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Performing arts employers (NAPK) angry: subsidy system must change

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They are totally concur with us, the employers in the performing arts sector. These company and theatre directors and other managers of dwindling coffers, gathered in the Dutch Association of Performing Arts (NAPK), are circulating a letter today, calling on the Lower House to review the system of subsidies. After all, now the middle class is falling between the cracks. Has happened before, and that's why that system of the 'BIS' was set up in 2008, which worked, until the VVD made a cash grab. Finally: baked goods all over the place.

Read the ANALYSIS NAPK below:


If the subsidy recommendations of the Performing Arts Fund make one thing clear, it is that the current system does not provide a good guarantee for an experienced midfield that operates in continuity and occupies a relevant link position between BIS and `new' performing arts producers. Important players in the current performing arts field have fallen by the wayside. The quality of the applications is not to blame. Almost all of them received a positive subsidy advice but are not honoured due to insufficient budget.

These include Orkater, Korzo, Cappella Amsterdam, Theatergroep Suburbia, Danstheater AYA, Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw, Dood Paard, Beumer&Drost, Theater Gnaffel and Matzer. They were assessed positively but fell below the saw line because the main mission of the Performing Arts Fund is to ensure flow, dynamism and innovation in the performing arts system. The Fund `stimulates the pluralism of medium and small-scale supply, focusing on flow, dynamism and innovation'.

Budget crunch

In NAPK's view, this is also very important for a vital and flourishing performing arts landscape, and the fact that there is a lot of high-quality new inflow can only be applauded. However, the focus on innovation automatically means that institutions that actually stand for continuity and expertise and thus fulfil a valuable function within the system are less valued. The Fund cannot sufficiently accommodate a middle management that is equally of great relevance to a vibrant and robust performing arts system. This is a direct consequence of a continuous austerity policy: the budget squeeze is crippling the aforementioned institutions, and with them many others. This exposes a painful gap in the current performing arts system: there is a gap between Fund and BIS, and if you end up in it as a well-functioning institution, you have a big problem.

This is painful and undesirable and makes a political discussion about the gap between new and dynamic on the one hand, and basic infrastructure on the other, very much needed. There is no room (policy-wise or financially) in national policy for a broad midfield. Precisely this group of institutions has built up enormous expertise over the years, is absolutely relevant in terms of artistic content and has solid connections with audiences and customers, but does not primarily focus on alternative forms, content or locations. A number of these institutions are now being written off prematurely.

Standard amounts

The Performing Arts Fund also prioritises pluralism over increasing the standard amounts, which is indispensable for good employment and working conditions. This makes it clear that the Fund has made a sharp choice in this too. Facilitating good employment financially would have meant that even more institutions would have fallen below the saw line. The downside is that employers who have now been granted subsidies will in many cases also have to make very sharp choices (again), which does not promote a healthy working climate in this part of the sector. This is detrimental to the professionalism of the performing arts sector. The SER and the Council for Culture expressed major concerns about this in a report earlier this year.

Ergo: the 2012 cuts are still pulling deep furrows through the performing arts landscape. As a result, an entire generation that brought continuity and expertise in many areas is now being uprooted. To mitigate this, on Budget Day, the House of Representatives will have to make the 10 mln deployed incidentally in 2016 structural for the period 2017-2020 and deploy part of it for the benefit of this broad civil society. For the long term, the ministry, politicians, Raad voor Cultuur, Fonds Podiumkunsten, municipalities and the field should start looking at a new structure that does better justice to that which the Dutch performing arts ability.

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