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).


  1. Eric says:

    “Henk en Ingrid”? What happened to “Sjonnie en Anita”?

  2. Branko Collin says:

    Sjonnie en Anita are sooooo 1990s. And anyway, Sjonnie and Anita represented ‘white trash’, whereas Henk and Ingrid are more about disenchantment and lack of validation. Henk and Ingrid own a big screen plasma TV, something which the ‘elitist’ flugelhorn player probably cannot afford. If Sjonnie and Anita were racist, it was because ‘brown people are taking our jobs’, whereas Henk and Ingrid are racist because of (insert made up narrative in which low-hanging-fruit other hates puppies).

  3. robbl says:

    I’m not very cultural myself and I like football as much as the next Henk, but I think that I understand that culture (in any form) moves people. It touches the soul and makes the world a little brighter. It’s naive of our government to think that these huge budget cuts will have any positive effect.
    As Marcel van Dam said to VVD politician Linschoten in “Het Lagerhuis” a few weeks ago; “Mister Linschoten, can you explain why my income won’t decrease next year?” Linschoten obviously dodged the question with political blahblah that didn’t make any sense at all. What else can you expect from… no, I’m not gonna say that.
    Anyway, let the people with the high income pay extra for the culture budgets. Culture taxes anyone?

  4. ratkat says:

    The subsidies help bring music and culture to NL which could not be afforded based on “free market” tactics. Holland’s a small country! Many clubs/venues here get a subsidy which is specifically for “foreign” musical acts – this helps get them here and cover costs which couldn’t be afforded by simply the cover charge. And the youth centres can bring music here for kids/younger people. A lot of great music passes Holland by already based on it being such “small potatoes”…this will make things worse. They should have considered a smaller increase, even say 10%….but more than tripling the tax is insane. I didn’t know that sports events are staying at 6%…..seems even more ridiculous.

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