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'Without extra money, even successful festivals will fall over'

The House of Representatives a few weeks back serious problems caused for culture in the Netherlands. In a noble attempt to save a few festivals and a youth theatre, SP, D66, CDA and PvdA caused chaos. They passed a motion instructing our culture minister to still set aside money for a few festivals and an additional youth theatre. The minister reacted doggedly, because she had to go and get this money from the Performing Arts Fund. That fund, which has served as a savings bank for the ministry for a few years now. That fund had already told the minister that it was running out of money a bit. The minister also told that to the room, and that even everyone who had lobbied the PvdA told PvdA culture spokesman Jacques Monasch, the man who was so proud of his bailout.

So no one outside the four groups was happy. By now, we can see that as a euphemism. A disaster appears to be unfolding. The festivals have joined hands. In a never-before-seen unity, they have formed a letter in which they argue that their survival is now in real danger. One formulates it as follows: "The gap in national cultural policy on performing arts festivals, rightly identified by the Culture Council, remains and irrevocably leads to the end of a number of tasteful performing arts festivals. Not opting for performing arts festivals now will leave deep scars in local and national cultural infrastructures in the years to come."

Who sits. But does he penetrate the chamber? In the fuss following the adoption of the controversial motions, an interesting discussion took place on facebook between Jacques Monasch and some well-known names from the culture corner, on the timeline of Geert Overdam, the former director of Festival Boulevard, which is also in the danger zone thanks to the motions. Monasch placed his political action there as a preparation for more: 'Bred-need correction. This is just the beginning. Motions entirely in line with debate before summer better regional distribution, restoration of number of interventions Zijlstra (oa Oerol, Cinekid) Unfortunately no parliamentary majority for CDA and PvdA motion for more money and BIS place for Theatre Festival Den Bosch and Dutch Design Week Eindhoven. Should definitely. Next round again commitment PvdA.'

monasch 1

That next round will take place in the second chamber on 23 and 24 November. So Monasch seems to speak of a master plan behind the rather panicky-looking motions. So there was a bit of doubt about that in that discussion on Overdam's timeline, by not the least of them too. Eventually, things got too hot under the PvdA's feet, after Joop Kuyvenhoven (advisor Fonds Podiumkunsten) and Council for Culture advisor Robbert van Heuven pointed out inconsistencies to him. He accused them of "salon populism" (an accusation we also received once before) and closed the discussion with the promise that he would settle things privately with Geert Overdam.


That was three weeks ago. Now there is this letter from all those festivals. Then the question is: did the bilateral between Geert and Jacques yield nothing and are the festivals now grasping at this means of force, or is this letter in fact a tactical move in cooperation with Monasch, so that he can use it to get the hearts and minds of the VVD to win it over with 2.4 million for culture?

The latter seems impossible. First, Monasch would then have to acknowledge that he failed with his first motion and is thus unfit as culture spokesperson, second, Halbe Zijlstra will rather die of terrible torture than make extra money available for culture.

We fear the worst. A few festivals are going to perish. Unless the House of Representatives really stands up for our values next week.

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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