog and Denisa Kasová will greet the king on the Grote Markt, where he will learn more about the earthquakes and the future of energy in the north. At the Waagplein, Marcel Nijhof (founder of De Roege Boys) will represent community projects. Lieke Knip, chairperson of the student orientation KEI week, will speak with the royals about higher education at the Broerplein. Local singer Arnold Veeman will receive the royals at the Vismarkt to represent music and culture in Groningen.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity