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Performing Arts Fund announces battleground. It's as bad as we feared.

The effects of the previous cabinet's arts cuts are finally becoming clear. The Performing Arts Fund today announced the winners and losers of the battle for four-year subsidies. From 2017, the Dutch art world will be a lot smaller, more meagre and poorer than it was until 2013. Big names are gone, traditions dismantled, while what is new faces an extremely uncertain existence.

In May, the Council for Culture announced its stripped-down 'basic infrastructure'. In that collection of indispensable art institutions (Rijksmuseum, Toneelgroep Amsterdam etc.), thanks to chaotic lobbying and opportunism of the Labour Party included a number of items at the expense of the budget for the Performing Arts Fund. That fund, which already had to cut 30 per cent of its budget in 2013, consequently had even less money to spend to make the 212 applicants happy.


Today, 2 August 2016, came judgement: 84 performing arts organisations can move forward for another four years from 2017. Of those 84, 54 are those that also received subsidies before this. 28 clubs are joining the system, and that automatically means that 23 clubs can pack their bags from 1 January 2017: whether they muddle on with local grants, project funds and commercial side jobs, the future will tell.

So it remains to be seen whether a respected and renowned company like Orkater (retained in Amsterdam, wiped out by the fund) will still exist in 2017. Cappella Amsterdam may be able to rent another rehearsal space with the 75,000 euros that the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts allocated to the ensemble yesterday, but cannot possibly make up for the loss of 498,000 euros of subsidy from the Performing Arts Fund. A group like Dood Paard, still worth 2.5 tonnes in Amsterdam itself, will have to make do with that money now that the other half of its budget (3.6 tonnes) is being taken away by the Fund.

Guess Who?

Of course, some great new things have been added: Le Guess Who is a cool festival, but it's also kind of a shame that a promising festival like Incubate gets nothing. The 137,500 euros theatre-maker Marjolein van Heemstra will certainly be well spent, but it is also a pity that the growth of Theatre Group Aluin will not be continued, now that their application of 135,000 euros has not been honoured.

Thus, for every gain there is a loss, and that is not good in this day and age. After all: many of the 'new' applicants have been working for years, and even though the Fund does its best to get makers to enter or move on (at the expense of established names), much is also lost. Much that has often participated in the flowering of Dutch culture for years.


We previously announced: the position of the Performing Arts Fund has become almost untenable in today's arts landscape. With so little financial and political leeway, not only is the fun gone, but also the opportunity to develop a real vision and policy. Worse, thanks to the Lower House's hoovering and snatching at the Fund's limited budgets, there is also no longer any possibility of doing anything about the income position of all those workers.

In her foreword, Fund Director Henriëtte Post puts it this way: "The Performing Arts Fund has asked itself whether the standard amounts (which are amounts per performance used to calculate the subsidy level) should be increased. That would amount to more subsidy for fewer institutions. In itself, there is a case for this (being a good employer, better working conditions), but the Fund ultimately did not decide to do so. We again prioritised the multicolour of the offer. We would have irreparably damaged the diversity of styles, disciplines, ways of working if we had increased the standard amounts."

In doing so, the Fund is thus indicating that a multicoloured and diverse cultural offering cannot go hand in hand with paying creators fairly. The 84 'winners' of this state of subsidy can only survive by continuing to underpay their people, volunteering and making part-timers work full-time. Then again, no bank will want to give another mortgage to someone working in a four-year subsidised company.


Of course, it was once intended to create a flexible system. A system in which there was equal room for preservation of the good and development of the new. Such a system can only be flexible if there is sufficient financial room. As long as the Netherlands still graduates dozens of new artists every year from the many courses we are 'rich' in, the pressure on the system will remain unjustifiably high. But if we decimate the 'inflow' now, supply will eventually dry up at the top as well. Then, in a decade or so, we will be back in the 1920s.

So the question can be asked whether the system by which we currently sustain the arts is still up to date. And then we also have to ask how we should go about it.

See the results for yourself

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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