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Collective Creative Culture Debate shows desperation art sector 

"But in the next week, can't you still come up with a law that enshrines art education in primary education?" A striking moment in the 'Collective Creative Culture Debate' held in a packed Herz of TivoliVredenburg on Wednesday 15 November. The Creative Coalition and Kunsten '92 made one last attempt to put arts and culture on the election agenda. The result was a surreal farewell and a completely unnecessary chat hour.

That question on arts education was for Gunay Uslu, outgoing State Secretary for Culture. The meeting in Utrecht was her farewell to the sector. Unless something very strange happens at the elections on November 22, of course. 

There Staphorst shines on the horizon

For the time being, all media coverage of PVV leader Geert Wilders' remarkable charm offensive points to a Staphorster Variant, a right-conservative NSC-VVD-PVV-BBB cabinet, in which SGP Christian extremists help set the course. 

In the last week of this Lower House, Gunay Uslu will not submit any more bills. Such a thing will not stand a chance in a Chamber that - as things stand - does not even have arts and culture on its agenda. The D66 coryfee, who recently did her best to give the arts sector some self-confidence again, has only one mission left, she told the 500-strong audience of creators, officials and administrators: "I want to talk to MPs in the coming week about the importance of art and culture. I am afraid of populism. Artistic quality must remain leading. Above regional culture and heritage."

VVD hit by scooter

There she will have a tough time. Indeed, in the debate that was supposed to be the highlight of the day, no representatives of the parties likely to form a government were present. NSC, BBB and PVV were not interested, the VVD, which would have loved to play the role of enfant terrible, saw its representative hit by a scooter on the way to Utrecht. So we were left with an uninspired sports spokesperson from PvdA-GroenLinks, flanked by a cute newcomer from PvdD, an alderman from CDA and the ever engaging Jan Paternotte from D66, plus the last appearance of outgoing SP arts spokesperson Peter Kwint.

The debate was introduced with DALL-E-generated interpretations of the party manifestos, which produced a parade of Socialist-Realist Artworks, which the NSC's election poster would fit neatly into. That's what you get. In a single corner, somewhere D66 had a violinist on display. 

And then the Ravine year is yet to come

The arts sector is irrelevant to the upcoming House of Representatives. So it will be exciting for the 250 interest groups in the sector how the disaster of 2026 can still be averted. That year has since been dubbed 'Ravine Year', because then municipal coffers will prove massively empty, causing artists and art buildings to be sacrificed in favour of collapsing flyovers, flooded bicycle tunnels, bankrupt youth care workers and dying elderly people. And that one lamppost, with which the arts sector has had to compete in the struggle for survival at the local level since 1982.

There was, at the closing drinks party, remarkably more drinking than usual. I spoke to policymakers hovering against a deep depression, and a single composer who insisted on remaining an optimist with tears in his eyes. 

There are elections on Wednesday 22 November and a new House of Representatives will debate the Culture budget on Thursday 23 November.

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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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