Museums, theatres say please don’t ask for your money back
The corona measures which have closed down museums, theatres and concert halls and which have been extended until at least April 28, are having a great impact on the cultural sector, with many fearing they will go under despite government support.
The Dutch museum association estimates 100 museums in the Netherlands may have to close their doors for good by the end of the year. The association conducted a survey among its 400 members and found that one in five expected to be unable to pay next month’s salaries.
The government support package for the sector, which includes a three month moratorium on rents, is not going to save them, the association’s director Mirjam Moll told the NRC.
Small and medium sized museums, particularly municipal museums which are already struggling, will be hardest hit, Moll said.
Cuts and corona
‘This is the result not only of the corona crisis but of a 10 year cultural policy which started with cutbacks made in the last financial crisis,’ she said. ‘Museums had to supplement their earnings and that meant they depended on commercial activities such as more blockbuster exhibitions, letting out space for events, more sales from shops and cafes. Now we’re the victims of our own success.’
Theatres, concert halls and festival organisers are also under threat and are asking the public not to ask for their money back but hold on to tickets already purchased or exchange them for a voucher which can be used at a later date.
From Thursday people who have bought tickets can visit a special information website bewaarjeticket.nl which was set up with the backing of the culture ministry. The money that is saved will be used to plan new events and performances.
‘A ticket represents value, Willem Westermanns of the events organisation Vereniging van Evenementsmakers told the AD. ‘Buying a ticket always means there’s a wait before you can enjoy the show. It’s just a longer wait this time.’
While many concerts have been postponed to a later date other events, such as sports events are a one-off. While people have a legal right to demand their money back, organisers are asking people to help them and donate the money or take a voucher in case the event is rescheduled at some point in the future. ‘Returning the money is a last resort’, Westermann said.
Culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven says she supports the voucher scheme. ‘This helps the culture sector to stay afloat. We can help artists by continuing to go and see the performances in question when the circumstances allow or ask for a voucher if you can’t,’ she told the paper.
However, a corona crisis exit will not be straightforward either. The 1.5 metre social distancing rule, which prime minister Mark Rutte said may become ‘the new normal’ for some time to come, means fewer people will be able to fit into a theatre or concert hall and this too will affect revenue.
‘It means we can only sell a third of our tickers for any given concert,’ Concertgebouw director Simon Reinink said, ‘and musicians will also have to sit well apart.’
Not to let the venue sit completely empty Reinink has decided to stream the so-called Empty Concertgebouw Sessions with a solo artist playing to empty chairs. ‘But it’s not something we’ll be able to keep up for very long,’ he said.
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