Minister locks up three Dutch radio DJs

Serious Request
The 2014 edition of 3FM Serious Request kicks off Thursday, December 18 (photo: 3FM)The 2014 edition of 3FM Serious Request kicks off Thursday, December 18 (photo: 3FM)

Dutch foreign trade and development minister Lilianne Ploumen showed three radio DJs into their confined space, a glass room in Haarlem’s Grote Markt and promptly locked the door behind them Thursday evening. The 3FM personalities, Gerard Ekdom, Coen Swijnenberg and Domien Verschuuren will sleep and work in the house for one week as they raise money for charity, with the theme “Hands off Our Girls.” 

They do not get to eat for the week, getting only nutrition shakes instead of food. Over 2.4 million euros has already been raised through Sunday afternoon for this year's campaign.

It all started in 2004 and has grown into a “serious” event, moving people into action nationwide. Serious Request is an annual fundraising campaign hosted by Dutch radio station 3FM.

Each year three radio DJ’s voluntarily lock themselves into a glass house, which is positioned on a central square in a Dutch town. From here they broadcast live radio 24/7 in the week leading up to Christmas.

The name “Serious Request” refers to the songs people can request for money during the week. But the record breaking 12 million euro raised in the 2013 edition wasn’t merely generated by tunes. Thousands of people, organizations, clubs, companies and schools throughout the country concocted lucrative activities to collect money.

A hundred percent of the proceeds go to the Red Cross and is spent on a different theme, chosen annually. Previously these have varied from helping single mothers in war-struck countries, to improving drinking water, and helping child soldiers victimized in Congo.

This years’ topic is about women and girls who have fallen victim to sexual abuse in war-torn regions.

“As there is a big taboo on this subject, we think it is important to give these girls a voice and generate money,” says station manager Wilbert Mutsaers.

Veteran glass house DJ Gerard Ekdom adds, “Medical aid, such as morning after pills and check-ups are necessary, as well as counseling, safe houses and more general awareness.”

As many as 700,000 people are expected to visit Haarlem during the event, making it the most long-lasting party of the year. But television items on the chosen topic, which are broadcast online and shown on several television shows throughout the week remind people of what is really at stake.

“This is probably the heaviest topic we’ve focused on so far,” says DJ Coen Swijnenberg. “I talked to an 18year old girl who was held hostage for three years and was liberated just three months ago. She was holding a baby in her arms, a child of one of her assaulters,” he says.

“It is very important to keep in mind why it is we are doing this and conveying that while in the house.”

The strong sense of community, felt both through the fundraising activities across the country and around the glass house itself, not only helps the people the money is aimed at, but brings people together, creating goose bump moments along the way.

Serious Request has expanded rapidly over time, with events also held in Belgium, Switzerland, Kenya, Sweden, South Korea, Austria, Lithuania and Portugal.

The three radio personalities will be released from their glass house on Wednesday, December 24.