Catching up with… Leonieke Bolderman

Leonieke Bolderman is a PhD candidate at ERMeCC and teaches several courses in the Arts and Culture Department. “My research is focused on music tourism. I find it fascinating how you can connect music to place. Music is not visual – in essence music is just vibrating air. It’s interesting to think about that.”

Leonieke’s research is part of the project Locating Imagination, which focuses on Media Tourism. With Stijn Reijnders as the project leader, two PhD candidates research literary tourism and film tourism, while Leonieke, as the third PhD candidate, focuses on music tourism.

“There is a lot of work on film tourism and also some work on literary tourism,” Leonieke points out. “However, when it comes to music tourism, at the start of the project in 2013 there was only one book available.” While that is already interesting to her, what she is most intrigued about is the invisibility of music. “Tourism is usually defined as something very visual. For instance, you go sightseeing, and it’s called that for a reason. But if music is not visible, how do you know where to travel?”

Researching music tourism

“The notion of tourism being purely visual is already a bit criticized. Tourism is a lot more. You experience it with your whole body: you walk, you move, and it clearly is not only about watching. Yet, in the research on media tourism there still is a focus on the visual. For me it’s interesting to find out how music challenges that, and how music tourism is then perhaps different. Because music is different from literature and film. What I’m interested in is exploring what these differences are, how tourists experience those differences, and what that says about tourism and media tourism in general.”

Digging deeper into music tourism is mostly about doing qualitative research. “I do interviews and participant observation. I travel a lot to do field work. People tell me such personal things during interviews that I am always very touched. The openness is really remarkable, and of course, great for my research.”

One thing that strikes Leonieke in her research is that she finds many connections between different locations. ”In my first fieldwork study I went to Bayreuth in Germany to study Wagner tourism. I also went to Stockholm for Abba tourism, and to Dublin for U2 tourism. The funny thing is that in Stockholm I met Abba tourists who lived in Bayreuth. And when I went to Dublin, I went on a walking tour with people from Stockholm.”

Another aspect that Leonieke appreciates in this field is the way people negotiate the difficult history of certain places that are associated with a musical experience. “For example, I studied the Bayreuther Festspielen, which generate Wagner tourism. The Wagner family has a troubled connection with Nazi history: Wagner himself wrote a book about Jewishness in music, which was not particularly flattering for Jewish people. After Wagner had died, his family invited Hitler to visit the festival. The family to this day keeps their archives closed, so we cannot research what happened exactly and how different generations of the family dealt with this ‘dark heritage’ - it still is a very touchy topic. But when you go to Bayreuth, it’s very interesting to learn about how people deal with on the one hand their love for the music, and on the other hand the very difficult history that you’re confronted with when you walk around on that location.”

Locating Imagination Conference

Since her PhD project will end in February, a lot is going on for Leonieke. The end of the project will be marked by a conference, held from 5-7 April 2017 in Rotterdam. “It’s called Locating Imagination: Popular Culture, Tourism and Belonging. I’m coordinating the organisation of it. The Call for Papers is out right now and the first abstracts have already come in, so we’re really excited about that. Our keynotes are professor David Morley, professor Marie-Laure Ryan and professor André Jansson, and we also have a special expert panel on fandom and place with professor Matt Hills, professor Cornel Sandvoss and Dr. Mark Duffett.”


If you are interested in Leonieke’s research, the following readings are recommended:

  • Bolderman, S.L., and S.L. Reijnders (in press). Tuning in – setting the scene for music tourism. In C. Lundberg and V. Ziakos (Eds.). Handbook of Popular Culture and Tourism. London: Routledge.
  • Bolderman, S.L., and S.L. Reijnders (2016). Have you found what you’re looking for? Analysing tourist experiences of Wagner’s Bayreuth, ABBA’s Stockholm and U2’s Dublin. Tourist Studies. Published online before print August 29, 2016, doi: 10.1177/1468797616665757
  • Reijnders, S.L., Bolderman, S.L., Van Es, N. and Waysdorf, A. (2015). Locating Imagination: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Literary, Film, and Music Tourism. Tourism Analysis, 20(3), 333-339.

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