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Marijke Muoi alone is a reason to come to Leeuwarden. Why the Netherlands should have a new Capital of Culture every year.

Bouke Oldenhof. Where was he all this time? Writing, but mostly in Frisian (which also meant he had no time to work on his website). And then you won't get through in the rest of the Netherlands. The man who won countless hearts with the unique gem 'Rolbrug'. Mine too, and especially in a performance - by amateurs - from the last century, apparently played only last year by the same two players I saw earlier at a festival in Rotterdam: Nina Werkman and Dré Oudman. Can they come back again? Or better yet, could they just play that show for a few weeks every season? It could bring in busloads of audiences.

Marijke Muoi sold out

And if Dré and Nina aren't famous enough, we'll just ask Paul R. Kooij and Joke Tjalsma. They are there now anyway, as bearers of the spectacle Marijke Muoi, sold out to the last seat. They can best pull the trolley of Rolbrug after this if the general public would rather not come to watch amateurs. Though there is no need for that fear anywhere.

In Marijke Muoi, the opening performance of Leeuwarden/Fryslân 2018, dozens of amateurs walk around alongside the professionals. It doesn't matter at all. Put professional lights on them, a resourceful director and above all: give them a text by Bouke Oldenhof and all will be well. After all, the hall in which it plays is also amateur? After all, Leeuwarden's Grote Kerk, heavily built like a Frisian stallion, is not a theatre either, but a graveyard of the Frisian Oranges?

Anyway. Marijke Muoi is rigidly sold out. A great start to the year when Leeuwarden and Friesland will be the European Capital of Culture. There is more spectacle to come, and surely more little things, and surely something grandiose will fail. But in this first week, euphoria reigns supreme. It has worked, after years of squabbles, rolling heads, bloody power struggles and hoping against hope, there is a programme and the city has already brightened up.

Gray veil lifted

On Friday, at an Election Congress organised by interest group Kunsten '92, people in the know said that Leeuwarden looked more beautiful than before. A veil of grey had lifted, the city and its inhabitants had gained self-confidence. And so had the culture aldermen and mayors present.

Anyone who, like me, has followed the debates and congresses on culture a little in recent years had a bizarre experience on Friday. Aldermen who were proud of their portfolios, mayors who - following the lead of a lone German politician in the audience - declared culture the most important item in their policies.

How different it was four or five years ago.

It is, of course, also due to The other sound from The Hague. Art is no longer that expensive left-wing hobby, but something that can be invested in. And, may Hague policy still seem mainly economically motivated, at the local level it is about identity, independence and pride.

Cultural Capital of the Netherlands

The question is how to maintain that momentum even after the end of 2018, when the Netherlands will no longer have a European Capital of Culture within its borders. Because it is clear: Leeuwarden's approach, its emphasis on pride and its own artists works fantastically well for the atmosphere. This is where art proves its worth.

During one of the workshops at the conference, I mused aloud about establishing an equivalent on a Dutch scale. Every year, we designate a different province to deliver a Cultural Capital of the Netherlands. Complete with bid books and strict juries. Of course, we throw a dollop of money on top of that, and that city gets to turn out. Media attention guaranteed, whether Lochem or Middelburg. And proud residents, of course. I would sign for it.

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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