Unmute Us to meet with Cabinet over coronavirus bans of festivals, events
Caretaker Minister Stef Blok (Economic Affairs) has not yet made any commitments to the events sector in response to protests by Unmute Us. He is willing to speak with the representatives of the festivals that have banded together to form the protest group. He will schedule a meeting with them for next week, Blok promised on Friday.
This pledge from the Cabinet is the first after last weekend's protest marches. The events sector is angry that festivals and concerts are still not allowed, while tens of thousands of people are allowed in football stadiums and at Formula 1.
Because there was no response from the outgoing Cabinet, Unmute Us demanded a meeting earlier this week. "It is their wish to further open up, but we have to weigh that against the task of also having to continue to control this virus," Blok said. For the Unmute Us action, demonstrators took the the streets on Saturday in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Groningen, Eindhoven and Nijmegen. They want events to be allowed to take place again at full capacity from 1 September. Many organizers have accused the Cabinet of being disrespectful towards the profession.
The Council for Culture said it deeply understands the many questions from the sector about the coronavirus measures. "We share the disappointment about the cancellation of various festivals and events," wrote chair Kristel Baele on the advisory board's website. "In the meantime, sufficient expertise has been built up about what is possible and safe. Unfortunately, this expertise cannot yet be fully deployed. That could be stepped up a notch," she said.
She pointed to the Unmute Us protests. "The call for wider possibilities for festivals has received a strong response, but hardly ever from politicians. This is especially difficult for young people to understand. The Council for Culture believes that their request for more solidarity concerns us all, and it deserves to be heard and to be answered," the Council leader said.
The economic setback from the coronavirus pandemic appears to be limited for the time being, she wrote, but according to her this does not apply to the cultural sector. "Especially not for cultural freelancers and young producers. They excel in perseverance and resilience, while they have been hit disproportionately hard by the successive measures, and the economic support reaches them to a lesser extent. So let's do everything possible now."
Many leaders in the events sector accused the Cabinet of disdain towards this enormous professional group. In a letter that the organization behind Unmute Us sent earlier this week, ten questions were asked to caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the caretaker ministers, including why festivals can't start again until September 20 and whether the ministers are familiar with the Fieldlab results.
They also asked whether Prime Minister Rutte understands that his cabinet "will go down in history as the caretaker cabinet that single-handedly killed its national cultural sector".
Reporting by ANP