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The Netherlands is festivalised. And why that is a very good thing. Collaborating festivals come out with a pamphlet (and ask for money)

Grandpa tells. In 1989, a committee of experts chose a different theatre course in my city, Utrecht. The newly emerged festival Theater aan de Werf would get more money, the marching theatre would disappear from 't Hoogt and the rest would have to take care of the newcomer with fewer days of programming. Then we took to the streets against the so-called 'festivalisation', because it would encourage flattening and chip culture. Now, 30 years later, everything is different. The Netherlands has been festivalised, and I am cheering.

Today, a pamphlet was presented to the Minister of Culture, drafted and signed by just about every performing arts festival in the Netherlands. It is powerful pamphlet, though at 14 pages it is also a bit on the long and full side. A bit similar to the programmes of the participating festivals themselves. Just for fun, take a look at the programme of Theatre festival Boulevard in Den Bosch.

Dreams fulfilled

The festivals rightly argue that all the cultural desires that any policymaker has had in recent decades are met by the festivals: they attract diverse audiences, offer enormous variety, manage to arrange money for innovation with audience hits, and succeed anyway in presenting idiotic amounts of art with a ridiculously low subsidy amount.

I wrote it myself back in 2016: 'Letter people are different from image people and dance people have little with theatre. Lovers of modern classical have nothing to do with punk. Yet, when they get together at a festival they turn into 'festival-goers' and can sniff each other out. It works. Sometimes the gulf deepens, but more often a bridge is built somewhere. And if not: as long as it's a pleasant day, it matters little.'

Stop theatre-goer loneliness. 5 lessons from Boulevard


Now the pamphlet is a bit more comprehensive: 'In 2018, we inhabit a world where we live more and more in our own bubble, where the information we take in is algorithmically tailored to our own preferences, where politicians and traditional television programmes talk down to us, where we all stream the same series at the same time. To break this pattern, you need to be caught off guard from time to time. Need to be touched in a way you didn't know. Although humans are sometimes dismissed as primal conservative, we actually think that almost everyone has a natural curiosity for new insights. Consciously or unconsciously.'

Most beautiful of all is actually the pamphlet itself. And the compilers, who work together. That is highly unusual in the performing arts. Theatres and theatres usually only cooperate if someone threatens them with death. Theatres anxiously keep their address files secret, because they are afraid that the competitor, a hundred kilometres away, will run off with their knowledge. See also How difficult the VSCD is every year about its own figures.


None of that with the performing arts festivals. Here, openness is the order of the day, although a few festivals may put attendance figures extra low in order to get out of police regulations, or extra high because it suits their political agenda. Above all, however, there is an open and free attitude, and the fact that only through a festival can even the most inveterate PVV or Denk-er come across something artistic that surprises her.

Pamphlet - The United Performing Arts Festivals 2018

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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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