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On the edge of Europe, Holland Festival attracts 86,000 visitors #HF16

Ruth Mackenzie has brought new impetus to the Holland Festival. Not that her predecessor Pierre Audi did badly, but the British organisational talent has brought topicality and urgency to the programme. When she devised her programme theme, she too will not have suspected that the concept of 'Edges of Europe' would take on such a charge. After all, simultaneously with the last weekend of the festival, the English people decided, against the wishes of everyone but the Welsh, to leave the European Union behind. The Netherlands suddenly found itself on the far edge of Europe, with only a view of distant Ireland.

The festival's programme was attractive. With an auditorium occupancy of 85%, the organisers can be proud, especially when many of those occupied seats could sometimes count on downright lousy views, as I noticed during the opening. However, that did not detract from the quality of the programme, which was far from self-evident, but which was in keeping with the allure of the country's premier performing arts festival.


There was room for 100,000 visitors, and 86,000 eventually showed up. That is a high number, especially since the programme did not include any obvious hits. For instance, I myself was quite worried beforehand whether the performance 'Ça Ira' about the French revolution would attract audiences. The Dutch are not very fond of French theatre and even though we all spend the summer there with our tents and caravans, we hardly speak the language. Nevertheless, the performance managed to draw sold-out audiences here as well and generate a lot of discussion. That gives us hope.

Also new this year was the attention from the US and UK press. That will be partly because of Mackenzie's good reputation in the English-speaking part of the world. A few American newspapers had descended on the London press conference of the Holland Festival, and even decided to cross over. Where they were undividedly delighted by that little festival in that weird, libertine Netherlands.

For Wunderbaum, by the way, this was not an unmixed pleasure. The relatively young company of idiosyncratic makers was presented to festival audiences as a special gem this year, and the reception - including ours - was mixed. Which was also true of the American press, which sometimes found the rather stripped-down theatre of the sky stormers a bit sketchy, or over the top.

Not to worry, the reputation stands, and invitations to foreign festivals will follow.

Good to know

Culture Press, with 10 journalists, reported on almost all performances. The overview is available at here.

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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