Skip to content

There are also problems with the region in Limburg (and people suspect the advisers of being arbitrary and pre-emptive)

On Budget Day, the Maastricht College of Deputies will decide the future of several cultural institutions in Limburg. The college is meeting about 2.2 million extra money and thus the survival of cultural institutions. The millions became available after deputy Ger Koopmans decided in mid-August to take the subsidy to the Jan van Eyck Academy and Opera Zuid from the regular budget and not from the culture pot. What it should also meet about is the functioning of the Culture Tank.

Last May, the Culture Tank (Limburg's advisory committee on culture) advised Provincial Executive member Koopmans how to spend the more than 11 million over Culture Plan period 2021-2024 and Subinfrastructure 2021-2022. Institutions with culture plan status receive operating subsidies and are among the cultural top. Subinfrastructure can be seen as a vestibule and consists of two-year project subsidies.

Point system

The opinion led to fierce criticism in the media due to the lack of money for North and Central Limburg. Only 1 institution from Central Limburg against 20 from South Limburg received culture plan status. Commissioner Koopmans responded in early June to L1 radio: 'From day one when I became deputy six years ago, I have said that the distribution of cultural subsidies across the province needs to improve. But the Culture Tank's advice does not improve that'. The Culture Tank then answered questions from the VVD that 'objective and primary assessment was made on the basis of the points system'.

The cultural centre of gravity in Limburg has been in the south for years. However, to encourage southern institutions to programme outside the region, only 1 extra point is available. Examples of the problem of geographical spread also exist at the Council of Culture and the Performing Arts Fund. The former chose dance company Club Guy and Roni at the expense of Scapino Rotterdam because of its location in Groningen. Both companies received a positive assessment but the council had to make a choice by the minister.

At the Performing Arts Fund, because of the much lower budget available, they have 'given dispersion a lesser emphasis in the assessment'. The problems have now been overcome by 15 million extra money from the cabinet for the Performing Arts Fund. Scapino Rotterdam was still subsidised by a majority in the Lower House in June. It turns out that with the available budgets, advisory committees cannot force geographic distribution without sacrificing artistic quality. The question an advisory committee should ask itself beforehand is whether its remit is feasible.


Let's look at a specific example. The points system is at stake in the lobby for the survival of the Orlandofestival. The Orlandofestival has been organised by Stichting Kamermuziek Limburg (SKL) for 38 years and consists of 40 chamber music concerts. The chamber music festival received no points in the healthy management section and was thus excluded from provincial funding.

SKL expressed its surprise in a letter dated 28 May to the college about "the sudden dropped valuation" that is not "objectively inexplicable". It points out factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions in the letter. When there was no response to this from the Culture Bank, the foundation asked consultancy firm Berenschot to do a counter-expertise.

Public outreach

In the advice, under 'Audience reach', the Culture Bank states that 'traditional audiences are finite and ageing'. This will certainly be the case in the somewhat longer term but not in the period in question. Berenschot cites a study by SCP (The Social Cultural Planning Office) which calculated that there will be 3.3 million over-65s in the Netherlands in 2020 and around 4.1 million in 2030. Berenschot also points out an omission from the Culture Bank. Namely, it says nothing about the increase in audience reach by 23%.

So the Culture Bank's scoring on the five elements that make up 'healthy operations' turns out to be a raffle. Berenschot compared Orlando's assessment with other institutions. A total of four points could be awarded for own income, financial risk, audience reach, Governance Code Culture and Fair Practice Code. It can be read that at one institution, only one component was explained and it still got 3 out of 4 points. For several applications, the Culture Bank expressed doubts about own income, financial risk and public outreach. Only in the case of SKL did this lead to a zero score. Berenschot concludes that there is 'a difference of opinion between SKL and the Culture Bank about what constitutes healthy business operations'. By which it kindly means that criteria were applied arbitrarily.

Advisory committees for culture are there to assess institutions on their artistic value and to prevent political arbitrariness in the allocation of grant money. In Limburg, this seems to be the other way round. The question is what consideration the deputy will make when allocating the 2.2 million extra money.

Appreciate this article!

If you appreciate this article and want to show your appreciation with a small contribution: you can! This is how you help keep independent journalism alive. Show your appreciation with a small donation!


Why donate?

We are convinced that good investigative journalism and expert background information are essential for a healthy cultural sector. There is not always space and time for that. Culture Press does want to provide that space and time, and keep it accessible to everyone for FREE! Whether you are rich, or poor. Thanks to donations From readers like you, we can continue to exist. This is how Culture Press has existed since 2009!

You can also become a member, then turn your one-off donation into lasting support!

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

Private Membership (month)
5 / Maand
For natural persons and self-employed persons.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Own mastodon account
Access to our archives
Small Membership (month)
18 / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of less than €250,000 per year
No annoying banners
A premium newsletter
All our podcasts
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Posting press releases yourself
Extra attention in news coverage
Large Membership (month)
36 / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of more than €250,000 per year.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Share press releases with our audience
Extra attention in news coverage
Premium Newsletter (substack)
5 trial subscriptions
All our podcasts

Payments are made via iDeal, Paypal, Credit Card, Bancontact or Direct Debit. If you prefer to pay manually, based on an invoice in advance, we charge a 10€ administration fee

*Only for annual membership or after 12 monthly payments

en_GBEnglish (UK)