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Dutch Film Festival, BAK and Holland Opera among those duped: Utrecht advisory committee settles old scores

As the first of the major cities, Utrecht has the opinions announced released on the grant applications of cultural institutions for the next four years. Large and well-known players like the Dutch Film Festival, visual arts institutions like BAK and IMPAKT and youth opera company Holland Opera saw their applications rejected, as did Het Huis Utrecht. At the same time, the advisory committee did recommend granting subsidies to 26 newcomers, including Appeltaartconcerten, Gluren bij de Buren, Vocal Statements and the St Martin Parade. With this shift of over 4 million euros, Utrecht seems to be getting a more 'grassroots', audience-oriented cultural offering for the period 2025-2028.

The negative recommendations for the Netherlands Film Festival and Holland Opera hit hard. For instance, the advisory committee casts serious doubts on the artistic quality of the NFF: "The desire to bring a larger audience into contact with home-grown productions is not concrete: target groups and activities are insufficiently elaborated for this purpose. The committee also doubts whether the current programming clearly reflects social developments. Going deeper into the motivation for substantive themes and film selection criteria would have contributed to the artistic positioning and profile."

Devastating

Downright scathing is the committee about the way the festival has regulated the payment of people: "The NFF also applies fair pay only to its own salary house, but a description of the policy for makers is missing. Combined with the large number of volunteers, and the lack of a future-proof policy for working with volunteers, the sustainability of the operations is jeopardised, according to the committee."

BAK, a presentation institution also subsidised by the state, is artistically "very theoretical" according to the committee, but it is satisfied that BAK was at the forefront of the Fair Practice Code. The negative opinion was therefore issued for another reason: "above all, the committee struggles with the low visitor numbers compared to the high amount of subsidy requested. Moreover, BAK expects a substantial decrease in visitor numbers for 2025 compared to 2023, a development the committee finds insufficiently convincing. The committee misses the ambition to maintain or only slightly decrease visitor numbers. It is also insufficiently clear from the application how many Utrechters actually come into contact with the programme."

Inclusiveness

This focus on audience outreach is striking when looking at institutions that are new: Music Route, Appeltaart Concerts, National Youth Fanfare and International Comedy Festival all have a strong public outreach profile, or a strong diversity and inclusion plan. About Possibilize, the organisation behind the Sencity festival, among others, it reads: "The committee believes that Possibilize, in its efforts to change attitudes towards people with disabilities, strengthens social cohesion and contributes to a more inclusive cultural sector. The committee finds the artistic added value less developed and it notes that it cannot fully assess whether the focus is on the maker side or the consultant side. The focus on different areas of inclusiveness for people with hearing impairment the committee finds enriching."

Vocal Statements, an institution that focuses on music education to hard-to-reach young people, scores the very best on its contribution to the cultural ecosystem: "The committee sees Vocal Statements as exemplary and an enrichment of the cultural ecosystem because of its strong connection with young people in city power districts. It is convinced of the programme's impact on the specific target group, pupils aged 12 to 18 in vmbo, pro, so, newcomer education and mbo, who have little contact with the arts. The organisation champions an engaging music curriculum and encourages young people to find their personal voice and express themselves through musical storytelling. Vocal Statements also offers expert promotion, focused on working with this target group, for art education teachers. The committee finds both the didactic and artistic vision and working method of distinctive quality. By offering tailor-made work and staying close to the students, Vocal Statements is of great value for the inclusion of vulnerable students."

Chest wet

In its own commentary on the opinions, the committee places great emphasis on the development function and wide audience reach that many institutions pursue. One welcomes the commitment to different audiences and clearly less enthusiastic about existing institutions that respond only marginally to the new era. 

If the Utrecht advice is a harbinger of the national course, many established clubs can get their teeth wet. 

Overview of new applicants

applicant

amount

Apple pie concerts € 40.000,00
Catching Cultures € 115.000,00
Common Frames € 90.000,00
DieHeleDing € 60.000,00
Free Dom € 91.250,00
Peeping at neighbours € 20.000,00
Mr Monster € 100.000,00
Beautiful Words € 100.000,00
Music trail € 124.500,00
National Youth Fanfare € 25.000,00
Dutch violin competitions € 30.000,00
Industry € 189.429,00
Parade € 75.000,00
Possibilize € 50.000,00
Pynarello € 90.000,00
Raum

 

€ 1.600.000,00

St Martin parade € 262.495,00
Julian Hetzel € 95.000,00
Sonnenborgh € 155.953,00
Sounds Like Touch € 126.250,00
Studio Figur € 147.000,00
International Comedy Festival € 60.000,00
Utrecht Requiem € 80.763,00
Vocal Statements € 280.000,00
Front room € 89.749,00
Wishful singing € 70.000,00

Total

€ 4.167.389,00

Advisory report-Advisory Committee-Culture Note-2025-2028

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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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