Screaming for art and flashmobbing against budget cuts
Today, 20 November 2010, is the day that ‘The Netherlands screams for culture’ (Nederland schreeuwt om cultuur), a movement among the general population to campaign against the huge budget cuts in culture subsidies throughout the Netherlands.
Big whoop? Why can’t all those venues and orchestras make their own money and stop sponging off the government? As a North American used to ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps’ when it comes to culture, knowing that some venues (actual businesses) are subsidised up to 40% (!) is hard to fathom. And if you pull the plug on their grants, entire smaller cities will have no cultural institutions to speak of. But is that such a bad thing?
While there are all kinds of scandals involving cities pumping millions into local, bankrupt football clubs, the arts will not only suffer budget cuts, but the price of tickets for shows in 2011 will be taxed at the 19% VAT (valued added tax) instead of the current 6% rate. Theatre producers are going to the mat with the government, as the decision was made on a whim and will probably costs thousand of jobs. Interestingly enough, sports events will still be taxed at the 6% rate.
The idea behind this logic is politically motivated: One of the recently elected political parties pushing for this want to punish ‘left-wing, artsy-fartsy voters’ and coddle their ‘not as highly educated, right-wing, white, Dutch voters’, also referred to as ‘Henk and Ingrid’, The Smiths if you will, you know, regular Dutch people. Henk and Ingrid are much more inclined to go to a football game than catch Stravinsky’s Petrushka at the ballet.
On October 26, directed by Jules Buckley, an orchestra of some 150 musicians jammed out the Mambo from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. I can’t imagine Henk and Ingrid hate this so much they would want the government to pull the plug on all our major, award-wining orchestras, which is actually scheduled to happen.
Here are members of the Dutch Radio Orchestra and the Radio Choir staging a flashmob at The Hague central station against the Dutch government’s plans to scrap the Netherlands Broadcasting Music Center (MCO).