A considerable number of meetings were needed in order to reach this point. First, an external consultancy assisted with making an overview of all the maintenance needed for The Amsterdam Music Theatre. Impressive lists were produced. Besides regular maintenance work like touching up the floor coating, periodic paintwork and the annual checks of lifts and installations, they included investments needed to keep the quality of the building and facilities up to scratch. Periodic renewal of the theatre technology, for example, replacing the seats in the auditorium, and renovating the public spaces. Because even though The Amsterdam Music Theatre is a modern building, it is already almost 25 years old. And the standards set for theatres nowadays are very different to those of 25 years ago. So the external advisors also calculated the costs of some really necessary innovations, such as the creation of a reception area for sponsors. 25 years ago, there was hardly any question of sponsorship for culture, but nearly every theatre today has one or more separate rooms where receptions can take place without disturbing the rest of the audience. Except for our theatre.
The Amsterdam Music Theatre receives money from the City of Amsterdam to carry out maintenance and make investments, as the building is the property of the City. But the external advisors’ efforts produced such high figures that we were millions short. And the City couldn’t cover that difference, so we had to look in great detail at where we could make do with less, what could be postponed and where the advisors had calculated the standard amounts for the commercial sector rather than the cultural sector with its lower budgets. And so the MIOP Working Party was set up.
It’s been a success, as the Working Party has now managed to make choices in the maintenance and investment programme that mean we don’t exceed the available budget. But there are consequences, of course. Because sacrifices have to be made in the quality and scope of the maintenance of offices and work spaces, in order to invest in public spaces. This investment is really necessary, as little has been done to the ‘front of house’, as the public spaces are called, for far too long. The catering facilities, the furniture and the signposting all need modernising. There are too few ladies’ toilets. There is a lack of modern information equipment, such as big screens with programme information and videos. All these issues will be dealt with in the coming years, if the MIOP Working Party has anything to do with it, as we have proved it possible in big multi-coloured spreadsheets with graphs covering many years.
This prospect means that spirits are rising with every Working Party meeting, including this one – even if we know the race is not won yet. The board still has to come to a decision, the City of Amsterdam has to be consulted, the Supervisory Board has its say and the Works Council has already been asking questions. However, the necessity of investing in the theatre will not be up for discussion by the parties concerned. Everywhere in Amsterdam, theatres are being built (Rabozaal in the Stadsschouwburg, De la Mar and Muziekgebouw aan het IJ) or renovated (Concertgebouw and Carré). The Amsterdam Music Theatre cannot remain behind. It’s sink or swim.