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Arnhem pours millions into bricks and immediately pulls its hands off them

The Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra is getting a new main hall. Questions about exploitation were carelessly brushed aside in the Arnhem city council last night. And so construction-minded Holland is happy. Moreover, Arnhem will save half a million a year on its culture budget by immediately making the yet-to-be-built new hall independent. Another headache file closed. Until huge budget deficits arise at the independent halls, of course, but that is a problem for future administrators.

Where we already wrote that this new hall would come, the Arnhem city council turned out to be unruly. Responsible alderman Gerrie Elfrink (SP) was under enormous fire in mid-May and could not produce any operating figures despite many requests. And so everyone went into the retake.

Elfrink still did not come up with better figures. But he did come up with smokescreens and, above all, many threats:

"We don't invest that much, the State does. But if we want to keep all that free money from the State in Arnhem, we have to provide opportunities for the State-subsidised institutions. That new hall is needed to fulfil their mission. The Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra has shown that it needs the new hall so it can grow. We are talking about the future of cultural Arnhem. If we do not build that new hall, we will destroy a lot culturally, we will get nothing more from the state and province."

Then vote no again. And so Arnhem succumbed overwhelmingly to the alderman's rambling rhetoric and decided to invest in bricks.

Amazing? If only it were true. It is all too recognisable.

What is downright shocking is that these same stones were then immediately privatised, without significant input from any party. Because that is how a cut of half a million a year can be realised. A quick conversion shows that Arnhem has thrown over 25 years of subsidies into mere bricks in a simple stroke of the pen.

To be continued, as Arnhem city council is not alone

Henri Drost

Henri Drost (1970) studied Dutch and American Studies in Utrecht. Sold CDs and books for years, then became a communications consultant. Writes for among others GPD magazines, Metro, LOS!, De Roskam, 8weekly, Mania, hetiskoers and Cultureel Persbureau/De Dodo about everything, but if possible about music (theatre) and sports. Other specialisms: figures, the United States and healthcare. Listens to Waits and Webern, Wagner and Dylan and pretty much everything in between.View Author posts

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