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The new defence: don't talk but bring! (How a dinner argument leads to genius insights)

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I am sitting at the dinner table at my parents' house. We are celebrating my mother's birthday with the whole family. I am there, but I am not quite there. In fact, I am so incredibly tired at the moment. As I jokingly tell my friends, "I can't say boo or boo anymore and am running on my gums". Suddenly, the conversation turns to budget cuts, funds, culture and subsidies. As my Facebook has for weeks contained one plea after another about culture, diversity, fair practice and the legitimisation of subsidies, I sink even deeper into those gums

The discussion starts again and I can't take it anymore. I have been having this discussion so many times! Before I started Buro Bannink, through my studies in graduate Cultural Economics particularly specialised in all facets of the arts and culture market. Although I can no longer quote all the scholars, I come a long way in explaining that culture is a 'experience good' is, so that people have to consume it before they know whether they want it and what they think of it. And thus whether it was worth their money.

Market Failure.

For example, that the value of culture to people also consists of a bequest value. That although people do not want to consume it, they do want to have it close by as an option, because they want the opportunity to consume it one day or want it to be maintained for their children. Or that cultural capital accumulated in childhood is the most decisive factor for cultural participation as an adult. Or that theatre has very high production and performance costs that, with exceptions, cannot be broken even. That all kinds of market failures in mixing making subsidies necessary.

When I am comfortable in my skin, I am quite willing to have this discussion. But now I don't. My brother starts off and I say how tired I am of this. That I get so tired of constantly having to defend myself. That I get so intensely sad that so many people talk so harshly about artists and that there is such a strange public opinion about the cultural sector. That I'm tired of being seen as deadbeats. That it really hurts me that my beloved theatre is talked about so badly. Like it hurts when someone says your father is really a huge dick or something... (Dad, rest assured, no one has ever said that).

Keeping your own trousers on.

My brother comes up with the comment, that if you can't keep your own trousers up then you have no right to exist. Something I find remarkable for a musician who is now a secondary school music teacher. He doesn't see education and its legitimacy at all as comparable to theatre. He thinks theatre is an elitist bunch and that we only subsidise the highly educated elderly.

The discussion gets heated. I am too tired to remain subtle. I am too sensitive not to get super angry and sad. My brother indicates that surely we can disagree. But no! So that's the problem, I can't accept that someone so close and who had the same upbringing can think like that. Because if I don't get him as an ally already, how do I get the rest of the Netherlands convinced of the necessity and importance of art for an empathetic and inspiring world! Shit, there we have that missionary urge again!

In the end, my mother intervenes and we leave it at that. We disagree. I notice that I am fighting tired. That these discussions cost me a lot of energy. It makes me secretly consider quitting that whole theatre sometimes.

Passing on love.

Later that week, I'm with one of my best friends. I just went to the doctor and find out that I had mega vitamin deficiencies. So this fatigue is the struggle I am in, but it also has a physical cause. I tell about my discussion over dinner. She laughs. "Ah, with my family I've given up on this altogether". We talk on about how we do this and what the point is. Suddenly she says: "Surely we should be able to do this differently. We shouldn't defend ourselves! We should let people experience it. We have to pass on the love of theatre!".

Impassioned, we get into a conversation about how and what. We both work in the theatre sector, so we often go to all kinds of performances together. Or we go with other theatre-minded friends. We often go to an experiment and we dare to take a lot of risk in what we will watch. I rarely go with my brother. She rarely goes with her old neighbours who just don't understand what kind of work she does as an actress then since she is so not on TV.

No more discussion.

We come to the conclusion that we no longer want to argue. We no longer want to persuade, defend, argue, write arguments supported by figures. We want to share the love of theatre! What if all the people who love theatre as much as we do, all took one person to the theatre who never goes? And take them to a performance that you know suits that person because you know them? Or because you yourself love that performance so much that you can't imagine anyone not enjoying it? If only we did that, not go with someone who likes it anyway, but challenge someone to share your love. Wouldn't we achieve a lot more then?

So my suggestion for 2020: give a theatre ticket and go yourself! And my wish for the new year: create a think tank to sit around the table with various theatres, makers, enthusiasts and marketers. Heads together to roll out a national campaign that will make us share the love and passion for theatre. Let's infect people with theatre and thus ensure that we don't have to have the discussion in 25 years because everyone will know how relevant art is!

Should you want to think along, concrete actions such as a friends stripping card, the virgintheatre visit pass or the pay it forward award have, email me! I am looking for people who also want to get started in a positive way!

I start by taking my brother out again! And by taking my vitamin pills, because without that fatigue, life, the world and even theatre is more fun!

Karin Bannink

"Once, as a five-year-old girl, I was taken to the theatre. I clearly remember the first time the lights went out, my legs dangled under the seat and I, with a finger in my mouth, watched, breathless. I was enchanted! Since then, I have been addicted to the building tension just before the performance, sit on the edge of my seat during intrigues, intensely enjoy beautiful songs and melodic lyrics and, above all, I am always moved by the applause. With Buro Bannink, I want to let as many young and old people as possible experience the magic of theatre every day. All this in the hope that someone will sit and watch breathlessly and there let theatre change their life."View Author posts

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