Foto: Jelmer de Haas

ILFU: two weeks of international literature in the heart of Holland

ILFU is the biggest literature festival in the low countries, lasting two weeks, presenting over 200 authors and reaching 20,000+ visitors. The festival originated in 1980 when the first edition of the ‘Nacht van de Poëzie’ (Dutch Poetry Night) was organized in Utrecht’s 2000-seats concerthall TivoliVredenburg. Against all odds, the event presenting 8 hours of poetry until the wee small hours attracted thousands of visitors and anno 2022 still is an iconic value in the Dutch literary scene. Over the decades, the festival grew into a big celebration of literature, covering many genres, from poetry to young adult, from non fiction to spoken word, from quality films to high standard singer-songwriters and from literary theatre to narrative visual art. 

Many events are in Dutch, but some are fully English spoken. On this page you’ll find a list of coming events that non-Dutch speakers can follow. 

ILFU’s mission:

By covering many genres, we aim to make it a festival for everyone who identifies themselves as a ‘reader’, regardless of someone’s genre of preference. Many people, however, do not describe themselves as readers, but yet do enjoy films or Netflix series based on books, listen to the lyrics of musicians such as Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan or visit operas and plays that without literature would not have existed. To reset the boundaries of literature and thereby reaching new audiences, the ILFU festival teams up with the Dutch Film Festival, music festival Le Guess Who?, TivoliVredenburg Concert Hall and the Municipal Theatre. 

Nick Cave, 2015 (📷 Anna van Kooij)
Kees van Kooten & Remco Campert, 1988 (📷Michael Kooren)
Salman Rushdie, 2018 (📷Michael Kooren)
Turkish protest singer Selda Bagcan, 2018, (📷Michael Kooren)
Annie M.G. Schmidt, 1987 (📷 Chris van Houts)
Edna O'Brien, 2014, (📷 Maria Snoek)
P.J. Harvey, 2016 (📷Anna van Kooij)
Michael Palin, 2014 (📷Anna van Kooij)
Paul Auster, 2012 (📷Sanja Harris)
Hugo Claus, 1995 (📷Maarten Hartman)
Olivia Colman, 2021 (📷Rob Schreuder)
Loudon Wainwright, 1993
Juliette Gréco, 2015 (📷Michael Kooren)
Michel Houellebecq, 2015 (📷Michael Kooren)


Because of its broad focus, the festival also covers and supports the entire Dutch publishing industry: a book market at Utrecht’s central square offers hundreds of publishers and booksellers an opportunity to present themselves and connect to audiences. In the two weeks that follow, the ILFU Festival aims to give literature the pivotal place in society and public space it deserves: right in the center of the city of Utrecht, a UNESCO City of Literature, that in turn is situated right in the heart of the Netherlands.

Book Market on Vredenburg Square (📷 Michael Kooren)

Online Literature Platform

In 2022, ILFU reinvented itself as an allround organization for literature, not only organizing public events, but also offering a range of courses in writing and reading (the ILFU Academy) and building an online presence on its digital platform ilfu.com. Most of the daily literary content we share on our platform is in Dutch, but you’ll also find English spoken clips of interviews with international writers, recorded during previous editions of ILFU. In the first months after the launch of the platform, we already found 1,000+ supporters of our cause and still encourage people to join our movement. Together we show that fiction matters and distribute as many literary voices as possible. 

Platform highlights: