There they are again, all the cultural organisations, at their stalls with leaflets and special offers. Eagerly, people from Amsterdam and the provinces turn out to walk around and browse. And mostly to watch short performances at one of the venues. There’s something for everyone. Snack bars everywhere. A beer on the side. In short: fun, or ‘gezellig!’
But then….rain. Lots of rain – which is also traditional. The Museumplein is soaked. Metres of plastic coverings, and wooden planks laid here and there to make the site a bit more passable. Without an umbrella, you’d be wiser to stay home. Bring your wellies! Soaked grass and mud. Downpour after downpour.
The season couldn’t have had a more symbolic start, now that the water is lapping at the shores of the cultural sector. And that was the topic of the Uitmarkt debate, which was organised in Paradiso for the 9th time. With politicians, lord mayors and aldermen on the stage and ‘the cultural world’ in the auditorium. From four o’clock, there was detailed discussion of the enormous cuts that will be hitting the sector. After all, the tide of misery is rising: cuts of 200 million Euros – plus the VAT increase, which has already started and immediately led to a dramatic reduction in ticket pre-sales. But if one thing was clear from the debate, it was that the eye of the storm has not even hit us yet, as the local councils still have to determine their cuts. And as they have a far bigger share in the total funding of art and culture than central government, the skirmishes in The Hague before the summer could turn out to be small fry compared to what’s yet to come. In short, it was an invigorating afternoon in Paradiso.
Those who were sitting in the Stadsschouwburg at the same time had better luck, as the Dutch National Ballet were performing there to an enthusiastic audience. Incidentally, it had looked for a moment as if the performance wouldn’t be taking place, as the Uitmarkt organisation announced that a set had to remain on stage, making the dance space considerably smaller. And there would be a hard ridge sticking up on the stage. All the alarm bells began ringing at the ballet office. You can’t send dancers on stage when there’s a risk of tripping. So if all the stuff had to stay on the stage – which appeared to be the case – then the Dutch National Ballet would just stay at home on Sunday afternoon. This was followed by much phoning and e-mailing, occasionally in a less than diplomatic tone of voice. Everyone understood that this problem had to be solved. And so it was. We combined forces to lay a dance floor over the stage that was removed immediately after the performance. Lots of work and lots of fuss, but it was possible.
What wasn’t possible was dancing the solo from 5 Tango's on a wet (i.e. slippery!) stage. So while Matthew Golding prepared to perform at the Uitmarkt Opening Show on Friday evening (live on TV!), he watched the clouds darken the sky in alarm. And not without reason. Ten minutes before he was due to go on, the heavens opened and the rain bucketed down. In the tent right next to the stage where all the TV equipment was set up, the tarpaulin threatened to give way under this downpour. In order to save all this expensive equipment, the pool of water in the dangerously sagging tarpaulin was pushed out – successfully. One great splash and the equipment was safe. But now there was water all over the stage…
To all appearances, Matthew remained calm. He took off his ballet shoes and put on his trainers. He must have had cold feet. He couldn’t do a proper warm-up anyway; there was no room. The stage was hard – there was no dance floor – so jumping would be more difficult. And now there were slippery patches as well. And anyway, the space on stage between the Bigband musicians is actually too small for his solo. But there he goes, our star. Because, as he says later, it’s important that we’ve been on TV. It’s important to take part in such days and to be seen. And indeed it is. And that’s why we’ll be there next year as well, at the art circus they call the Uitmarkt. Presumably in the rain again. Although I can remember once being sunburnt after a hot day at the Uitmarkt. Must make a note for next year: don’t forget the sun cream. After all, the motto is ‘think positive’ – even after (or maybe precisely after!) the Paradiso debate.