Interview: The Schillings family and their cultural engagement in EFCO

By Christine Schillings for EFCO youth

‘Let´s build a bridge from us to every nation’

Christine Schillings, 22-year-old EFCO Youth President of Germany, and her family talk about family traditions, their special relationship and their love to folk, art and culture, life-time activities and friendships all over Europe.

As part of the EFCO Youth campaign ‘2016 – year of Family’, we’ve begun collecting stories from members and friends of EFCO as to how the world of folk culture and international friendships have impacted their families and what family means to them. Our first article has been written by Christine Schillings who is the EFCO Youth president for Germany. Christine and I have danced together since we were young children at international festivals and in more recent years have worked together in cultural workshops for EFCO Youth. Her article looks at the value and the importance of our common work for EFCO.  Christine’s enthusiasm and power rise from her families’ roots – her parents Andreas and Karin, her brother Florian and her grandmother Anne describe their special family story and their folkloristic and cultural work that spreads over decades. 

The Schillings family, wearing their costumes of the Ger-man folklore group ‘Sounding Windrose’. This cultural group belongs to the organisation ‘DJO – German Youth of Europe’ and has been a member of EFCO for many years.
The Schillings family, wearing their costumes of the Ger-man folklore group ‘Sounding Windrose’. This cultural group belongs to the organisation ‘DJO – German Youth of Europe’ and has been a member of EFCO for many years.


You have been engaged in folk, art and culture for many years. What does EFCO mean to you?

Andreas: We want to support international meetings between European groups and to intensify people getting to know each other with their own culture, especially via folklore – as bridges for a peaceful Europe.

EFCO is an important Europe-wide platform of cultural exchange, meetings and communication between European citizens. It enables us sharing and extending our common folkloristic and cultural work all over Europe.

Christine: Amicable meeting and communication via dancing, singing and making music – experiencing cultural diversity. By this way, EFCO fosters enduring international friendships all over Europe.

Florian: I want to emphasize the musical pleasure we share with other people. The meetings are shaped by a cheerful atmosphere and by our interest in getting to know each other with his own nationality and culture.

Karin: By those experiences we want to share our values and to pass them to the next generations: Respecting other people, acting responsibly, supporting and accompanying helpfully.

Your folkloristic group, the Sounding Windrose, fosters a special family tradition. Specifically in your family you have  three generations dancing together – How did that come about?

Andreas: My father Bernd Schillings was the dancing instructor for German dances of the Sounding Windrose for many years. Today for more than already 20 years I am the dancing instructor and since last year I am the leader of the Sounding Windrose ­– after Barbara Schoch managed this wonderfully for nearly 50 years. My mother Annelies Schillings is a member of the Sounding Windrose since its foundation in the year 1966 and currently she still dances – Dancing keeps body and mind fit and healthy.

My greatest happiness was and still is that I got to know my wonderful wife Karin via our group so I have her as a lifelong dancing partner. Our two children Christine and Florian have been dancing since they were very, very young – in former times even in our children group my wife and me founded 15 years ago. Dancing together and making music in an ensemble are very special moments for our family. Several couples from our group got to know and came to love each other in a similar way. They also have motivated and instructed their children in our cultural work.

Our group has around 45 members who live in different communities of North-Rhine-Westphalia. We meet regularly every four weeks for a weekend to work in the area of youth education, cultivation and development of the cultural heritage and traditions in theory and practice.


In which countries have you already participated in EFCO exchange projects?

Florian: We took part in several countries, in Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Slowakia, Hungary, Ireland and France. In all of those international meetings we have already participated as a family, in Sweden and Russia for example for several times. I am always very happy to meet young people of other countries so that we can talk, discuss and dance together and have lots of fun. My work for an EFCO-Project in Olpe in 2013 was very successful and it was interesting to change ideas with other pupils and students.

By the way, when I was a little child I only loved it to dance with my grandma Anne – and today we even still dance sometimes together!

Anne: Yes, he does, and I´m very thankful and happy that I am still able to dance folk dances. It gives me the chance to take part in all the activities and dancing is my favourite one! To spend lots of time with my son, my daughter in law, my granddaughter, grandson and so many friends of the Sounding Windrose, even with friends in different European countries, keeps me healthy!


Since EFCO’s foundation in 1996 EFCO projects shape the program of the ‘International Music Week’ which took place under the slogan ‘Preparation for the Europe of the Future’ in Germany in October 2013 for the 21st time. What makes an  ‘International Week‘ like that so special?

Karin: Up to ten groups from all over Europe live together under one roof for a whole week. 200 people get to know each other by dancing, singing playing music, discussing, playing games having good times together. Through the manifold common daily activities we sample new perspectives and learn to appreciate other attitudes and customs – an important requirement for mutual understanding.

Especially the young members of the groups all over Europe get to know the different cultures and traditions, the hopes and fears and the common youth problems in Europe today.


Christine: Beside the dominating musical communities in every International Music Week performances of the groups dressed up in their national costumes and an international market, where the groups present their specialities, even culinary specialities, take place. Furthermore the participants come together in discussion groups and work together on common projects like for example ‘40 Ideas for the Future of Europe‘. We have never got to know these special experiences with people from so many different countries in such an intensity.


What was your most wonderful EFCO experience?

Karin: At the 21th International Music Week in 2013 we have had the pleasure to experience how many young people were heading towards to each other and how they worked at common themes. Music and dancing were linking elements in this process.

The ‘Euro-Orchestra’, whose musicians elaborate compositions together at every International Music Week, appears to us as a very special metaphorical example of cooperation between different countries: Every instrument or rather every musician plays his/her own melody and so she/he is essential for the special acoustic colour of the entire composition just as every participant for the European Project.


What do you wish EFCO for its future?

Christine: May EFCO bring interested people from different countries together under the European roof for processing on their cultural work and bringing it to the public at large. More EFCO projects and activities are desirable which will take place alternately in the European countries. May arise countless friendships and mutual interpersonal and international understanding between people, between countries, between hearts.

May we introduce our family?

  • Andreas Schillings 51, Police Inspector, Group leader of the Sound-ing Windrose Dancing instructor for German dances, singing tenor, playing the accordion, the trumpet, the piano, entertainer & comedian ☺ My slogan: ‚The Sounding Windrose is like a big family.’
  • Karin Schillings 51, Consultant, Master in Business Group leader of the chil-dren’s group Dancing, singing soprano, playing the piano, handycraft, through the eyes of a child My slogan: „Schläft ein Lied in allen Dingen, die da träumen fort und fort, und die Welt hebt an zu singen, triffst du nur das Zauberwort.“ (Joseph Freiherr von Eichen-dorff) (‘A song sleeps in all things, which dream on and on, and the world begins to sing, if only you find the magic word.’)
  • Christine Schillings 22, psychology student Member of the Sounding Windrose, EFCO Youth President of Germany Dancing, singing soprano, playing the piano and the cello My slogan: ‘There is no bigger sign for a peaceful together in Europe than dancing together.’
  • Florian Schillings 18, student of law Member of the Sounding Windrose, very best dancer as the girls say ☺ Dancing, singing bass, playing the trumpet, the trombone and the baritone horn My slogan: ‘You don’t really value your own culture until you get in touch with foreign traditions.’
  • Annelies Schillings 76, retired secretary Member of the Sounding Windrose, leading member of the Düsseldorfer Folk-lore Group Dancing, singing soprano My slogan: ‘Dancing folk-lore keeps me fit and happy and it fulfills me.’