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Joop Daalmeijer Marathon (7): 'If the knowledge is lost, so is the heritage.'

Wijbrand Schaap: 'Just one more point. Then we are almost through.'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'Go quietly, we have until 5.30pm.'

Wijbrand Schaap: 'We have a problem with real estate. There are a lot of inner city vacancies. Shop premises are empty, downtown office buildings are unrentable. What do the municipalities say? Put artists in them. Cost nothing, because for free rent they will do anything. So there will be nice little galleries, studios.'

Marathon interview
Following the uproar surrounding Melle Daamen's opinion piece on arts policy we were invited to a 'conversation about everything' with Joop Daalmeijer, president of the Council for Culture. The conversation lasted an hour and a half, and we agreed to reproduce it as literally and integrally as possible. Since that makes for a lot of text, and you won't have time for so much reading while waiting for the bus, we split it up. A serial thus.

Read all parts here:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

Joop Daalmeijer: 'Like what happens in the Red Light District.'

Wijbrand Schaap: 'Yes. But eventually the municipality comes up with something, things go back up in value and they can sell the properties again, after which the artists can go back to sprucing up the next problem neighbourhood without any compensation.'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'And the developers put the profits in their pockets.'

Wijbrand Schaap: 'Artists are of course thrilled to have their studios in the city centre, but it goes on a bargain and the money ends up being made elsewhere. It doesn't flow back to the people who ultimately do it.'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'It's a very nice idea. Because in my neighbourhood, in Bussum, so many shops are empty. Surely that's no sight, so if an artist can do something with that? Gladly. That happened in Breda, by the way. The alderman of culture there did that. That was done very well. Or was it Tilburg? Maybe it is Tilburg. But how such a municipality then gets in touch with such a property developer?'

' At our village centre, a piece of land has been completely flat for years. Very ugly. Like a rotting molar in a set of teeth. Because the property developer, a speculator, is waiting for something to be built that he can earn a lot from. The power of those guys. The municipality can't do anything about it. It can expropriate it, but that goes through the courts and then they pay the high price, for something they can't build anything on, because you'll never earn that money back. That's very complicated.'

Art loan

' But as for that vacancy. What does happen sometimes is that you put an art loan in there. Hilversum has done that too. That's obviously a lot of fun to do.'

Wijbrand Schaap: ' But the artist is used to keep a city district alive, but as soon as things pick up, he can leave again. It doesn't give a permanent base.'

Joop Daalmeijer: ' I have a friend who is a sculptor. She's looking for a hundred square metres, but she still can't find it. That's something. She made that Harry Mulisch thing that's in Haarlem. She made the head of Willem Alexander. She can't find space. Because if you see what these people are left with when they have something cast in bronze? The amount they eventually get for such a work of art is barely enough to live on, let alone rent very expensive square metres. So an idea like this would be great for that.'

Wijbrand Schaap: 'But then shouldn't you, as a council, actually advise to perpetuate something like this, rather than provide temporary solutions?'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'We should have a talk with the VNG about that. After all, you need support from the VNG for that. The central government has nothing to do with it. Anyway, we can also advise the VNG. After all, we are allowed to give unsolicited advice. We can write down what we want. But you have to kind of see if there is room for that. Maybe Den Bosch or Dordrecht is a very nice place. Thanks for the tip. Going to Dordrecht soon. By boat from Rotterdam. Arrive upside down in Dordrecht. (laughing) And the closer to Dordt, the worse it gets, we used to say in Rotjeknor.'

Wijbrand Schaap: ' Heritage now. Preserving and transferring craft knowledge.'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'That's also about museums.'

Wijbrand Schaap: 'In the Ruhr region, two mines are still open. Not because they need the coal, but because they want to preserve the miners' skills, in case there is ever another severe energy crisis. If we want to do that in the Netherlands, we have to get all the miners from Germany.'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'Besides, you then have to get all the concrete back out of the mines, which they are now filled with.'

Wijbrand Schaap: 'But so that heritage conservation in Germany is a purely economic interest. And it's also about culture: painting tiles, wood carvings...'

Joop Daalmeijer: '... Bronze casting.'

Wijbrand Schaap: ' ...but in the Culture Outlook, the council notes that while there may be nice initiatives to preserve these crafts, it is not a structural solution to the problem.'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'We were triggered by visiting the ceramics museum in Leeuwarden. The Princess Court. That is an amazing museum. They have a collection of Ming that even the Chinese envy. That museum is beautifully decorated. Only, they can no longer find curators. They are not being trained. There we are by triggered, because that, of course, is very unfortunate. What they do now: they send people from the Netherlands to England, to be trained there. Then I think: what should it cost to have that done in Leiden? The money is apparently there to pay for it, because that museum pays for that training. It's the same in archaeology.'


'You have to look at that. If that is lost, it also means that the future of such a great museum is at risk. And the collection has to be preserved. It has to be restored, and shown in the right context. You can only have that done by people who have knowledge. If you don't train those anymore, it will perish. That's why we wrote that down.'

Wijbrand Schaap: 'Speaking of which: the tropical museums. Some of those museums are merging.'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'A new chairman of the board has just been appointed.'

Wijbrand Schaap: 'The merger of the institutes in Leiden, Amsterdam and Nijmegen now seems to be leading to some love between those three parties.'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'That is so. That is also because there is a director there who is not from the sector: Stijn Schoonderwoerd. And he knows how to bind those people. Because he is not a danger to anyone. He came in there fresh and his job is to bring that together. He has now elected a very good new chairman of the board, and that is going very well. But on the other hand, if you see what's happening in Rotterdam...'

Wijbrand Schaap: 'That is indeed where I wanted to start. There, a sale is being held for the benefit of a one-star restaurant.'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'It seems to be good food. I haven't been there yet. Have been invited to it, but no.'

Wijbrand Schaap: 'Could the Council have done anything here?'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'We HAVE done something. When it first came up, we did the first twitter advice given. We sent that tweet to all councillors in Rotterdam, the group chairs and the then alderman. That message then played a role during the committee discussion. In the process, that piece from the alderman was then withdrawn in which that sale was regulated.'

'The debate turned into this tweet opened:

"This afternoon debate in Rotterdam city council on sale of World Museum pieces. Don't. First wait for our advice on museum order on 31-1"

You had to get there quickly, because it was a robbery. And that Bremer, he runs that like a businessman. I guess so. But so this is the first 'twitter advice' that has had consequences. We have continued to pursue that. Again, we have corresponded about it. You can't just do that. We emphasised that very strongly: you shouldn't just put everything on sale. Well, Stanley Bremer won't do it to add a chef to his restaurant and go to a second star, but it does show how the thinking among those people is developing: that the commodities are. And they are not. Not even if you have 12 spears from the same tribe. Even then, those are 12 unique spears. And then you have to see if another museum in the Netherlands is interested in them. If you have a problem with your storage, talk mainly about how to arrange storage better. With each other. You can't just sell it out.'


'I know about the Sanders family, Martijn's father, who donated a lot to that museum. Then you can't start selling his stuff, can you?'

'There will be new policies about it now. We will keep our finger on the pulse.'

Wijbrand Schaap: ' Meanwhile, though, the library of the Tropical Institute is gone.'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'That one went to Egypt, which is nice. That again makes my sister-in-law very happy as an Arabist, because you can study it better there than here.'

Wijbrand Schaap: 'Well I don't know if that's where you are at the moment as a woman...'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'She does though, solid auntie.'

Wijbrand Schaap: 'But a lot of things went away. The library of the Theatre Institute went to the uva. Became less accessible.'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'It saves a lot. The Netherlands Music Centre, everything that was stored there in terms of scores and scores, what Albersen doesn't want... Of course, those have also been the negative consequences of that cut.'

Wijbrand Schaap: 'That's not fixable.'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'That cannot be fixed. Fortunately, the director of the TIN has found a nice job in The Hague.'

Wijbrand Schaap: 'Who has another problem there now.'

Joop Daalmeijer: 'Well and truly. Jeez. Wonder how that's going to be. But that closure of those institutes all remains unsaid. There was nothing behind that of a vision of austerity. Look, when it comes to the production houses, Jacob Derwig spoke about that at the presentation of the theatre awards. Those production houses were taken away with the stroke of a pen. Whereas maybe you should have thought. Shouldn't you keep one production house for dance, shouldn't you keep one production house for theatre?'

'For dance, fortunately it has remained here in the Hague, thanks to Korzo. That works very well. But for theatre, it's no longer there. That's a pity. If you see now in the south what's empty. That beautiful building, also in one of those municipalities. That was a magnificent building, which is now just empty. That's a shame. A real shame. Another thing: bricks, but then abandoning the play. That is a mortal sin. Well. Maybe they should make it available to visual artists as studio space. Can my friend still have that 100 square metres.'

Joop Daalmeijer Marathon (closing): 'But who knows anything about it? They are all generalists sitting there.'

Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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