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The future of the arts sector lies in Heritage and Events

The festivals have been secured for this year with a guarantee fund. This is another boost for the cultural sector, which has been pretty well helped by now anyway. The first festivals are already starting to sell their tickets, now that it is certain that they can give fast buyers their money back if it does not go ahead after all. Or when it doesn't go ahead after all.

Because, as wonderful and lovely as the prospect for summer is, the question is how likely it is that a festival will go ahead, especially in the big and pop/rock category, as well as classical. Glastonbury, surely a bit the benchmark of any festival season, has already given up the pipe to Maarten, and that gives food for thought.

How many bands are going to plan a tour for this summer with so many uncertainties? How much guarantee do artists, and especially hired stage hands, have that they are going to get paid for their hours if they don't have to turn up anyway? Do you dare plan a tour, leaving aside Brexit and red tape, when the chances of ending up in quarantine cannot yet be completely ruled out?

Who is covered?

Which orchestra from a faraway country is going to say yes to a contract in the coming months, and how well are they covered - internationally? The festivals are protected, but are all the people who have to perform? Nationally possibly yes, but internationally?

Anyway, there is a fund, so possibly it is all financially doable, although the chances of us getting a festival summer with a truly international programme are negligible. Did I say earlier that relative to Germany we have nothing to complain about, now we certainly do. Proportionally, the cultural sector gets away with it. Although the country's most prestigious arts festival, the Holland Festival, seems to be the child of the bill again because it takes place before the sacred date of 1 July.

And there is, of course, another but. Although that also has to do with the fact that that big festival will be the child of the bill. After all, the outgoing Rutte cabinet does not give money to art, but to 'events'. I already read a few offended artists on facebook, but perhaps it is better to face the fact that that choice of words has been essential in saving the sector in the last years of this cabinet.

Word choice

During the formation of Rutte III, D66 got the other right-wing parties to put extra money in the culture budget for heritage. All national museums are now no longer culture, but fall under the Heritage Act. Then you are right with the populist right, and so is the CDA in the form in which it began this cabinet. The VVD then got a Culture spokesperson with a solid network in - yes - the events industry. Emphatically not in the arts sector. Indeed, art is in the allergy of Rutte and Wiebes (god rest his political soul). Had Ingrid van Engelshoven persisted in naming arts and culture as the core of her portfolio, little good would have come out of the council of ministers. It is the switch to 'Heritage and Events' that ultimately saved the cultural sector.

After all, heritage is proven beauty that no one can afford to lose out on, and events are also fairs and food trucks and that is commercial enterprise. Politicians do not want to be bothered with artistic risks and people who put content before revenue, which is exactly what art is all about.

North Brabant

If you want to know how that works out most extremely politically, take a look in North Brabant, where an infernal coalition of CDA and a palette of browns from the former FvD has just dealt the culture sector a death blow. They are cutting millions from the culture budget and pumping money into windmills, provided they are over 100 years old.

In Brabant, the populist right is betting on leisure, events and heritage, without caring about the climate for contemporary art. They don't care that tomorrow's heritage will be made by contemporary artists. That art needs to support itself now and will be able to come forward in a century's time if anyone is still interested in it. That is heritage in the eyes of the average pig farmer for whom a three-month-old piglet is also heritage.


So: however happy the arts sector may be with Ingrid van Engelshoven's final sprint: there is no guarantee that it will last until 2022. And 2022 is the year when we can really breathe again at the earliest, because by then everyone, including Willem Engel, will have got a vaccine up their arm, with or without a built-in chip from Bill Gates or whoever else they came up with.

What happens in 2022, when refunds are due or not, we will determine on 17 March. But we may just have to count on the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science changing its name already.

The Ministry for Heritage&Events. I think this is already being seriously considered by the VVD.

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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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