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Start-ups are the rock bands of business, says Rockstart founder Oscar Kneppers

Start-ups are the rock bands of business, says Rockstart founder Oscar Kneppers

The start-up business is booming and fledgling Dutch firms are continuing to raise big money from private equity companies and investors. Robin Pascoe talks to Oscar Kneppers, founder of Rockstart, who has been at the heart of the Dutch start-up scene for five years. It is Thursday afternoon at Rockstart’s offices on Amsterdam’s Herengracht canal. The building, a merchant’s home built in 1722 and with a sweeping marble staircase, is buzzing. Four young men with beards are playing table football. In the lounge area small groups are huddled over laptops. English is their common tongue but they come from all over the globe. A gathering of older men in suits are drinking coffee. ‘There’s an event going on in the ballroom,’ says Oscar Kneppers, Rockstart’s founder, as he settles back in the squashy sofa overlooking the throng. It is five years since Kneppers returned from six months in the Spanish Pyrenees and decided to found Rockstart . His aim was to use the experience he had built up with two successful media ventures to encourage others to do the same. ‘I had twice started something from nothing and I did not want to do it again,’ says Kneppers. ‘I decided to help others start up instead. As for the name, well, start-ups are the rock bands of business.’ Ambition Being involved in the start-up world these days is so achingly hip that it has almost become a cliché. Amsterdam city council has ambitions to become a ‘start-up capital’. The city is abuzz with initiatives and former European commissioner Neelie Kroes has taken up residence as the Dutch capital’s start-up ambassador. So, are start-ups so very 2015? Kneppers laughs. ‘It is a good thing we are an established company, not a new kid on the block,’ he says. ‘That helps us to remain true to our dna.’ For despite the big money success stories of recent years, start-up culture is not about getting rich quick, Knepper says. ‘For it to work, you have to be able to embrace risk. If you end up making money, great. But if you don’t, start again.’ Since 2010, the company has grown – it now has a workforce of 39 – and developed a distinct package of products: the start-up accelerator, the Rockstart Answers sessions and Rockstart Spaces. Cash and kind The accelerator programme is based on an investment fund set up by Kneppers and other investors, which puts money into the start-ups in terms of both cash and kind. It runs for 150 days during which the fledgling firms learn to develop their ideas, consult experts about anything from marketing to tech issues, and culminates in ‘demo day’ where the companies present themselves to the public and more potential investors. The second strand is the Rockstart Answers sessions in which a team of experts answers questions from start-up hopefuls and encourages them, to use a Rockstart mantra, to ‘stop talking and get going’. After taking the concept round the Netherlands, the first Rockstart Answers sessions are now taking place abroad. Kneppers recounts arriving at a hall in Portugal early one morning in June to find a group of youngsters already there in the ubiquitous black Rockstart t-shirts. ‘I guess about 60 people came which was amazing,’ he says. ‘We have a new, extended family. Start-up people speak the same language everywhere in the world. Everyone makes the same mistakes but they don’t have to be fatal. Whether you are a Russian bitcoin trading firm or a social enterprise, there is room for everyone. We want to unlock the start-up ecosystem everywhere. Rockstart is a great product. Let’s export it.’ So how does Kneppers define a start-up, given that companies with mega investments still wear the badge at times. ‘We say a company that is younger than 1,000 days,’ he says. ‘In the first two to three years, that’s when you face the specific challenges. A start-up is a small, experimental company taking big risks and working to find a repetitive business model.’ So far 58 start-ups have passed through the Rockstart school and, says Kneppers proudly, only four have failed. ‘We’ll check the balance sheet again in seven years,’ he says. ‘But if you consider eight out of 10 companies fail within three years, we’ve not got a bad record.’ Those making waves, known as alumni in Rockstart speak, include social lending platform Peerby and 3D Hubs, which now has an office in New York. So far more than three-quarters of Rockstart’s Web & Mobile Accelerator alumni have received post-programme follow-on funding from an international pool of investors totalling more than $17.5m. Competition This year, 40 companies will take part in the various accelerator programmes. Competition is intense and hundreds of companies applied to take part. Ten digital health enterprises are based at the new Rockstart operation in Nijmegen and 10 are slated for Singapore, where Rockstart has seeded its first foreign foray. In Singapore Rockstart has teamed up with local entrepreneur Chi Tran, former CTO of OgilvyOne in the region, who is now raising the Asian investment fund. ‘Singapore is a great hub,’ says Kneppers. ‘It’s close to so many other countries, it has a lot of money and it is well equipped to support start-ups.’ The aim is to open a second foreign branch in Colombia or elsewhere in central America so that the entire global timespan is covered. Kneppers is also working on a second Rockstart mission to Nepal – the first having completed just before the recent earthquake. A Rockstart team spent several weeks in the mountain kingdom working with local entrepreneurs, and brought the 10 local start-ups back to Amsterdam for their demo day. Other similar projects are also in the works. Energy ‘There was so much constructive energy,’ he says. ‘We’re trying to define a new sort of development work. Rockstart Impact is our karma project, to try to empower people.’ Karma may not be a word you would associate with the slick and polish of modern entrepreneurship but it is very much a Kneppers word. Bearded long before today’s hipsters, Kneppers is a sometimes vegetarian and a qualified yoga teacher – he leads 8am yoga sessions in the Rockstart ballroom once a week – rents his car out through Snappcar and is a devoted and involved family man. Society, he says, is changing. ‘Years ago, you would develop an idea, draw up a detailed business plan and go to a bank for funding which you would not get,’ he laughs. ‘You never hear the word bank here, apart from the fact that we work in a former bank building,’ Kneppers says, gesturing around him. ‘To the youngsters here, a bank is a functionality, it is something on a smart phone.’    More >


Pioneering Dutch enterprise sets out to put seaweed on the table

Pioneering Dutch enterprise sets out to put seaweed on the table

One enterprising Dutch firm is attempting to commercially farm seaweed and the initial results indicate it may be possible, writes Esther O’Toole. Do you eat seaweed? No? Are you sure? Only around sushi? Well, think again. Seaweed is found in many consumer products from ice cream and processed foods, to vitamin supplements, toothpaste, mascara and biofuel. What is more, being a sustainable crop, it reduces fresh water, land and fertilizer usage. This versatile and tasty resource is drawing a lot of interest in international agricultural circles, including one prominent Dutch enterprise, The North Sea Farm Foundation (Stichting Noordzee Boerderij). North Sea Farm have been testing the nutrient rich waters north of Texel, with a view to getting seaweed on more Dutch plates in the very near future. Initially set up by Marcel Schuttelaar, of Schuttelaar & Partners, the foundation launched a proof of concept mission last November. Using two different growing platforms (one static, one flexible) and two varieties of edible kelp, they set out with the purpose of discovering whether the rough North Sea was suitable for this kind of offshore agriculture. This month’s first successful harvest seems to indicate that it is. Having laid 10 metres of line in the hopes of growing one kilo of usable product, they ended up with 15 kilos. North Sea Farm's Koen van Swam says the partly crowdfunded project is now heading towards scaling up. The June crop is being independently tested for nutritional value and consumer safety and a second harvest is planned for October. Fishing industry Seaweed cultivation can work in harmony with both nature and existing offshore industries like fisheries, sea energy and conservation. The North Sea is a challenging spot to cultivate with waves that vary in size from one to a whopping six metres high, which can sometimes make access to the platforms difficult. However, unlike more sheltered European growing areas (for instance in Norway and The Shetlands), the North Sea offers real space to spread out. ‘This is really pioneering,’ said van Swam. ‘If we can grow it here, we can grow it anywhere!’ The seaweed industry, he says, offers the chance for entrepreneurs from many traditionally strong Dutch trades, such as maritime transport, fishing, mussel farming and agrofood, to collaborate. North Sea Farm expects to help create jobs and offer 'fantastic growth potential' for all partners across the supply chain. This year the global seaweed market for human consumption was estimated at nearly $6m. The Dutch government is conducting research of its own and has estimated there is scope for up to 400 square kilometres of seaweed fields off the Dutch north coast by 2050, with no discernible negative impact. Seaweed is regularly used by fish as a nursery, so the impact could in fact be a positive one. North Sea Farm is equally ambitious as it sets out to raise in the region of €400,000 for expansion, hoping the green initiative’s early success will encourage new investors. That amount would allow them to grow 5,000-10,000 kilos of seaweed by next season. And to make sure the Dutch consumers know what to do with this superfood, they are also working on a cookbook.  More >


Rise in euthanasia requests sparks concern as criteria for help widen

Rise in euthanasia requests sparks concern as criteria for help widen

Since 2002, euthanasia has been effectively decriminalised in the Netherlands, as long as certain criteria are met. The Dutch position is considered by many to be the blueprint for other countries struggling with right to die issues. Yet, as Gordon Darroch reports, there are concerns in the Netherlands itself about the rise in the number of cases and pressure on patients Ruben van Coevorden clearly remembers the first time a patient asked him to help her die. A woman in her 70s who had survived Auschwitz and outlived her husband, but knew she would not overcome lung cancer. ‘She was quite clear-headed about it: she felt she had had her share of suffering and was finished with life,’ says Van Coevorden, who has a medical practice in Amsterdam's Buitenveldert district. ‘But this was in the days before euthanasia. So I gave her some sleeping pills, enough for an overdose, and stood by her as she took them.’ It was to avoid dilemmas like Van Coevorden's that the Netherlands passed its euthanasia law in 2001, becoming the first country in the world where doctors were allowed to help their patients to die. ‘Technically, what I did – helping someone to take their own life – was illegal,’ Van Coevorden admits. ‘And it is still punishable, unless certain specific criteria are met.’ Law The Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act which health minister Els Borst steered through parliament, did not legalise euthanasia, but gave doctors protection from prosecution if a patient was suffering unbearably and without prospect of improvement (ondraaglijk en uitzichtsloos). The doctor must be satisfied that all alternative forms of treatment have been exhausted or discounted, and seek a second opinion from an independent professional, known as a SCEN doctor (‘support and consultation in euthanasia’). ‘It places a very heavy responsibility on doctors,’ explains Eric van Wijlick, a policy adviser for KNMG, the Dutch medics' federation. ‘They don't do it lightly. As a doctor, you're trained to heal the sick, not to give someone an injection whereby the patient dies.’ In a survey by KNMG, more than half (57%) of doctors who had arranged euthanasia for a patient scored the emotional strain at eight out of 10 or higher. On top of that is the administrative burden: every assisted death case is investigated by one of five regional review committees, who must rule whether the doctor has acted diligently. All-clear If not, the prosecution service opens a case file and decides whether to bring criminal proceedings. ‘Most doctors only feel comfortable when the letter arrives, months later, from the review committee giving them the all-clear,’ says Van Wijlick. The Dutch approach to euthanasia has become a focal point for the right-to-die debate in other countries and is regularly invoked by supporters and critics alike, not always accurately. During the 2012 US presidential campaign, the Republican candidate Rick Santorum dramatically claimed that euthanasia accounted for 10% of deaths in the Netherlands, and that half of these were involuntary – the medically-sanctioned murder of elderly patients in hospital. In fact, euthanasia deaths make up just under 3% of the total and doctors need explicit consent from the patient. A more nuanced objection is that endorsing euthanasia in any form is the start of a process of normalising medically-assisted dying, which will gradually spread into areas currently deemed taboo. Doctors argue that experience has discredited the ‘slippery slope’ argument: only around eight cases a year out of 5,000 are taken up by the prosecution service, and none has led to a conviction. ‘There is no abuse of the system in the Netherlands,’ says Van Coevorden. Rise What is inarguable, however, is that the number of euthanasia procedures carried out has risen considerably in 13 years. Initially the annual total hovered at around 1,900, but since 2006 it has increased by an average of 15% a year. In 2013 the number of euthanasia and assisted suicide cases stood at 4,829, nearly three times the 2002 figure. Altogether around 38% of requests are carried out and 20% refused, while in other cases the patient either changes their mind or dies before euthanasia can be arranged. Theo Boer, who spent nine years on one of the regional evaluation committees, sees the rising trend as a cause for concern. Boer, who teaches ethics at the Protestant Theological University in Groningen, argues that the definition of euthanasia in Dutch law is too broad. ‘We don't have enough specific criteria in the law,’ he says. ‘It doesn't make any mention of terminal illness, or illness at all. You could have a situation in the Netherlands where somebody goes bankrupt and, knowing he will never get back up to the same level financially, argues he is suffering unbearably and puts in a request for euthanasia.’ Cancer When the law came in, the overwhelming majority of those who chose euthanasia – nearly 90% - were terminally ill cancer patients. Latterly the proportion has dropped to nearer 75%. The parameters are steadily widening: last month the Dutch paediatric association NVK called for the minimum age of 12 to be scrapped, arguing that some terminally ill children under that age are capable of deciding they want to die. Psychiatric patients, once never considered for euthanasia, are a small but growing subgroup, with 42 requests granted in 2013. There has been no fall in the suicide rate, as might be expected: in 2013 1,859 Dutch people took their own lives, an unprecedented number. ‘What surprises me is that nobody is making any serious attempt to treat this as a problem,’ says Boer. ‘It seems inarguable to me that the law has led to a rise in incidences. But nobody seems concerned. Even though palliative care has improved considerably, the euthanasia rate has gone up.’ Right to die Compounding the issue, says Boer, is the fact that euthanasia, which was originally introduced to protect doctors, quickly came to be regarded as a patient's right. ‘The debate has changed. Euthanasia is no longer a last resort. It was originally seen as a law that gave doctors rights rather than patients. But we very frequently hear it discussed in terms of a patient's right to euthanasia.’ Boer argues that patients have become more assertive of their preferred way to die. He has been critical of phenomena such as ‘duo-euthanasia’, where the partner of a terminally ill patient asks to die with them because he or she cannot face life alone. ‘When someone has made up their mind they want to die, the first thing they ask is if the doctor can do it,’ he says. And the pressure is not just from patients: ‘In some instances there is pressure from the family.’ Asked to specify a figure from the 4,000 case files that have crossed his desk, Boer replies: ‘It's hard to say, but at a rough estimate I would say the family is a factor with one in five patients. The doctor doesn't want to put it in the dossier; you need to read between the lines. Sometimes it's the family who go to the doctor. Other times it's the patient saying they don't want their family to suffer. And you hear anecdotally of families saying: "Mum, there's always euthanasia".' Pressure The KNMG survey appears to give substance to Boer's fears on this point: it found that 70% of doctors who replied had felt under pressure to grant euthanasia, while 64% believed the pressure had increased in recent years. The survey did not ask where the pressure came from. Van Wijlick says it is difficult to judge without hard evidence whether there is a problem: ‘We've been aware since the early 1990s that pressure is an issue. It would be helpful to do some research into what kind of pressure there is and where it comes from.’ Van Coevorden believes Boer's figure of one in five is ‘realistic’, adding: ‘I've come across it two or three times in my role as a SCEN doctor. There was one case where a woman was dying and had terrible stomach pains, her doctor was tearing his hair out, and when I turned up at the house the family practically pinned me to the wall and said: "You need to give mum the jab now, she's in agony!" 'I discovered that her treatment wasn't working, she was on the wrong type of laxatives and was terribly constipated. I organised a palliative regime that made her more comfortable, and afterwards the family were extremely grateful. She was close to dying anyway, but it allowed them to say goodbye in a better way.’ Van Wijlick argues that the increase in euthanasia deaths shows the system is working. ‘Doctors see from experience that if they follow the procedure, they won't have difficulties, and they feel reassured. That shouldn't obscure the fact that doctors find it very hard to carry out. On average they do it once or twice a year and it's very stressful.’ Ageing population Van Coevorden believes the rise in the number of euthanasia cases is partly due to the ageing population. He acknowledges the criteria have widened, but not always in a negative sense, citing the example of a patient in his seventies who had noticed the early signs of dementia. ‘He could have lived several more years, but he'd seen his father decline and didn't want to go the same way. He had no prospect of relief so he asked me for euthanasia and I agreed. It was clear to me he'd considered it thoroughly.’ What concerns Van Coevorden more is that patients reach for euthanasia too soon. ‘We've developed this idea that death can be arranged, but there are other ways to take the pain out of dying, such as palliative sedation, where death occurs naturally. Euthanasia is really the ultimate form of palliative care. But it's a conflict of duties – the duty to care for a patient versus the duty to prevent their suffering. And it should only be for those exceptional cases.’ He says the Dutch euthanasia law has its roots in the country's pragmatic instincts. ‘We're sober-minded and Calvinistic people, we've taken the attitude that "this is happening anyway, let's regulate it". Dutch doctors don't have to fear repercussions, they can't be blackmailed, it's dealt with openly. We don't have the kind of situations you get in America.’ Global issue Van Wijlick agrees: ‘In every country in the world doctors are confronted with the same problem, but there is no way to check if the doctor has acted diligently. We have a transparent system that can accommodate the various different points of view. That's its strength. The doctor is never obliged to grant euthanasia: the patient has to convince him, and he has to be convinced.’ But Boer strikes a more sceptical note. Though he supports euthanasia in principle and has endorsed thousands of cases, he argues the boundaries should be tighter. ‘If back in the 1990s we had had the quality of palliative care and pain relief that we have now, I doubt whether we would have accepted this euthanasia law at all,’ he says. He regards the law being proposed in Britain by Lord Falconer, which would allow euthanasia only where a patient had a terminal illness, as a better option. ‘We made a number of serious mistakes when we drew up the law,’ says Boer. ‘The problem with being the first country is that you have no precedent. It's good on some points, such as transparency and evaluation, but in general it's nothing for us to be proud of. I worry that if death is seen too quickly as the solution, the value of life is reduced.’   More >


Impress your Dutch colleagues with your Tour de France expertise

Now in its 102nd edition, this legendary bicycle race is set to kick off in Utrecht and will once again captivate spectators all around the world. The event gets massive media coverage in the Netherlands with nightly television updates, live coverage and endless analysis. Brandon Hartley has the lowdown, to make sure you can impress your Dutch friends, colleagues and relations with your Tour de France expertise. A brief history The first Tour de France was organised in 1903 by a fledgling French sporting magazine called L’Auto. Desperate to find a way to boost their readership, the publishers held an emergency meeting. That’s when Géo Lefèvre, one of the magazine’s youngest reporters, suggested they host a bicycle race. Not just any bicycle race though. The original plan was for the event to take place between May 31 and July 5. The gruelling concept scared away many competitive cyclists. When only 15 of them signed up, the organisers cut the race down to a far more reasonable (but still incredibly challenging) 19 days and slashed the entry fee in half. Doping The infamous Lance Armstrong isn’t the only participant to find himself embroiled in a huge scandal. The Italian-born cyclist Maurice Garin won the first Tour de France but his racing career was later dogged by controversy and disgrace. Garin agreed to participate in a second Tour in 1904 but he and several other racers were accused of cheating. Despite being the first cyclist to cross the finish line that year, he later had his title stripped. What exactly did Garin do? Specific details have been lost to the ages but, among other things, he supposedly accepted a bit of food during a stage of the race when doing so was forbidden. Emotions From its outset, the Tour de France has captivated crowds and tempers have often flared among cyclists and fans alike. Emotions ran so hot during the first race that the organisers (prematurely) decided that the 1904 follow-up would be the final Tour. Despite efforts to make spectators and participants behave themselves, there were numerous incidents of violence. Garin found himself in a brawl involving fans and another cyclist outside of Saint-Étienne and remarked 'I’ll win...provided I'm not murdered before we get to Paris'. When cyclist Antoine Fauré buzzed through his hometown, 200 of his followers began attacking the racers behind him. Another spectator later tossed nails out into the street to pop the tires of a few competitors he was rooting against. If that wasn’t enough, several cyclists were also accused of using cars to pull them up the course’s toughest hills. Longevity Despite being an almost complete disaster, the race returned for a third edition in 1905 and has since become one of the most popular annual sporting events on the planet. It’s been held every year since 1903, with the exception of 1915-1918 and 1940-1946 (due to World War 1 and 2). The Netherlands The 2015 edition’s Grand Départ will take place in Utrecht. However, this isn’t the first time the Tour has kicked off in the Netherlands. The 1954 race started in Amsterdam and was the first one to begin outside of France. Day 1 led racers from the city’s Olympic Stadium along a 216-kilometre course to Brasschaat. Ten Dutch cyclists participated in the race and one named Wout Wagtmans won the first stage (but French racer Louison Bobet eventually won the top prize). It was Bobet’s second of three consecutive Tour wins. The Dutch Départ As of this year, the Tour de France has begun in the Netherlands six times. In addition to Amsterdam in 1954, the 1973 race began in Scheveningen. 1978’s Tour began in Leiden, 's-Hertogenbosch nabbed the honour in 1996, Rotterdam hosted in 2010 and Utrecht in 2015 makes six. Ones to watch Vincenzo Nibali, the cyclist who won the 2014 Tour, could win this year’s edition too. The Italian racer was born near the Strait of Messina and this fact, in addition to his competitive nature, has earned him the nickname ‘The Shark of the Strait’. Others prefer to call him 'Nibbles'. Other favourites include British racer Chris Froome, Italy’s Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana from Colombia. The 2015 event The 2015 Tour will lead cyclists over a 3,300+-kilometre course and will be comprised of a total of 21 stages. The first two will happen in the Netherlands. In addition to the Grand Départ in Utrecht on 4 July, the second stage the following day will run from Utrecht to Neeltje Jans, a small island in Zeeland. You can learn more about the events that will take place in the Netherlands here. Utrecht The city of Utrecht put in an initial bid to host a Grand Départ back in 2002. After eventually agreeing to host the 2015 one, local officials and other organisations gradually invested an estimated €15m in the event. In addition to a €4m fee that went directly to ASO, the group that oversees events including the Tour de France and the Dakar Rally, Utrecht invested additional revenue in removing speed bumps and traffic islands from roads and hiring security. Other requirements put forth by the ASO: ensuring that there’s a ‘no fly zone’ over Utrecht during the race and freeing up 2,000 parking spaces for organisers and members of the press. The benefits But what does Utrecht stand to gain from all of this? While many have criticised the cost of the Grand Départ, proponents are eager to point out that the attention and economic boost the city will receive from the event is worth all of this effort. Estimates suggest that between 500,000 and 800,000 racing fans will flood into town between July 1 and 5 (which is sure to increase everything from beer sales in neighbourhood cafes to overnight stays in local hotels). Looking down the road, the Grand Départ could help boost tourism in the long run and enhance Utrecht’s reputation and overall image worldwide. The Tour attracts an annual television viewership of around 3.5 billion people so that means a lot of eyes will be on the city this weekend.  More >


10 great things to do this week: June 29 – July 5

10 great things to do this week: June 29 – July 5

From a shiny new station entrance and a church roof terrace to English folk rock and the booming notes of an organ, here's our pick of the week's best things to do. Marvel at a comic Al Pacino Danny Collins is a tale of an aging pop star attempting to recover his self-respect could well apply to its star, Al Pacino, whose output over the past few decades has been woeful.   Fortunately, director and writer Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love and Last Vegas) has managed to row back Pacino's recent tendency to overact and the result is a charming comedy with perhaps a touch too much sentimentality. The rest of the cast, which includes Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner and Bobby Cannavale, turn in solid performances, the stand-out being Christopher Plummer as Danny's manager and best friend. The scenes between the two aging actors alone are worth the price of a ticket. Spot the fashion crowd This year's summer fashion event is 10 Days Downtown: 10 events during 10 days at 10 locations. There will be fashion shows and exhibitions on various themes at various sites around Amsterdam. Among them are street fashion by young designers at the industrial area Roest, Liselore Frowijn's collection inspired by the cut-outs of Matisse at the Stedelijk Museum and the documentary Dior and I about Raf Simons' first collection for the famous fashion house at Eye. Various locations, Amsterdam, July 3 to 13. www.fashionweek.nl Discover a shiny new entrance at Central Station Amsterdam's central station is currently undergoing a complete transformation to cater for the increasing number of travellers and to give access to the new north-south metro line due to open in 2017. The first part of this enormous project is now open: the rear entrance on the river side of the station. The result is a light and spacious hall with mirrored ceilings, marble benches and rows of hanging plants. Well worth a visit even if you're not travelling. Take a walk on a church roof The celebrated Japanese artist Taturo Atzu has erected a steel staircase up to and a terrace around the top of the tower of the Old Church (Oudekerk) in Amsterdam. He calls his installation The Garden Which Is The Nearest To God. It provides an opportunity to scrutinise the church roof and to enjoy the spectacular view of the city. Oudekerk, Amsterdam until September 6. www.oudekerk.nl Rock the night away Mumford & Sons are performing numbers from their award-winning albums at the Goffertpark stadium at the weekend. Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane formed the English folk rock band in 2007. Since then they have clocked up 14 Emmy nominations, winning Album of the Year in 2013. Goffertpark, Nijmegen, July 4. www.livenation.nl Watch one dance for 24 hours The international contemporary dance festival Julidans (July Dance) celebrates its 25th anniversary with Jan Fabre's monumental 24-hour performance Mount Olympus with its 30 performers. It comes to Julidans directly after its premiere at the prestigious Berliner Festspiele. This is immersive theatre on an unprecedented scale. For 24 hours, the main auditorium of Amsterdam's Stadsschouwburg becomes the mythical Mount Olympus. You will be allowed to to enter and leave the auditorium, walk around, eat and drink during the performance. Stadsschouwburg and other locations around the Leidseplein, Amsterdam, July 1 to 12. www.julidans.nl Cheer the cyclists on their way The 2015 edition of the Tour de France cycling race begins in Utrecht when the riders arrive in the city on July 2 and are presented in the Lepelburg park. On July 4 there are individual time trials. July 5 sees the seconded stage of the race from Utrecht to Neeltje Jans in Zeeland via Rotterdam. Full details of the route are on the website. Jaarbeurs, Utrecht, July 1 to 5. www.routetourdefrance.nl Thrill to the sound of the organ Leo van Doeselaar plays Bach, Liszt, Bovet, Mussorgsky and Chopin on the Concertgebouw's world famous Maarschalkerweerd organ. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, July 4 (matinee). www.concertgebouw.nl See Mondriaan's inspiration Visit a major retrospective on the work of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), one of the 20th century's most significant and influential reformers. Steiner served as a source of inspiration for some artistic giants, including Piet Mondriaan, Wassily Kandinsky and Josef Beuys, and for contemporary artists and designers such as Olafur Eliasson and Konstantin Grcic. The exhibition presents an extensive collection of furniture, models and blackboard drawings. Kunsthal, Rotterdam until January 11 2015. www.kunsthal.nl Enjoy outdoor theatre The Over Het IJ summer theatre festival in Amsterdam also takes in music and art. Its centre is the NDSM shipyard and it spreads from there along the banks of the IJ river and in to Amsterdam-Noord. This year the young theatre-makers and more famous names taking part concentrate on the city of the future. Head to the NDSM shipyard where guides will advise on which performances are suitable for non-Dutch speakers. NDSM shipyard, Amsterdam, July 2 to 12. www.overhetij.nl  More >


A Dutch flavour for a French institution – the Tour de France starts in Utrecht

A Dutch flavour for a French institution – the Tour de France starts in Utrecht

The Tour de France has a huge following in the Netherlands and this year Utrecht will be turning French as it hosts Le Grand Départ - the grand start of the round France cycle race - on July 4. The 2015 Tour de France is made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of more than 3,300 kilometres. This year the first two stages take place in the Netherlands - one in Utrecht itself and the second from Utrecht to Zeeland. The city is pumping €15m into the event and expects between 500,000 and 800,000 visitors between July 1 and July 5, when the massive tour entourage moves on to Belgium for the third stage from Antwerp to Huy. Dutch start 2015 marks the sixth time the Netherlands has hosted the start of the world's most famous cycling event. 'One of the reasons the Tour has come to the Netherlands is the way in which we deal with cycling,' the project director Martin van Hulsteijn told news agency ANP earlier this year. 'Utrecht invests heavily in provisions for cycling. That appealed to the tour organisers and the tour for us is a great way to show it off.' Bike racks Final preparations for the time trial are now underway, even involving the temporary removal of some bike racks to free up space for spectators. Utrecht has gone all out organising cycling related events to coincide with the race. There are concerts and exhibitions. A science and cycling conference will take place on July 1-2, which looks at scientific contributions to the development of professional cycling. Among the entertainment will be Orchestre Bicyclette - a 100-man bike-riding orchestra. And German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk will be performing their album Tour de France at the TivoliVredenburg on July 3. Stage two If the thought of joining the tens of thousands of people cramming into central Utrecht to watch the time trial is too much, the second stage of the race offers better opportunities to really savour the style of the Tour de France. The second stage, on July 5, covers 166 kilometres from Utrecht to Zeeland, and offers some potentially spectacular views along the way. Not least will be a ride along the old canals and underneath the Dom tower in the city to the official start. From Utrecht, when the race starts at 13.45 hours, the pack will travel through Gouda and Rotterdam before heading down the coast over the network of dykes and bridges that make up the Delta Works flood prevention scheme. It ends at the Neeltje Jans visitors centre on an artificial island in the middle of the water. ETA is around 17.26 hours, according to the official timetable. Waiting If you prefer to watch the road race itself, be prepared for a lot of waiting around. Find a good spot with a long view of the road, pull up a camping chair and wait. You'll get the cars carrying the sponsors, the cars carrying the press, the cars carrying the rest of the entourage and then a fast blur of bikes. The actual pack flashes past in a few seconds. If you'd rather catch up on the action from the comfort of your own home or office without the wait, the Tour is always shown live on Dutch television and there is a daily round-up every evening.  More >


10 great things to do in the Netherlands this week: June 22-28

10 great things to do in the Netherlands this week: June 22-28

From giant spiders and horticulture on film to Hungarian music and trick cyclists, here’s our pick of the week’s best things to do. Admire British cool The National Ballet performs a programme entitled Cool Britannia which features works by the three foremost contemporary British choreographers: David Dawson, Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon. Dawson and Wheeldon are presenting new work. McGregor's contribution is his fast and furious Chroma, for which he won the prestigious Olivier Award. The ballet orchestra is conducted by Matthew Rowe. Muziektheater, Amsterdam, June 19, 21 (matinee), 24, 26 and 27. www.operaballet.nl Take a walk under the trees This year's outdoor exhibition of sculpture in The Hague features contemporary Belgian artists whose work is on display under the trees of one of the city's central squares. Other artists' work - 35 Belgian artists are taking part - is indoors at the sculpture museum in Scheveningen. Among the participants are Jan Fabre, Jan De Cock, Wim Delvoye and Caroline Coolen. Lange Voorhout, The Hague until August 30. Museum Beelden aan Zee, Scheveningen until October 25. www.beeldenaanzee.nl Cycle to a concert Among the international line-up of musicians for this year's International Chamber Music Festival fronted by violinist Janine Jansen are cellist Nicolas Altstaedt and clarinet player Andreas Ottensamer. There is a Hungarian night with music by composers such as Orbán, Bartók and Kodály. There are also walking and cycling tours of Utrecht which take in concerts in various venues around the city. TivoliVredenburg and other venues, Utrecht, June 24 to 28. www.kamermuziekfestival.nl Watch the flowers grow Alan Rickman's latest directorial effort is The King's Gardens in which he plays the role of the French King Louis XIV. For a film about 17th century landscape gardening it's a fascinating and charming film, replete with heaving bosoms, flouncing dandies, court intrigues and wonderful hats. The film is set in 1682 when renowned landscape architect, André Le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts), is responsible for the huge gardens at the palace of Versailles. Against his better judgement, he appoints the widowed Madame Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet) to create the Rockwork Garden, which is to be an outdoor ballroom with a water feature. The pace of the film, as befits the subject matter, is stately, providing enough time to enjoy the performances of an excellent cast, which also includes Helen McCrory, Stanley Tucci, Steven Waddington and Jennifer Ehle. Buy a book One of the Netherlands' oldest and largest book shops has moved into splendid new premises at number 9 Rokin. The original Scheltema was opened in June 1853 by Jacobus Hendrik Scheltema and moved to its previous location on the Koningsplein in 1985. It got into financial troubles in 2006 when its then owner went bankrupt, but has now found a new investor. The interior of Scheltema's new home is inspired by that of the famous London book shop, Foyle's, and features lots of blond wood. There is a good selection of foreign-language books, including English. Get sand in your eyes The Netherlands plays host to the World Cup Beach Volleyball, which takes place in the four cities of Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Apeldoorn. In Amsterdam, the Dam Square will be transformed into a beach court. In The Hague, matches will take place on a pontoon in the Hofvijver outside the parliament building. The world's best 48 men's teams and 48 women's team are competing, including nine representing the Netherlands. Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Apeldoorn, June 26 to July 5. www.volleybal.nl Invest in a Banksy An Amsterdam gallery is showing around ten original works and all the limited prints by Banksy, the pseudonymous English graffiti artist and political activist whose works of political and social commentary have been featured on the streets, walls and bridges of cities around the world. His artworks have become highly collectible and walls have been demolished in order for it to be sold. The highlight of this show is a painting with a price tag of upwards of €1m. LionelGallery, Nieuwspiegelstraat, Amsterdam, June 20 to July 20. www.lionelgallery.com Witness how old rockers never die The American singer-songwriter Neil Diamond may be 74-years-old but he still maintains an extensive tour agenda and his concerts still pack a punch. He will no doubt sing some of his old favourites such as Red, Red Wine and Sweet Caroline, but also more recent numbers such as those on his 2014 album, Melody Road. Tickets are still available. Ziggo Dome, Amsterdam, June 25 and 27. www.ziggodome.nl Thrill to giant spiders The Gemeentemuseum has acquired two large sculptures by Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) which are on long-term loan from the Louise Bourgeois Studio and on permanent display. Spider Couple (2003) is one of a series of sculptures of spiders on which Louise Bourgeois worked from the 1990s to her death in 2010. The sculptures are a tribute to her mother, a carpet weaver and ‘spinner of yarns’. Spider Couple shows a mother spider protecting and restricting her child. An apt illustration of the ambiguity that typified Bourgeois’ relationship with her mother. Clouds and Caverns (1982-1989) has never before been displayed in a museum. The sculpture resembles a heavenly landscape. Louise Bourgeois suffered from a severe form of insomnia. She therefore used the night-time hours to produce journal-like sketches: drawings of shapes that recall spirals, labyrinths and landscapes. Clouds and Caverns seems to be a three-dimensional version of these night-time drawings. Gemeentemuseum, The Hague. www.gemeentemuseum.nl Smell the greasepaint Canada's Cirque Éloize performs the show ID, a fizzing spectacle which mixes circus and urban dance to electric effect. A Chinese pole act has shades of West Side Story, contortion gets an extra edge when it meets break-dancing and a trampowall sequence is exhilarating. There's even inline skating and trial bike tricks. Theater Carré, Amsterdam, June 24 to July 19. www.carre.nl  More >


Sitting on poles and bongelwuppen: here’s six strange Dutch sports

Sitting on poles and bongelwuppen: here’s six strange Dutch sports

If you are out and about in the Netherlands this summer, you may come across some of these very Dutch activities. Yes, the Dutch may be fabulous at football, hockey and speedskating, but they’ve got some pretty odd sports of their own. Here’s a list compiled by Netherlands by Numbers. 1 Paalzitten It’s what it says – pole sitting. A lot of people, each sitting on his or her individual pole. The person who stays on the longest wins. The poles are erected in water so the person falling off doesn’t get hurt. It is presumed that pole sitting originated in Friesland where the Frisians tried to stave off the boredom of long winters by inventing sports to do with poles, like fierljeppen and pole sitting. The sport became nearly extinct, presumably because sitting on top of a pole did not stave off boredom. It has now made a come-back as a tourist attraction but is not a spectator sport. 2 Korfbal Two teams of eight trying to get a ball into the opponent’s korf or basket. The game was invented by a Dutch primary school teacher in 1902 and remains one of the very few mixed gender sports – with four men and four women per team. The korfball world championship is held every four years. The Dutch national team have consistently won the title since the championship was established in 1978, only losing to Belgium in 1991. This is because korfball is only seriously played in the Netherlands and Belgium – plus a few other places. 3. Klootschieten It’s throwing a leaded ball as far as it will go. Two teams have to make their way across a field or a paved area in the shortest number of throws possible. Klootschieten is popular in Overijssel, Drenthe and part of Gelderland and elicits childish sniggers in the remaining provinces because ‘kloot’ (the leaded ball) also means ‘testicle’. 4 Fierljeppen (called ‘bongelwuppen’ in Groningen) Fierljeppen is Frisian for vaulting over a ditch using a long pole and people who live in waterlogged provinces are very good at it. Contrary to pole sitting contestants, vaulters are likely to end up in the water much more frequently and consequently are much more fun to watch. 5 Skûtsjesilen Another Frisian speciality. It’s a sailing competition using skûtsjes, or traditional Frisian sailing boats formerly used to carry freight. The official competition only allows entry to skippers from sailing families whose boats represent a certain town or village, which prompted those who got their hands on a skûtsje any old how to organise their own championships. This is a good thing because it allows you to see more of these beautiful boats in action. 6 Kaatsen This form of handball dates from the Middle Ages. Again it’s the Frisians who played it most and it remains their number one sport. It is related to other sports, like fives or American handball, in which the bare hand is used in lieu of a racquet. This still holds true for the person who serves the ball; the other players are allowed to wear a leather glove. The game is played with two teams and scored in a similar way to tennis. Kaatsen is not unique to the Netherlands: some form of this game is being played in over 50 countries and regions.   More >


Video: Dutch Scapes – A timelapse journey through Dutch nature

Video: Dutch Scapes – A timelapse journey through Dutch nature

Dutch Scapes – A timelapse journey through Dutch nature - is a one man project to show people the beauty of the Netherlands, by photographer Rick Kloekke. 'People are always complaining about the weather and the 'boring' landscapes, but it's nonsense,' says Kloekke. 'Every time I am out shooting, I appreciate the landscape more and more.'   More >


From Brabos to Corpsballen: a guide to the 12 tribes of the Netherlands

From Brabos to Corpsballen: a guide to the 12 tribes of the Netherlands

If you are Dutch yourself, or you have been here for some time, you will be well aware that the typical Dutchman does not exist. The Netherlands by Numbers team have put together a list of 12 tribes you may spot, to help newcomers identify who is who. 1 Jordanezen Jordanezen are the original inhabitants of the Jordaan, a neighbourhood in the heart of Amsterdam. A poor but tightly knit community, the Jordanezen of yore shared a love of Italian opera – played on a street organ and danced to enthusiastically - and the neighbourhood spawned lots of famous singers, both male and female. The Jordaan has become a coveted place to live over the years and has been taken over by yuppies. Most of the authentic Jordanezen have moved to Almere. They all return 'home' for the annual Jordaan Festival. Habitat: Cafe Nol and the Johnny Jordaanplein. Clothes: Well worn but clean (in the olden days). Accessories: lots of red plush, nostalgia for the olden days and CDs featuring  Johnny Jordaan, Willy Alberti and Tante Leen. 2 The Grachtengordelaar This tribe is a mix of the seriously rich and bohemian (but still rich) arty types. They vote D66, or at least say they do. Despite this they are still dismissed disparagingly as the 'linkse elite' by right-wing populist Geert Wilders and his ilk. Habitat: The canal homes of Amsterdam, the Negen Straatjes, Noordermarkt organic market. Clothes: Shabby chic, red trousers (men), white trousers tucked into boots (women). Accessories: Cargo bikes, hockey sticks (adults), football boots (children of both sexes). 3 The Tokkies The Tokkies take their name from a reality television programme Family Pride – which focused on the Tokkie family and their matriarch. The family was described by an exasperated housing association as having ‘terrorised the neighbourhood for years'. Habitat: The original Tokkies lived in the notorious Burgemeester van Leeuwenlaan in Slotermeer - an area of post-war social housing. Today, the generic Tokkie can be found everywhere. Clothes: a campingsmoking, or tracksuit. Accessories: A big gut, a canta, a belligerent nature and some stuff that fell off the back of a lorry. 4 Volendammers The inhabitants of the fishing village of Volendam are notoriously insular and no matter how long you have lived in Volendam you will never become a Volendammer. Volendam youngsters have a reputation for substance abuse due to the large amount of drug residue found in the sewers. Volendam has also spawned pop groups (who excel at the ‘paling sound’, or ‘eel sound’) and famous football players. Habitat: Volendam, fishmongers in Amsterdam (they own them) and building sites (they work on them). Clothes: Klederdracht, or traditional costume but only for the benefit of the numerous tourists. Accessories: a fishing rod, a football, a microphone. 5 Gooische vrouwen A very popular tribe at the moment thanks to the television series and films of the same name. Gooische vrouwen are typically married to rich men, don’t work and spend their time meeting other Gooische vrouwen for lunch. Habitat: ‘t Gooi in Noord Holland - Naarden, Bussum, Blaricum and Laren. Clothes: Frosted hair, white trousers tucked into boots, botox. Accessories: A Hummer, lots of bling, one overweight child with a hockey stick. 6 Corpsballen The corpsbal, or bal, is arrogant, misogynistic and hard-drinking and wears a tie at the age of 20 - in other words, a frat brat. Ballen are predominantly male and prone to indulge in weird rituals. Not good with women. Habitat: Bars, student association premises, the hockey pitch. Clothes: blazer and (frat house) tie. Accessories: a biertje (never a pils). 7 Tukkers The tribe of the Tukkers is confined to the east of the country, in the province of Twente where they live cheek by jowl with that other eastern tribe the Achterhoekers of Gelderland. Perhaps unsurprisingly, both areas are mobile phone blackspots. The name Tukkers was a derogatory one for the mainly rural population of Twente, now it is carried with pride. Habitat: Twente. Clothes: Twentenaren are indistinguishable from other Dutch people until they open their mouths and talk Twents. Accessories: a lighter, a milk churn, some milk and a bit of carbide to practice carbidschieten, or blowing up milk churns. 8 Dodgy politicians from Limburg Limburg, along with Brabant, are two provinces that strait-laced northeners call ‘bourgondisch’. What they mean is that Limburgers like to eat, drink and be merry, and what they imply is that because of all this cosiness businessmen and politicians rub shoulder a little too enthusiastically, as indeed several scandals have revealed. Most belong to the VVD. Typical specimens include Jos van Rey and Mark Verheijen (allegedly of course). Habitat: Limburg town halls. Clothes: business suit and tie.. Speech: a Limburgs accent is Dutch ‘with a soft g’. Limburgs proper is one of three minority languages in the Netherlands recognised by the European charter for regional and minority languages. It is incomprehensible to non-Limburgers. Accessories: we couldn't possibly comment. 9 The Zwartekousenkerk These scary men (and women) who belong to a zwartekousenkerk, or church of the black stockings, are members of one of a myriad of strict Protestant religious communities in the Netherlands. Go to Staphorst on a Sunday and there’s a good chance you’ll meet some of its members as they go to church at least twice. Habitat: The Dutch Bible belt: from the west of Overijssel to Zeeland. Clothes: Dark suits for the men, hats and skirts for the women and never ever trousers. Speech: When talking of things religious, they will use the what they call the ‘tale Canaäns’ (the language of Canaan), an archaic, biblical Dutch with Hebrew expressions. Accessories: a Bible and hats. 10 De Friezen Frisians are perhaps the most fiercely nationalistic of all Dutch tribes, coming from the northern province of Fryslân with its 11 cities and its own official language. Frisians speak Frysk at the drop of a hat, especially when they meet other Frisians for the first time - it's a sort of test and mutual bonding ceremony. There is also a Fryske Nasjonale Partij which has five out of 43 seats on the provincial council. A long way to go there then. Habitat: Ljouwert (Leeuwarden), Frjentsjer (Franeker), Hylpen (Hindelopen), Snits (Sneek) - you get the picture. Language: Learn this off by heart to fit in: Bûter, brea, en griene tsiis; (butter, bread and green cheese) wa't dat net sizze kin, is gjin oprjochte Fries (who can't say that is not Frisian). Accessories: Speed skates and a Frisian flag, which despite what you may think features waterlilies, not hearts. 11 Brabos Brabos are inhabitants of Noord-Brabant. Key word for this tribe is gezelligheid, as in a gezellige Brabantse koffietafel - or a jolly coffee-and-cakes get together - where you are sure to be offered a Bossche bol - or chocolate and cream puff pastry ball. The Carnaval celebrations are another important part of Brabo culture. Brabos are hospitable and when you leave the coffee gathering full of cream puff pastry they will send you on your way with a hearty ‘houdoe!’ which means ‘Take care!’. Habitat: Noord-Brabant. Clothes: Anything and everything at Carnaval. Accessories: Anything and everything at Carnaval. 12 Expats Most foreigners in the Netherlands do not consider themselves to be expats. Expats tend to be very critical of their new environment and stick together in sub-tribes, depending on where they originally came from. Favourite moans include the awfulness of Albert Heijn, Dutch ‘directness’ and the non-acceptance of credit cards, but they all love cycling and stroopwaffels. Habitat: Networking events, Zuidas, expat fairs and expat centres. Speech: Expats like to show off their three words of Dutch in front of friends and then get very angry when the waitress answers them in English with a French accent. Clothes: Expats dress pretty smartly for work when they first arrive but quickly adopt Dutch standards - jeans with a jacket and suede shoes for both sexes - when they've been here a while. Accessories: A bike, a 30% tax ruling, passports and a plane ticket home.  More >


10 great things to do in the Netherlands this week: June 8-15

10 great things to do in the Netherlands this week: June 8-15

From Lulu to comedy, tennis to Elbow and Robbie Williams, here's our pick of the week's best things to do. Enjoy a different Romeo and Juliette The Rotterdam Philharmonic presents a spectacular show which uses classical music to tell a love story, incorporating dance, singing, aerial acrobatics, magic, costumes and sets. The show is directed by Guy Caron (photo), formerly of Cirque du Soleil. Among the music being played is Prokofiev's Romeo and Julia suites 1 and 2. The conductor is Josep Vicent and the singer is the mezzo-soprano Estrella Morente. Ahoy, Rotterdam, June 12 and 13. www.beleefjulia.nl Keep your eye on the ball The Top Shelf Open attracts international male and female tennis players who use it as a chance to practice their playing on grass ahead of Wimbledon in July. Among those competing this year are the Dutch players Robin Haase and Kiki Bertens together with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Lleyton Hewitt, Richard Gasquet, Jelena Jankovic and Andrea Petkovic. Autotron, Rosmalen, June 8 to 14. Tickets: www.eventim.nl See what your body can do Extremalism by the choreograph duo Emio Greco and Pieter C Scholten is a unique European cooperation between 24 dancers from the French Ballet National de Marseille and six from ICKamsterdam, the platform for contemporary dance in the Netherlands. The theme is what a body does in an extreme situation and how it survives in a very minimal setting. Theater Carré, Amsterdam, June 12 and 13. www.hollandfestival.nl Watch a passionate affair develop As Big As The Sky is the new multi-media opera by composer and director Arnoud Noordegraaf. The libretto is by the British writer Adrian Hornsby. The set and the projected images are from the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. For his opera, Noordegraaf has used a combination of traditional Kunqu opera and late romantic Wagner as his inspiration. The story of the European architect Sem Aers and his passionate affair with the opera singer Qin Mulan embodies the clash between East and West, tradition and modernity, romance and reality. Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam, June 11, 12 and 14. www.hollandfestival.nl See a female-friendly comedy With Bridesmaids a surprise hit and an all-female Ghostbusters in production, director and screenwriter Paul Feig proves yet again what a friend he is to female comedians by giving Melissa McCarthy her first lead role in this hilarious take on spy films. McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a desk-bound CIA operative, providing Jude Law's Bond-like Bradley Pine with the information to magically dodge attackers and infiltrate fortresses. When Pine is assassinated by arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (the haughty and glamorous Rose Byrne), Cooper demands she be allowed into the field to avenge his death. As Cooper travels around exotic locales in pursuit of Boyanov's nuclear device, McCarthy confirms her instinct for both verbal and physical comedy, while Feig underlines his credentials as a female-friendly writer by providing a script that is smart and funny about society's assumptions about older women. Listen to a master pianist The young Ukranian pianist brings his intensity and ferocious concentration to  Mozart's sonata in C, Schubert's sonata in A, Liszt's Consolation nr 3, Prokofiev's sonata nr 6 in A and Danse macabre by Saint-Saëns. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, June 14. www.meesterpianisten.nl Enjoy a long Lulu The company performs the complete four-hour version of Alban Berg's Lulu, in a coproduction with the Metropolitan Opera New York and English National Opera. It is directed by the South African artist and film-maker William Kentridge and stars Mojca Erdmann as Lulu. Fabio Luisi conducts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Muziektheater, Amsterdam, June 8, 14 (matinee) www.operaballet.nl Hope the weather is dry The annual outdoor pop festival presents a line-up of international artists on several stages. This year's acts include Elbow, Robbie Williams, Anouk, Foo Fighters, Pharrell Williams and Sam Smith. Landgraf, Heerlen, June 12, 13 and 14. www.pinkpop.nl   Admire a royal lifestyle The first retrospective of the work of the 17th century artist Henri de Fromantiou with a wide selection of his paintings. De Fromantiou was born in Maastricht and enjoyed his heyday as the court painter in Potsdam. The exhibition highlights not only his oeuvre, but also his position as court painter, art dealer and restorer in the service of Frederik Willem I, Elector of Brandenburg. De Fromantiou's paintings portray a royal world in prestigious still lifes of game and luxury products like flowers and fruit. Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht until June 28. www.bonnefanten.nl Watch Marc Albrecht conduct Conductor Marc Albrecht (photo) closes the season with Mahler's symphony nr 1. This is followed by Korngold's violin concerto with soloist Simone Lamsma and Schoenberg's Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene (Accompanying music to a film scene). Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, June 13 and 15. www.orkest.nl  More >


The women’s football World Cup is about to start. Here’s the lowdown on the Oranje Lionesses

The Dutch women's football team - known as the Lionesses - are taking part in the World Cup for the very first time. The event kicks off on Saturday and to get you in the mood, here's the lowdown on women's football in the Netherlands. 1 The Dutch took part in the first ever Fifa-recognised women's international back in 1971 but have lagged behind since then. Oranje secured a place in the World Cup for the first time after beating Italy 3-2 on aggregate in the play-offs. 2 The Lionesses start their campaign on June 6 when they take on New Zealand in their first Group A match. On June 11 the Dutch will play China, and on June 15 they will be doing battle with host Canada. Both Canada and New Zealand were eliminated in the group stage in the 2011 World Cup. China, like the Netherlands, failed to qualify at all. 3 The Dutch not so secret weapon is 18 year-old Bayern Munich player Vivienne Miedema who is possessed of an intimidating coolness when it comes to scoring. She secured the Dutch win in the under-19s European Championships and her three goals in the final play-off game against Italy put the Oranje Lionesses on the road to potential World Cup glory. She is also one of nine Dutch squad players to play abroad. Watch her in action here. 4. Dutch coach Roger Reijners has set the goal of finishing among the top three European teams - which will ensure the Lionesses qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games. 'It will be difficult but that is the goal,' he told reporters. Germany, the US, France and Japan are all tipped to take the title. 5 Football has always been popular with women. In 1924, the Oostzaanse Vrouwenvoetbal Vereeniging wanted to start up association football for women but the Nederlandsche Voetbalbond (forerunner of football association KNVB) opposed the move. It was of the opinion that women should be content to be ‘the spouses, mothers or girlfriends of football players’. In 1955, the women defied the Voetbalbond and started a league of their own. It wasn’t until 1971 (!) that women’s football was finally recognised by the KNVB. 6 Since then, women’s footie has gone from strength to strength. According to figures from the KNVB, female membership in 1985 stood at 36,000 of whom 12,000 were young girls. By 1998 this had jumped to 65,000 members, of whom 30,000 players were under 18. The total number of female members in 2014 stood at a whopping 137,525. 7 Vrouwenvoetbal or damesvoetbal? The sport is called vrouwenvoetbal, or women’s football, now. Damesvoetbal, or Ladies’ football, was/is a name used by people who still think footie for women is ever so slightly embarrassing and makes it sound as if the women are trotting after a ball while holding up their skirts in a dainty manner. Having said that, we should laud Dick Kerr’s Ladies F.C. from Preston, England who played women’s association football as early as 1917. 8 Although plenty of women want to play in the Netherlands there are not enough top players to form a league of 16 or more teams. The same is true for Belgium and in 2012 it was decided to form the inter-national BeNe League for a period of three years. This has now come to an end (Standard de Liège won this year) but the KNVB is hopeful that the Dutch entry in the World Cup could revive plans for a Dutch league. 9 Female referees are very much a rarity in the Netherlands. In 2012, only 240 of 7,000 referees were women and the KNVB is still trying to interest more women in  taking up the whistle. Vivian Peeters is the only female referee on the KNVB’s books with some international renown. 10 Some men think women can’t/shouldn’t play football at all but the times are changing. Here’s former player Jan Mulder in an interview with Belgian magazine Knack: ‘Men are simply not used to it. The women who are playing for teams in say Germany, Japan or Norway are ten times as good as the Rode Duivels (Belgian team, DN) in 1960. So if men are giggling when they see women play, they’re really laughing at their own idols.’ 11 The Netherlands has been chosen to host the next World Championships in 2017.  Well, they were the only candidate to apply for the job, but hey, it’s good for women’s footie. Go Oranje Lionesses! More on the women's World Cup  More >


Forget windmills and museums, it’s time for National Bunker Day

Forget windmills and museums, it’s time for National Bunker Day

If you ever wander along the Dutch coast, you may have come across partly hidden concrete structures - the remains of the network of bunkers built during World War II. Usually closed to the public, this Saturday (June 6) you have the chance to poke around inside because it is National Bunker Day. Here are some key facts. The Atlantic Wall The Dutch bunkers form part of the Atlantic Wall, a series of coastal fortifications stretching from the Franco-Spanish border to the northern tip of Norway. Building started in 1942 – some 15,000 structures were planned (14,000 were built), to be manned by 300,000 troops - after Hitler failed to conquer Britain and feared an Allied invasion might be on the horizon. Forced labour Organising the construction of the Atlantic Wall was the responsibility of German building firm Todt – which also helped build concentration camps - but the actual work was carried out by subcontractors who, apart from regular workers, used POWs and conscript labour. In all some 7.8 million people were deployed and within two years as many as 10,000 bunkers were built. Get rich quick Relatively few Dutch building firms were held to account after the war. Contractor Jan Wildeboer from Schiermonnikoog, who had a turnover of almost a million guilders in 1943, had to hand over the curiously small profit of 90,000 guilders he had made, and was banned from working as a builder. Here’s what he said to the president of the tribunal: ‘It is difficult, Mr President, to take a principled stand once a wrong turn has been taken.’ Upon which an unsympathetic president said: ‘As soon as you take the road to hell, you are on a slippery slope greased with soft soap.’ Land clearance In order to build the bunkers, great swathes of land had to be cleared, affecting coastal towns and cities. In many cases whole neighbourhoods were obliterated forcing the inhabitants to move to other parts of the country. In seaside resort Zandvoort, for instance, homes, hotels, boarding houses and boulevards within 200 metres of the beach were flattened and thousands of people displaced. Some of Zandvoort’s dreary apartment buildings were built on the waste land left by the ravages of the Atlantic Wall by canny post-war project developers. The Hague The Hague, home to the Dutch government and the royal family, was chosen as the location for most of the main German administrative centres, and consequently the city and nearby Scheveningen were heavily fortified. The much-hated head of the occupied Netherlands, Seys Inquart – mockingly called zes-en-en-kwart, or six and a quarter, and ridiculed because of his limp - took up residence on the Clingendael estate (now home to the Netherlands Institute of International Relations) where he had a command bunker disguised as a charming farmhouse. Not much happens Nothing much happened until the invasion in 1944 and the Germans soldiers stationed on the Atlantic Wall spent their time doing not very much at all. A song that was popular among them at the time had it that any would–be invader should think twice before attempting an attack because if they came up against the boys from Bavaria they would be very sorry indeed: ‘Bei einen neuen Gastspiel am Atlantikwall/ nur keinem Bayern in die Hande fall (..)’. Dunes The dune landscape was damaged by the construction of the bunkers and although dune grass replanting work was started immediately after the war, the dunes remained vulnerable. Sand was swept away and bunkers started to subside and slide, weakening the dunes even further. The presence of the bunkers facilitated the already devastating ravages wreaked by the storm tide which swept over parts of Zeeland, South Holland and North Brabant in 1953. New uses After the war many bunkers were destroyed while others were used for a variety of purposes. Bunkers were turned into holiday homes, bars and restaurants and museums, or were simply used for storage. Some retained a military function. And some bunkers became a haven for bats. You can even own your own bunker: in Zandvoort two bunker holiday homes came up for sale in 2013 for the first time and in The Hague data storage firm Data Protectors bought a former hospital bunker which formed part of the Atlantic Wall. Visits Many of the remaining bunkers lie buried under sand, or are located on private property. Here are a couple of bunkers you can visit. Vleermuisgang in The Hague Westduinen is a system of corridors which connects various bunkers. Here’s your chance to take a peek at several rare bat species who have made the bunker home. There’s Command bunker 608, with its original communications equipment in The Hague and the Bunker Museum in IJmuiden which is located in a complex of six bunkers (and run by dedicated volunteers). National Bunker Day  More >


World’s biggest jazz orchestra has something to celebrate

World’s biggest jazz orchestra has something to celebrate

The Dutch Metropole Orchestra is the biggest jazz and pop orchestra in the world and has performed with greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz. This June the orchestra marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder Dolf van der Linden. In November, it celebrates its 70th anniversary. Here are ten things you might like to know. 1 The idea of forming an orchestra was first mooted in early 1945, when Queen Wilhelmina and her Dutch government were still in exile in London. They were aware that the people back home in the Netherlands would need something to bolster their spirits. Something more than the return of their Queen. Something to entertain them after the drab war years. It was decided to form an orchestra specialising in light music, one made up of top Dutch musicians. The Metropole Orchestra was born and gave its first performance on November 25 the same year. 2 The first man in charge of the orchestra was Dolf van der Linden (1915-1999), a conductor, composer and arranger who worked for Dutch radio before the war. He was captured by the Germans and sent to work in Germany during WWII but escaped and went into hiding in the Netherlands. In 1945 he was asked to put together what became the Metropole Orchestra. 3 Under Van der Linden, the 40-piece orchestra became hugely successful on radio and later on tv, not just in the Netherlands but throughout Europe. In the years in which the Eurovision Song Contest singers were always accompanied by an orchestra conducted by someone from their own country, Van der Linden was the choice for the Netherlands’ entries. 4 Although Van der Linden was complimented for giving the orchestra its own sound while playing a wide variety of musical styles and keeping up with technological innovations, he was unable to modernise the orchestra and left in 1980. 5 The young, ambitious and energetic Rogier van Otterloo (1941-1988) took over and introduced a second rhythm section which allowed the orchestra to add pop and rock music to its repertoire. Under Van Otterloo the orchestra made its debut at the North Sea Jazz Festival. It also found extra work in film and tv studios, playing the music its conductor composed for various productions. The most famous is the theme from Soldier of Orange with its immediately recognisable five note opening. 6 Van Otterloo died suddenly in 1988 at the age of 46 and it was not until 1991 that a suitable successor was found in the shape of Dick Bakker, composer of Ding-a-dong with which Teach-In won the Eurovision Song Festival for the Netherlands. By the time, Bakker arrived the Metropole was struggling to find work. He breathed new life into the orchestra by making it more commercial and winning acclaim for televised shows at home and abroad. In particular, there was a lengthy contract with Greek television, performances in the Amsterdam pop temple Paradiso and an increasing number of live performances. 7 Bakker was succeeded in 2005 by the American conductor Vince Mendoza, who has composed and arranged a huge range of music for outfits ranging from jazz ensembles and big bands to chamber music ensembles and symphony orchestras. Mendoza kept the modernisation going, inviting a wide range of artists to work with the orchestra including Elvis Costello, Herbie Hancock, The Brecker Brothers, Silje Nergaard and Ivan Lins. 8 2012 was an annus horribilis for the Metropole Orchestra. Financed from the broadcasting budget since its inception, the Dutch government withdrew its subsidy and refused to finance a shortfall of €15m. This left the Metropole facing extinction, until a fan began an online petition which was quickly signed by 35,000 people. The government had a rethink, found the money to cover the shortfall and came to a bridging agreement with the orchestra that it will be self-financing by 2017. 9 Since 2013, the Metropole has been led by Englishman Jules Buckey who was a regular guest conductor with the orchestra since 2008. He is pushing the orchestra into the future. A huge compliment came in 2014 when the Metropole was invited to take part in the BBC Proms, the prestigious classical music festival held each year in July at the Royal Albert Hall and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. The Proms, just like the orchestra, has been modernising its programme and has invited the Metropole back for 2015’s festival where it will perform with the rappers Wretch 32, Krept & Konan and Stormzy. 10 The Metropole has performed and recorded with a huge number of famous artists over the years. They include jazz musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie, pop stars such as Brian Eno, Elvis Costello and Bono, producers such as Junkie XL and the new generation of singers such as Laura Mvula. For more performances, check out the orchestra's YouTube channel.  More >


What’s on in the Netherlands: ten great things to do in June

Summer officially starts this week and the forecasters say the weather is set to heat up by next weekend. From beach volleyball to opera, from Pharrell to prize-winning photography, here's a list of 10 great things to do in the coming weeks. Hang out at the Holland Festival The annual cultural festival is broadening its scope this year, with more venues such as Podium Mozaiek in Amsterdam West and the Museumplein, and more disciplines such as street projections and a 12-hour Prom festival. Turkish artists feature strongly this year and elsewhere on the programme there is theatre from Spanish group La Fura dels Baus and from Robert Wilson who directs himself in Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape (photo). Various locations, Amsterdam, to June 28. www.hollandfestival.nl Check out the Canadian circus acts at Carré Canada's Cirque Éloize performs the show ID, a fizzing spectacle which mixes circus and urban dance to electric effect. A Chinese pole act has shades of West Side Story, contortion gets an extra edge when it meets break-dancing and a trampowall sequence is exhilarating. There's even inline skating and trial bike tricks. Theater Carré, Amsterdam, June 24 to July 19. www.carre.nl Visit the World Press Photo exhibition This year’s winning World Press Photo is the Danish photographer Mads Nissen’s image of a gay Russian couple in a tender embrace. The photo takes pride of place in the exhibition of other winners in various categories such as images of a kitchen in war-ravaged Donetsk, African warriors stroking a rhino and the heartbreaking sight of the uniforms of 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram extremists in Nigeria. Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam until July 5. www.worldpressphoto.org Cheer on the teams at the World Cup Beach Volleyball At the end of this month, the Netherlands plays host to the World Cup Beach Volleyball, which takes place in four cities. In Amsterdam, the Dam Square will be transformed into a beach court. In The Hague, matches will take place on a pontoon in the Hofvijver outside the parliament building. The world’s best 48 men’s teams and 48 women’s team are competing, including nine Dutch teams. Various locations, June 26 to July 5. www.volleybal.nl Spend a night at the opera Hector Berlioz's opera is directed by film-maker Terry Gilliam and conducted by Sir Mark Elder. Berlioz's first opera was inspired by the memoirs of the 16th century Florentine sculptor Cellini as he casts his statue of Perseus, commissioned for Pope Clemens VII. The opera is rarely performed because of its technical difficulty. The Rotterdam Philharmonic is joined by the National Opera choir. Muziektheater, Amsterdam, various dates www.operaballet.nl Be happy with Pharrell at Pinkpop The annual outdoor pop festival presents a line-up of international artists on several stages. This year's acts include Elbow, Robbie Williams, Anouk, Foo Fighters, Pharrell Williams and Sam Smith. Landgraf, Heerlen, June 12, 13 and 14. www.pinkpop.nl Catch up on culture at Oerol This annual festival takes over the island of Terschelling and presents theatre in its widest meaning, outdoors in its woods and fields and on its sand dunes and golden beaches, and indoors in its barns and cafés. It also includes dance, visual art and music. All the performances are created specially or adapted to the location. Terschelling, June 12 to 21. www.oerol.nl Watch ocean-going yachts at the Volvo Ocean Race The Volvo Ocean Race, the round the world yacht race which began on October 4 2014, makes a 24-hour pit-stop in The Hague before departing for the final stage to Göteborg for the finish on June 27. For the first time in its history, this 12th edition of the race, which has nine stages, sees all seven competing teams sailing in the same class of boat: the Volvo Ocean 65. Derde Haven, The Hague, June 19 and 20. www.volvooceanrace.com See top tennis players practise on grass ahead of Wimbledon The Top Shelf Open attracts international male and female tennis players who use it as a chance to practice their playing on grass ahead of Wimbledon in July. Among those competing this year are the Dutch players Robin Haase and Kiki Bertens together with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Lleyton Hewitt, Richard Gasquet, Jelena Jankovic and Andrea Petkovic. Autotron, Rosmalen, June 8 to 15. Tickets: www.eventim.nl   For more shows, exhibitions, concerts and sports events, check out our What's On section, and search by subject or city.  More >


Dental care in the Netherlands

Dental care in the Netherlands

The Dutch visit their dentist on a regular basis, and as a result, only a relatively small part of the population has badly cared-for teeth. In the Netherlands, dental care is provided by university-educated dentists, all of whom are government-registered. The quality of the care, also in comparison with other countries, is excellent. The Dutch visit their dentist on a regular basis - approximately 85% go once or twice a year. Types of practices Almost all dental practices in the Netherlands are private, there are no state practices. Most of them are modest undertakings, with one dentist and one assistant. In the larger cities there are larger practices, consisting of several dentists, a number of assistants and dental hygienists. Such a structure allows the practice to diversify its services. Many practices in the Netherlands are full and consequently cannot take on any new patients. Insurance Dentistry is privatised in the Netherlands, i.e. the patient is responsible for the payment of the costs of the treatment, not the insurance company. However, under Dutch basic health insurance, the insurance company will fully cover all costs of dentistry for children through to the age of 18 as well as dental surgery for all adults. All other dental care, which constitutes the majority of care given, can only be insured by taking out an additional insurance. This supplementary insurance can cover up to 75% of the costs. For the exact coverage, check the policy terms or contact the insurer. Specialisations In the Netherlands, all regular dental specialisations can be found. The best-known are oral surgeons, who are usually affiliated with a hospital, and orthodontists, who usually have a private practice. Moreover the number of periodontologists (who specialise in gums), endodontologists (root canal specialists), implantologists and children’s dentists is steadily growing. Patients are referred to these specialists by regular dentists. A growing number of Dutch dentists employ the services of a dental hygienist, but in the larger cities particularly, there are also separate dental hygienist practices. Patients can visit these practices without a referral from their dentists. Other issues of interest All dentists in the Netherlands must comply with the rules on hygiene set by the Dutch government. Most dentists will give a local anesthetic before a painful treatment. Laughing gas is seldom used and if it is, only by a limited number of specialised dentists. Rates Dental fees have been determined by the Dutch Healthcare Authority (NZa), under the authority of the Dutch government. Finding a dentist New practices, which still take on new patients, often have websites. It is advisable to do some comparative shopping before deciding on a practice. Issues to take into consideration are: philosophy of the dentist/practice, opening hours, is there a dental hygienist, are refresher courses taken on a regular basis, what does the practice specialise in, does the staff speak English, and so on. Summarising Dutch dentists follow a thorough training, make use of modern equipment and run a clean shop. In other words, if the Netherlands turns out to be your new location, dental care should be the least of your worries. Thomas Rietrae runs an international high-end dental clinic in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw neighborhood and on the Keizersgracht, Jordaan area. His practice is focused on expats and among his clients are many employees of multinational businesses. For more information, visit: www.lassustandartsen.nl/en  More >


40 years on Getty Kaspers is still Dutch Eurovision queen

40 years on Getty Kaspers is still Dutch Eurovision queen

The last time the Netherlands won the Eurovision Song Contest was 40 years ago,  when Teach-In took the honours with the infamous 'Ding-a-dong'. Singer Getty Kaspers talks to DutchNews.nl about Eurovision then and now. 'Ding-a-dong every hour, when you pick a flower, even when your lover is gone, gone, gone.' So goes the kitschy but catchy chorus of Ding-A-Dong, the song that, 40 years ago, made Teach-In Eurovision champions. The song - in stark contrast to the quieter ballads put forth by hopefuls representing the Netherlands in recent years, including this year’s Walk On penned by Anouk and performed by Trijntje Oosterhuis - is a 2.5-minute explosion of infectiously upbeat, xylophonic sound accompanied by quirky, nonsensical lyrics earnestly sung by Getty Kaspers. Easier Kaspers, who was 27 when the song won Eurovision in 1975, says the competition was rather different in those times. 'It was easier,' she says. 'We only had to perform once before being selected to go to the competition, and then only once while there. Today there is more pressure on the performers. We were able to just have fun.' But although she and her band mates thought they had a good enough song to win, they were not as aware of the competition as artists are today, and had less time before the programme’s broadcast to develop an audience. 'There was no Internet then, no cable television,' she says. 'It was a very different time. If you wanted to hear a song, you had to wait for it to come on the radio, or maybe we would be mentioned sometimes on the news.' Voting was also more straightforward in 1975, Kaspers says, and the contest was generally less political. 'Things are different now with the audiences telephoning in their votes and the obvious alliances - we always know which countries will give their votes to which neighboring countries,' she says. Sudden fame Teach-In formed in Enschede in 1969, with Kaspers joining in 1972. By the time they were chosen to go to Eurovision in 1975, they had already had 15 hits in the Netherlands, but were relatively unknown beyond Dutch borders. After taking the Eurovision title, Ding-A-Dong appeared on the charts in nearly every European country. The sudden fame caught Kaspers by surprise. 'We went on tour to England, and everyone knew us,' she says. 'I couldn’t even go out to the supermarket.' She recalls the celebrity treatment: 'It was really funny to be in England for the first time and have everyone know us. We were driven around in beautiful Bentleys - I was waving like the queen.' But, she admits, this was fleeting. 'The next time we visited London, we travelled by bus.' Kasper left the band in 1976, and the rest of the members called it a day two years later. Still, they remain among the ranks of Eurovision winners such as Abba, Bucks Fizz, Celine Dion, Tom Jones and Katrina and the Waves. What it takes to win This year is the third in a row that the Netherlands was represented by a relatively tame song, without the costumes and pyro technics for which the contest is celebrated. But Kaspers says the success of last year’s Calm After the Storm - the song took second place for the Netherlands - shows Eurovision is not all about gimmicks. 'Last year the Netherlands had a very good song - even though it was rather a simple,' she says. 'If the song is really good, people will vote for it, even countries that don’t usually give you votes.' But winning, according to Kaspers, also takes more than just good song writing. 'Having a good song is part of it, but it’s also important to have a good performer who can really connect with the people at home,' she says. She says she always made an effort to form an intimate connection with the viewers. 'I always pretended to be flirting with the camera, that the camera was one person sitting at home watching their television and that I was singing for them only. I think you can see that when you watch the performance.' 40 years on Walk Along failed to make the final this year, meaning Kaspers will continue as Holland’s reigning Eurovision champion, at least until 2016. As for her own singing career, she looks back on it nostalgically and fondly, but says she hasn’t sung professionally in a long time. 'My voice is lower than before,' she says. 'I am 40 years older, and I feel it. But people still get excited to see me and they don’t mind if I sound a little different from then. So I’m still asked to sing Ding-A-Dong.'  More >


10 inspirational Dutch women

10 inspirational Dutch women

From speaking 14 languages in the 17th century to exploring the Sahara; from taking the Olympics by storm to defying the German occupiers - here is a list of inspirational Dutch women who’ve made it into the history books for reasons other than their appearance. In no particular order. Anna Maria van Schurman Born in Cologne in 1607, this well educated 17th century woman spent most of her life in the Netherlands where she was permitted an education. She spoke 14 languages including Hebrew, Arabic, Ethiopian, Syriac and Aramaic – and excelled in literature, art and music. Later she was the personal assistant of Jean de Labadie remaining heavily involved in his cult religion, Labadism, until her death. Elisabeth Wandscherer This bold lady was one of the 16 wives of Jan van Leiden, dictator and leading figure of the Anabaptist commune in Munster during the early 1500s. Elisabeth criticised her husband for letting the poor of the city starve while Van Leiden and his entourage lived in luxury. She returned her jewellery to him in protest and requested to leave the household. In response, Van Leiden had his young wife publicly beheaded in 1535. Alexandrine Tinne Recognised as being the first European woman to attempt to cross the Sahara Desert, Alexandrine was born into a family of adventurers in The Hague in 1835. Her mother accompanied her on some of her earlier forays into the Middle East. Alexandrine died at the age of 33, murdered by her local guides during an expedition. Aletta Jacobs The first Dutch woman to complete a university degree (medicine). After graduating in 1878, Jacobs ran a free medical clinic to treat destitute women and children and was instrumental in the manufacture of the pessaries she gave to women to control their fertility. Throughout her life she fought for equal rights for women in the Netherlands and around the world. Mata Hari Born to a wealthy Leeuwarden family in 1876, Margaretha Zelle abandoned her studies when she responded to a newspaper advertisement posted by an Indonesian-based Dutch Army Captain seeking a wife. A few years later, she abandoned the practical and abusive marriage, returned to Europe, and established herself as an exotic dancer and courtesan to men of influence and great wealth. When her dancing career faded, she became a spy for the German army during WWI. She was captured and executed by a firing squad in France in 1917. Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer A wood merchant from Haarlem, Kenau become a legendary folk hero for her fearless defense of the city against the Spanish invaders during the siege of 1573. By the 19th century, it was even said she had led an army of 300 women against the Spanish. There are now a lot of doubts about her real role and she was not included on the official list of war criminals. After the war, she resumed wood trading again and is thought to have died at the hands of pirates in 1588. Marga Klompé Referred to by her critics as ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Succour’, Marga Klompé was born in Arnhem in 1912. With her university studies (medicine) interrupted by WWII, Marga became active in the Dutch underground movement. In 1948 she joined the House of Representatives and in 1956 became the first female secretary of the Netherlands focusing on Social Affairs. Her main contribution to Dutch history is the passing of the Social Security Bill in 1963. Fanny Blankers-Koen Fanny was a 30-year-old mother of two when she took the world by storm at the 1948 Olympics in London, winning gold medals in the 100 metres, 200 metres, 80 metres hurdle and 4×100 metres relay. Fanny, who was also known as ‘the flying housewife’, inspired many women and sport stars over the decades and was voted female athlete of the century by the IAAF in 1999. Hannie Schaft Born Jannetje Johanna Schaft in Haarlem in 1920, Hannie was a member of the Dutch Communist resistance during WWII. As a law student at Amsterdam University she was expelled after refusing to sign a declaration of allegiance to the German Occupation. She is known to have carried out attacks on German soldiers, collaborators and traitors. Hannie Schaft, also known as ‘the girl with the red hair’, was shot dead three weeks before the end of the war in the dunes at Bloemendaal. Sonja Barend Sonja, a feminist and television personality, was born in Amsterdam in 1940. For about 30 years, Barend presented her own television programme, Sonja, voicing her own ideological and political ideas, and creating public discussion on taboo topics like feminism, homo- and other sexualities. After her retirement in 2006, she was awarded the Order of Orange-Nassau. This list was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers. And if you are missing Neelie Kroes, she'll feature in a separate list on Dutch business women.  More >


Video: central Amsterdam under water in a poetic light display

Video: central Amsterdam under water in a poetic light display

After having us cycle along starry night bike paths, Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde has now turned his attention to the power of water. Just over one quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level and the sea is kept at bay by a network of dykes, dams and other water defences. But what would happen if they weren't there? 'Waterlicht is the dream landscape about the power and poetry of water,' Roosegaarde says on Studio Roosengaarde website. 'Innovation is within the DNA of the Dutch landscape via its waterworks and creative thinking, yet we almost seem to forgotten this.' The installation Waterlicht consists of wavy lines of light made with the latest LED technology, software and lenses. It was created for the Dutch Rijn & IJssel waterboard and was at the Museumplein in Amsterdam for three nights earlier this month.   More >


Sixty years of the Dutch at Eurovision: all you need to know

Sixty years of the Dutch at Eurovision: all you need to know

The Eurovision Song Contest is 60 years old this year and the Dutch have been there right from the beginning. Despite this, they have only won four times. Last year, they almost made it and this year, hopes are pinned on Walk Along, sung by Trijntje Oosterhuis. The very first song at the international finals of the very first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956 was the Dutch entry - one of the Dutch entries in fact. Only seven countries took part that first year, each country with two singers and two songs. We don't know how well the Dutch did on that Thursday evening of May 24 in the Swiss city of Lugano because the viewers did not vote. There was no scoreboard, just an off-screen jury of professionals. Nobody seems to know how that jury reached its verdict. At the end of the live transmission the very first Eurovision winner was announced: a ballad called Refrain, sung by Swiss singer Lys Assia. Italy's idea The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg and Italy were the first countries to take part. The contest was Italy's idea. Eurovision, founded a couple of years before to exchange news reports and sports amongst Europe's public broadcasters, asked all its members to come up with suggestions for new events which Eurovision could exclusively televise. Italy, home of festivals like San Remo, suggested a Grand Prix song contest between Eurovision members. It said such a festival would strengthen the cultural ties between the European countries and create more interest in each other's artistic achievements: a terminology seldom linked with later editions of the event. But it was enthousiastically received by television officials and viewers alike and it never went away. This year the Eurovision Song Contest celebrates its 60th year, which makes it one of the most succesfull European projects of them all. Corry Brokken - the first Dutch winner In her heyday, Corry Brokken was the first lady of Dutch song. She represented the Netherlands in the first three editions of the Eurovision Song Contest. And she won the second one, in Frankfurt, with the lilting ballad Net als toen (Just like before) about the singer's longing for a more romantic past. Its sweeping violin solo, played live (of course) by Dutch violin favourite Sem Nijveen, must have helped considerably in getting a top score of 31 points, 14 points more than Paule Desjardins who came second with France's entry La belle amour. But the next year, in Holland's broadcasting centre in Hilversum, Corry Brokken hit rock bottom - becoming the only Eurovision singer who came first once and last once. Teddy Scholten makes it two wins Teddy Scholten never called herself a real singer. She played in sketches in the Netherland's most popular theatre revue and sang innocent little ditties with her husband, Henk Scholten. In fact, she had to get a few nights off from her revue employer to travel to Cannes in 1959, to appear in that year's Eurovision Song Contest singing Een beetje (A little bit). Her charming performance won over everybody, as did the lively rhythm and the lyrics in which lots of wordplay added to the song’s musicality - even for those who did not speak Dutch. She was a surprising winner, though, because the growing army of Eurovision pundits put their bets on the UK entry: Sing little birdie by Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson, who could be called the English equivalent of Teddy and Henk Scholten. Their song came second. Lenny Kuhr - a shared win Eurovision never had a more chaotic year than 1969, when the whole spectacle assembled in Madrid. No fewer than four countries ended with the same number of points - and all four were declared winners, for the simple reason that the rule-makers had never expected such a close finish. So they ended up as joint winners: Spain (Vivo cantando by Salomé), the UK (Boom-bang-a-bang by Lulu), France (Un jour, un enfant by Frida Boccara) and the Netherlands (De Troubadour by Lenny Kuhr). The Dutch winner boasted two firsts: Lenny Kuhr was not only the first winner who also co-wrote the song, but also the first contestant playing an instrument (her guitar) on stage. Obviously, her folksy sounding lai-lai-lai's must have added to the song’s international appeal. Her shared victory at Eurovision started a long career for Lenny Kuhr in her own country, with several hits, but not one of them surpassed the success of her troubadour debut. Teach-In - pop wins for the Dutch By the mid-70s, Eurovision had almost completely changed in musical terms. Gone were the days of ballads and chansons. It was all pop songs by the time Stockholm hosted the event in 1975, with quite a few countries trying to copy the success of Abba from Sweden, who had won the year before. Holland's entry, Ding-a-dong by Teach-In, was the first song in the show and also won rather easily, with Let me be the one by UK veterans The Shadows as the only serious competition. Teach-In, with bubbly vocals by female singer Getty Kaspers, was an existing Dutch pop group, but they did not enjoy a lengthy hit career after their victory. In later years, when Eurovision nostalgia became more and more fashionable, Getty was often asked to look back, and felt free to complain about the none too coherent English lyrics of their winning song. In fact, Ding-a-dong was one of those iconic Eurovision songs where nobody worried too much about what it all meant. Trijntje Oosterhuis - this year's Dutch hopeful And now it's 2015. The Netherlands has not won a contest since 1975 and hardly ever made the top half of the scoreboard. In fact, since semi-finals were invented to cope with the arrival of so many new countries, the Netherlands consistently failed to qualify for the final. That has now changed, probably because the Dutch broadcasters stopped sending contestants who were complete unknowns. Instead, experienced singers and songwriters actually want to take part these days, resulting in satisfying positions on the scoreboard. Last year, country duo The Common Linnets came second after Conchita Wurst - the best result since 1975. This year Trijntje Oosterhuis represents the Netherlands. And talking about experience: she's been a pop singer for 25 years. Her song (Walk along) was written by rock singer Anouk, who sang for the country herself in 2013, finishing ninth, ending a long run of flops. Trijntje Oosterhuis will appear fourth in the first semi-final on May 19.  More >