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Thierry Aartsen of the VVD is quite right. And no idea.

'Culture is about stimulating, fraternising, challenging. Then there is no difference between corso and ballet.' Says Thierry Aartsen on Friday (16 November) in the Volkskrant. Thierry who? Thierry Aartsen, the one who will be speaking on culture at the VVD in the coming months. The next few months? Yes, because VVD culture spokespersons are usually appointed for one or two debates, after which they are allowed to move on to something else. In the past decade, that happened to people we never hear from now. Bart de Liefde, anyone?

Under Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the culture portfolio for VVD MPs is a kind of testing ground, where talent development is done. A production house, actually. Because with the current VVD standpoints on culture, you're bound to get a bucket of shit dumped on you. And if you can get through that laughing, you get to be a fly on the wall in Putin's dacha.

Enough madness.

Thierry Aartsen is absolutely right in his plea to also look at regional and popular culture when handing out subsidies. Indeed, carnival, carbide shooting, clog dance, the Corso of Zundert: all popular culture that needs to be supported. Songs that Aartsen likes, like the one asking Sylvana to emigrate: also subsidy. Of course. As long as songs wishing Aartsen an interesting illness should also be allowed. You can apply for a subsidy here.

In fact, Thierry Aartsen is so right that what he wants is already happening. And in so far as it is not already happening, the Culture Council in Music sector analysis already indicated that regional and amateur music should also be taken into account in grant assessments. But even stronger: the carnival association that needs a construction shed for its floats can already apply for subsidies for that too. It is also about the only concrete example Aartsen can cite, besides security costs for the flower parade.


This obviously involves local and sometimes regional subsidies, because the national impact of a flower parade or carnival float is obviously not very big. I don't think Aartsen would like it either if a national committee of wise men and women were to judge whether his float met the nationally established requirements. Besides, a nationally subsidised piece of popular culture also has to go on tour. And the question is whether your float will survive the trip past all the provincial capitals.

Because that, of course, is the problem. Aartsen thinks the Lower House is about subsidy distribution. But that is not what the Lower House is about. The Lower House is not going to decide on Monday 19 November 2018 to give a million less to the National Ballet, in favour of the brass band in Veldhoven, or the Turkish folk dance group in Etten-Leur. What they will do there, however, is talk about how important regionalisation, or rather decentralisation, of our subsidy system for arts and culture is.


And that decentralisation is of course important, no one in the Lower House needs the VVD for that. The regional profiles, the homework done in 16 places in the Netherlands, right down to Lunteren, are about that very question. How heavily do you weigh the importance of the local brass band in the distribution of money for culture?

So Thierry Aartsen is asking for something that is already happening, but did not delve into the matter before he started screaming. You can expect something like this from an incompetent at the PVV or a perpetual student at FvD. It's pretty bad for an MP from a ruling party.

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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