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Burn letter from festivals: 'It's going wrong with the performing arts in the Netherlands'

A fire letter from the United Performing Arts Festivals. One of more than a hundred lobbying organisations in the arts, but a very important one. After all, the festivals are the place where audiences are introduced to arts and entertainment in the full breadth. That doesn't happen anywhere else. And beautiful: they stand up for all performing arts because, as loyal readers of this site know, they are quite the hare, and become even more of a hare with each half-hearted rescue.

Take the latest covid package from 482 pus 218 million. Everyone happy with it, but it is a temporary solution that does not solve some very big problems, rather exacerbates them. And that is especially true for the festivals, where Oerol almost fell victim to horse-trading, and some festivals now that they have been lifted out of the Performing Arts Fund are going downhill. Moreover, there is a pop festival, Noorderslag, which is actually now a museum purchase, as it is kept afloat by a grab from the Fine Arts Acquisition Fund.

And then we had all those creators who, according to all the experts, are good enough, but now get no more money. The United Performing Arts Festivals are calling attention to this from MPs, who are due to tinker with the culture budget in the coming months. Structural deficits must be solved before the big repayment campaign of all covid support arrives (sometime after the next elections).

Read the letter here: they explain it excellently:

The performing arts are failing, but you can still help!

Multi-year investment of 19.5 million needed for affected sector

The latest results from the Performing Arts Fund for producers, the half-hearted allocations in the BIS for performing arts festivals, as well as the great drama of the corona crisis, paint an inky black future for the performing arts in the Netherlands: especially in the regions that are seeing entire infrastructures disappear. It is of course great that a second support package has been released for the arts. However, that package does not guarantee long-term structure, as multi-annual schemes do.

This is why the performing arts are going wrong... but you can keep the sector afloat with an essential increase in the multiannual budgets in BIS (festivals) and Fonds Podiumkunsten (producers).

19.5 million is needed over several years for this affected sector, with a focus on regional distribution. This amount includes 15.8 million for producers, 1.7 million for the already honoured performing arts festivals in the BIS and 2 million for new performing arts festivals in the BIS.

What will it take to keep the sector alive?

- The results at the Performing Arts Fund show that it was a big mistake to take so much money away from the fund. In order to keep the performing arts alive in the regions and, in addition, to give younger companies (many of which have fallen below the saw line) a future, the entire list of well-regarded companies at the Performing Arts Fund needs to be honoured. Especially in this corona crisis, companies simply have no plan B. Avoid massive capital destruction and honour all these great creators. This amounts to 15.8 million a year.
- In June, the Culture Council found that there is too little budget and too little space for performing arts festivals within the national basic infrastructure (BIS). Within the BIS, 23 performing arts festivals were positively assessed, but only eight received honours. In the Lower House debate on the advice, many parties also mentioned this bottleneck.
The eight festivals awarded funding also had to make do with a substantial reduction in the amounts requested because the budget did not allow for eight festivals at all. This creates the situation that a number of festivals in the BIS now have less budget than they would have received from the Performing Arts Fund. Fully honouring the BIS festivals costs about 1.7 million a year.
The council also states that there should be room for at least 15 festivals to honour the quality and pluriformity of the Dutch festival landscape and to guarantee a spread across the country in the BIS. We share this analysis of the council and ask you to still make room for more festivals in the BIS in this period. For an amount of another 2 million a year, you could give a number of festivals in various genres a place in the BIS. This would also expressly meet the demand for more attention to the performing arts in the region, as a large number of festivals 'below the saw line' come from outside the Randstad.
- Thanks to a motion in the Lower House, Eurosonic Noorderslag would have been the 9th festival in the BIS were it not for the fact that, due to a formality, this festival has now not been given a BIS spot, but a different kind of contribution from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. On principle, we find this a strange state of affairs, as formally there is still no pop music in the BIS festival scheme despite the ambition of both the council for culture, the minister himself and you as a chamber. You as a House of Representatives can still give this festival BIS status. It will cost nothing.
- We would soon like to discuss with you, the funds and the Council for Culture how the current system no longer actually works. How are we going to shape a system in the coming years that is indeed sustainable and that both preserves the good and embraces the new? Children growing up outside the Randstad have fewer opportunities, inequality within the sector is growing, there is less and less room for talent and innovation, self-employed people are rapidly becoming impoverished. So no further destruction NOW, but a solid basis and METEANS on designing a sustainable cultural landscape that benefits all inhabitants of our country. We will gladly make a kick-ass plan with you!

For now, we ask you to save the performing arts in the Netherlands from ruin with a multi-year structural investment totalling 19.5 million a year for producers and performing arts festivals. Perhaps those structural investments and the support fund could also be combined to keep this sector alive at least for the next four years.

Thanks for your attention!

On behalf of more than 50 performing arts festivals all over the Netherlands,

Mark Hospers - coordinator The United Performing Arts Festivals

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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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