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'Think well about the future' - Culture Council comes up with most redundant advice in years. 

On Monday 14 September, right at the end of the working day, the Council for Culture presented its advice to culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven. That was just under 20 hours before the Queen's Speech from the Throne and the presentation of the Budget Bill. That's the kind of timing I used to handle as a homework-shy scum at my high school. Late, but not too late, and at least you met your obligations.

Together with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and other ministries, the national cultural funds, the private funds and the urban cultural regions (municipalities and provinces), the sector faces a major transition task that can only succeed if all parties work together. The council receives this signal from all stakeholders. The current cultural system is struggling to such an extent that only a joint effort can lead to structural improvement. Fortunately, the council feels a great willingness to do so.

No direction

Anyone expecting anything more from this interim council opinion than a confirmation of what everyone already knows and does can sit back and relax. There is nothing new in it. At best, the Culture Council makes itself heard, because it was rather quiet around the Council for a long time. While the entire lobby was working ten strokes around to cope with the disasters surrounding Fonds Podiumkunsten, independent artists and the consequences of the Council's own weird decision-making, its members went to 'talk to stakeholders'. Only to come up with an opinion just before Budget Day that had already been partially overtaken by the leaking reality before the ink was dry.

Lack of direction can be blamed on the Council. After all, the outgoing chairman, Marijke van Heesch, should actually have left in June, but that did not work out. For numerous reasons. And the director, who is not known for his decisiveness, did not jump into the gap in the meantime.

Still, two points

Nonetheless, there are two interesting points the Council raises: it advocates, following Belgium's example, relaxing the one-and-a-half-metre rule in art buildings to a "fat-and-a-half-metre rule": not three, but one empty seat between bubbles, and making mouth caps compulsory in theatre and concert halls. Indeed, it looks much happier, although it is questionable whether mainly senior theatre and concert audiences will expose themselves to these risks, now that it is still uncertain whether - and if so, how severely - the second corona wave will hit. The wish is fine, but in practice it will not yet make audiences return in droves.

The other issue concerns freelancers and self-employed workers. All the measures taken and announced by the ministry, with or without other ministries, mainly provide relief for subsidised institutions, according to the Council. Free producers and unsubsidised creators are at risk of being left out. As for the big free producers, a question mark can be placed on this. They have managed to survive very well via generic entrepreneurial support. So well, in fact, that Stage director Albert Verlinde exclaimed that everyone should just had to stop complaining.

Hello Dolly

He has a partial point, as his company has been able to touch a few million. so it is also nice that a few big musicals, like Tina, can play on again.

Total 2.887.779

However, when we look at the competition, particularly VandenEnde junior's company, MediaLane, we see that that company no longer sees all the independent creators and Hello Dolly has cancelled in favour of a song programme featuring the two lead actors. MediaLane had also applied for much less support, probably because its contracts with freelancers had already been terminated.

Total 458.586

So then there are a lot of independent makers on the street. Although, I already know two who have retrained as coronate stars.

Support the self-employed

How nice it would not be if the Culture Council really 'got its hands on' supporting freelancers and self-employed people! There is a possibility. Just as support for us flyboys and girls at KLM and Schiphol Airport is linked to sweeping environmental requirements, support for institutions could also go hand in hand with a requirement to continue to provide the permanent core of freelancers and self-employed workers with a basic income. Every 'free producer' has such a core, and otherwise the planned productions that have been cancelled can serve as a measure. And if you did not yet know which freelancers you were going to use, the amount you had set aside for that can be nicely put into your own emergency fund.

This is a little idea that just bubbled up while writing this piece. The council can have it for free.

Though it would be nice if they all became members.

LettertoMinisterVanEngelshovenTowards an agile and resilient cultural and creative sector

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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