History of the Amsterdam Light Festival

Christmas Canal Parade

When Vincent Horbach visits the wildly popular Winterfest in Florida in 2008, he comes up with a bright idea. Wouldn’t it be great to have such an event organized in Amsterdam? He presents his plan to Henk-Jan Buchel, who also works for a shipping company. Together they work out the plans, approach fellow shipping companies and look for sponsors. The municipality of Amsterdam also sees the potential of the initiative, and supports this new public event that can stimulate international tourism in the quiet winter season. With a limited budget and a lot of goodwill from all parties involved, they started working. With great public interest, the first Christmas Canal Parade sails through the canals on Christmas Eve 2009. A new tradition has been born.

Christmas Canal Parade 2009

Winter Magic Amsterdam

After this successful start, the initiators Vincent Horbach and Henk-Jan Buchel got the taste. They also realized that more power is needed to make the event grow. That is why the board was strengthened in 2010 with Felix Guttmann, the Amsterdam Entrepreneur of the Year. Felix is deeply embedded in the shipping world, as well as in the administrative and commercial circles of Amsterdam. The operational organization is largely accommodated by a delegated producer: Wim Droger from Endemol. A larger organization also means more good ideas. After the successful pilot, the Christmas procession grew into a three-week event in 2010. Various activities took place under the name Winter Magic Amsterdam. The magically illuminated Skinny Bridge became the icon of Winter Magic Amsterdam. The highlight of the event was the boat parade through the canals.

Amsterdam Light Festival

Founding fathers Vincent, Henk-Jan and Felix have seen their organization quickly become an umbrella foundation that coordinates numerous events, as well as marketing, PR and sponsoring. Winter Magic Amsterdam appears to be a successful formula, but the name does not completely cover the package. The event had become much broader than a Christmas procession on the Amsterdam canals, so a name change was required. With Light Art Works, the Boulevard of Light and spectacular light projections on buildings, the emphasis is more and more on Art and Culture. To give the event the allure the organization dreams of, it is decided to skip the 2011 edition and focus all attention on 2012. The name of the event is eventually changed into Amsterdam Light Festival. The rest is history.

Light object Amsterdam Light Festival on the river Amstel

Founding Fathers and initiators

Vincent Horbach Rederij Prinsengracht

Vincent Horbach Rederij Prinsengracht

Henk Jan Buchel: Amsterdam Boat Center

Henk Jan Buchel: Amsterdam Boat Center

Felix Guttmann Voorzitter Amsterdam dam Light Festival

Felix Guttmann Voorzitter Amsterdam dam Light Festival

The history of the Amsterdam Light Festival is briefly summarized above. If you are interested in the entire history, you can read the entire story on the next page.