New three-week closure further limits perspective

The current measures to tackle the corona pandemic, including the full closure of all theatre and concert venues, have been extended until 2 March. The Minister for Health, Welfare and Sport, Hugo de Jonge, presented a new itinerary at the press conference on 2 February. Theatres are to remain closed until at least 2 March, with very limited possibilities for reopening after that. The VSCD (Dutch Association of Theatres and Concert Halls) and the Taskforce of the Cultural and Creative Sector have issued statements.

The VSCD and the Taskforce are calling the extended closure and the new itinerary the latest in a string of setbacks. The Dutch stages want to return to the one and a half metre protocol, which would be safe and allow stages to begin recovery. VSCD Director Gabbi Mesters: “It seems as if the cabinet has already given up on the 2020-2021 theatre season. We were unpleasantly surprised to learn that the itinerary caps the number of visitors at 100 and that it abandons the one and a half metre protocol. For a concert hall such as the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam this would mean 250 fewer visitors per concert.”

The venues had expected cultural life in the Netherlands to resume in 2021, but after the latest announcement it looks as if this year will be even worse than 2020. During last year, the number of visitors to VSCD stages plummeted by 63% to 4.9 million in 2020, from 12.3 million in 2019.

The VSCD is calling upon the cabinet to devise an exit strategy with more vision and creativity. The Taskforce is counting on the cabinet to allow for proportionate and reasonable opportunities for the sector as the situation develops.

One bright spot is that the cabinet is now regularly updating the itinerary. The sector has expressed its faith in the development of a better road map, as the ‘small print’ indicates that the cabinet will investigate which conditions would allow for fitting alternative norms.