Cultural organisations need to remind people of the joys of booking tickets and getting out of their bubble, according to the director of the Holland Festival.
Emily Ansenk, presenting a 75th edition of the Holland Festival starting on June 3, said that the effects of corona are far from over – and that government and the public need to support our cultural sector.
‘It would be good to start a general campaign to emphasise that all theatres, podiums and concert halls are open, to create awareness,’ she said. ‘I think everybody during the Covid period had the feeling that art is so important, the emptiness of the Covid period is at an end but people are not yet coming back to the theatres and concert halls and festivals.’
Many people, she believes, have been disappointed with the performances and activities cancelled during the pandemic and are waiting to cash in exchange vouchers. But hesitancy about making commitment plus a more uncertain economy are having a negative impact on ticket sales.
‘Their agendas are filling up with all these social events and people’s attitude towards buying tickets is completely different than before,’ she said. ‘Now, you tend to buy at the last possible moment.
‘Remember the time when there was an urgency to buy tickets because otherwise you were too late? Weeks, sometimes months before, with the Holland Festival. Now, you look in your diary and decide what you are going to do tonight and tomorrow. That’s very different.’
Coronavirus is still, of course, present although there are no restrictions and some audience members are still nervous about large crowds. But Ansenk warns that if we don’t support our arts institutions, theatres and festivals, now government financial support packages have ended, many could be at risk.
A survey from the Museumvereniging museums body in April found that a quarter of Dutch museums risk financial problems, while a Cultuuurmonitor survey showed a vulnerable sector at the end of 2021. From Dutch freedom day festivals to dance and popular events, extra government support might be necessary.
‘The danger is that financially the institutions can’t cope,’ said Ansenk. ‘Either you get into real financial troubles and that will trickle to all producers and makers – there will be less to present. The other risk is that everybody shows or presents only the bigger names and all art becomes mainstream: no experiment, no younger talent, no unknown names. At the Holland Festival, we never present mainstream. It’s all a bit adventurous.’
At the festival, which is characterised by events marrying local and international talent such as When Paths Meet, ticket sales are still hugely important – not just for the future of the festival but also for the audience, she adds.
‘[During the pandemic] we narrowed our worlds, sitting in our own living room or bedroom, living in your own bubble, seeing the same people, getting the same ads on your phone or computer. What we try to do is to reach out and give different perspectives, different stories, to get you out of your bubble to open up the world that is so much bigger.’
The Holland Festival runs from June 3 until June 26
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