Great uncertainty for cultural season: ‘It’s limiting loss’

Dutch stages and theatre producers are wondering whether they will be able to keep their heads above water after the end of government support. Because of the distance rules only about 20 percent of the seats may be occupied, but even those tickets are not all sold, says the Association of Theatres and Concertgebouw Conductors (VSCD).

“Many people are still shy to go to the theatre. Not everything is sold out”, says a spokesman. The fear of contamination remains among the main target group. “Everyone is working hard to keep their heads above water.”

‘Restraint’

“People are reluctant”, says Dries Floris, director of theatre de Kattendans in Bergeijk. His theatre went back from 280 to 66 seats, but due to a renovation he was able to increase that to 100. “In July and August we had 60 performances and I had expected a higher occupation.”

Normally his theatre is closed these months, because the season doesn’t really start until September. Floris therefore hopes that the line-up will increase in the coming period. “It seems that the auditorium has been filling up faster lately, there is a bit more confidence among the people. We’ve done everything we can to get it safe.”

According to Statistics Netherlands, in 2018 there were about 24,000 people working in the sector and there were about 54,000 performances and concerts. “A lot of people depend on the money that is spent here,” says Yassine Boussaid, director of theatre De Meervaart in Amsterdam. “Not only us as a theatre, but also the lighting technician, make-up artist, surrounding catering industry and taxi driver.”

Limit loss

“This is the second time in six months that I have performed”, says Ten Damme. “They make it cosy here with two-seater sofas, theatres handle it creatively.

But actually it’s sad, normally we’re in front of a thousand people, now a hundred.”, she says in this video:

With room rental for conferences and performances by well-known artists, De Meervaart used to raise enough money to pay for educational programmes and new talent the year after. Because performances come to a standstill, congresses are online and only 20 percent of big names are sold, a lot of money goes to vweg.

Imagroblem

A lot of stages are dependent on wage support from the government. This so-called NOW scheme runs until 1 October, a new support package is still uncertain. Floris van Theater de Kattendans: “The tricky thing is that the subsidies can be at the expense of the NOW support, because your turnover will increase. I know theatres that have not opened up in recent months because they desperately need this wage support”

According to Floris, the cultural sector has an image problem: “When a road is built, it is called a national contribution. When it comes to culture, it is called a subsidy. It’s not free money, we also have to keep to agreements” Floris sees it as his duty to open up: “Not only for my employees and the artists, but also for the inhabitants.”

Public flows

According to Boris van der Ham, chairman of the Association of Free Theatre Producers, everything at non-subsidised theatres is loss-making: “We have to get everything out of the ticket, we don’t get any money. Only when we sell 60 or 70 percent of the tickets, producers don’t make a loss.”