Dutch live industry furious about indoor capacity limit
Key figures from the Netherlands’ live sector say the new 75%-capacity limit for indoor standing events is “unsubstantiated, arbitrary and extremely harmful”.
The measure was announced yesterday (14 September) by the Dutch government as part of a wider rollback of restrictions, planned for 25 September.
The live industry, which recently galvanised more than 150,000 residents to protest restrictions on live entertainment, has hit back at the government for delaying a full reopening.
“As a sector, we have really done everything we can to influence decision-making and provide substantiation to be fully open. But imaging apparently outweighs facts,” says Jolanda Jansen, spokesperson on behalf of the Alliance of Event Builders.
Riemer Rijpkema, spokesperson on behalf of the EventPlatform adds: “We are surprised and disappointed about the choices made by the cabinet. From all the studies of the Fieldlab Events programme and now also from the countless examples from the countries around us, it is clear that events can open safely at full capacity. The 75% limit is unsubstantiated, arbitrary and extremely harmful.”
Indoor events, clubs and venues will also be required to close between 00:00 and 06:00 CET.
The Dutch government today (15 September) has attempted to soften the blow by announcing a €15 million fund to compensate promoters and venues for lost revenue from indoor standing shows.
Ruben Brouwer, director at Mojo, calls the compensation “a blanket for the bleeding”
However, Ruben Brouwer, director at Mojo, calls the compensation “a blanket for the bleeding”.
“Why is 75% good and safe, and 100% not? They don’t explain that. Then you have a bag of money here to make up for the shortages. I think every organiser has to decide what to do next: am I going to organise it or should I cancel it? This is too little, too late.”
Also from 25 September, social distancing will be completely abolished and capacity limits will not apply to outdoor events.
However, the corona pass will be a condition of entry for everyone aged 13 and over who wants to visit an event, festival, theatre, cinema or catering facility.
Attendees at multi-day events will be required to show their corona pass every 24 hours.
The news comes too late for many major festivals such as Lowlands, Mysteryland, DGTL, Down the Rabbit Hole, Awakenings and Paaspop, which were called off earlier this year.
Amsterdam Music Festival, the Netherlands’ largest indoor music festival, was cancelled yesterday (15 September).
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Dutch gov to ease restrictions as 150,000 protest
Multi-day events and festivals in the Netherlands will likely be able to take place from 25 September under certain conditions.
According to nu.ul, the Dutch government is deciding on the conditions today, ahead of a press conference tomorrow (14 September) evening.
The conditions, which will be based on findings from Fieldlab Evenementen, will likely include a 75% capacity limit.
The cabinet is also considering how Covid certification and testing could aid the sector’s reopening.
“The culture sector is getting better news than has been leaked”
Culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven provided a glimmer of hope during her appearance on the Good Morning Netherlands programme this morning, saying: “The culture sector is getting better news than has been leaked so far. I am hopeful that things will go in the right direction tomorrow, also for the events.”
The news comes after an estimated 150,000 people across ten cities took part in the second Unmute Us protest on Saturday (11 September) to demand the immediate restart of major events.
Saturday’s march was the largest-ever protest in the Netherlands, more than doubling the attendance of the first demonstration on 21 August which drew 70,000.
“This second flawlessly organised demonstration proves once again how strong our industry is in this area”
More than 4,000 organisations joined the movement, including festivals Lowlands, Mysteryland, DGTL, Down the Rabbit Hole, Awakenings and Paaspop – all of which have been cancelled this year due to restrictions.
Ruben Brouwer, director at Mojo, which promotes Down the Rabbit Hole, Lowlands and Paaspop among others, says: “Our industry consists of professionals who can organise large-scale public events well, neatly and safely.
“This second flawlessly organised demonstration proves once again how strong our industry is in this area. The event industry has proven time and again that it can organise events safely. So there can be no other cabinet decision than full opening on 14 September.”
The protest comes after the Dutch government extended the ban on large-scale events until at least 19 September amid fears over the spread of the highly infectious delta variant.
4,000+ organisers register for second ‘Unmute Us’ march
Dutch campaign group Unmute Us has already enlisted the support of 4,000 organisers for its second protest against the government’s restrictions on live events.
The first march took place on 21 August across six Dutch cities with around 2,000 event organisers and 70,000 people in what was the largest demonstration in the Netherlands since 2004.
Recently, the campaign group threatened the government with an even larger demonstration if its questions are left unanswered, since registering twice the amount of organisers than the original march as well as six new cities.
The group met with ministers yesterday evening (2 September) to discuss their eight key questions to the ‘arbitrary, incomprehensible and unjust’ event restrictions but did not come away with any resolutions.
“It is still inexplicable that in countries around us, measures from Fieldlab Events are being used but our sector is shut”
“The ministers have listened to the arguments and indicated that they will take them into account in their decision-making towards the next press conference on 14 September. That’s great, but no commitment and no reason to cancel Unmute Us,” says Jasper Goossen, co-initiator and spokesperson for Unmute Us.
“We detect an enormous willingness to take action, not only among the organisers but also among the public. And we want to reinforce our story and our arguments by taking to the streets en masse. Because it is still inexplicable that in countries around us, measures from Fieldlab Events are being used but that our sector is virtually shut down here.”
Unmute Us will hold the second march on 11 September at 2 pm CEST across eleven cities.
Leiden, Maastricht, Enschede, The Hague and Tilburg have joined the second protest march as new cities, while Groningen, Eindhoven, Nijmegen, Utrecht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam are once again taking part. More cities are expected to be announced in the coming period.
The campaign has already drawn support from leading organisers such as Ziggo Dome, Awakenings, Down The Rabbit Hole, DGTL, A State of Trance Festival, Amsterdam Open Air, Best Kept Secret, Defqon, Dekmantel Festival, Lowlands, Mysteryland and Paaspop. More information can be found on the Unmute Us website.
‘Unmute Us’ threatens Dutch gov with larger protest
Unmute Us, the Dutch event industry campaign group behind Saturday’s mass protest march, has threatened the government with an even larger demonstration if its questions are left unanswered.
The march, which involved around 2,000 event organisers including Lowlands, Mysteryland and Paaspop, saw 70,000 people protest the ‘arbitrary, incomprehensible and unjust’ event restrictions in what was the largest demonstration in the Netherlands since 2004.
Now, the campaign group is threatening to announce “new and larger” demonstrations if the government doesn’t answer the eight questions presented in an open letter.
A number of the eight questions refer to findings from three months’ worth of pilot events in the Netherlands that show the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home.
These pilots were organised by Fieldlab – an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies.
The group asks why the government is ignoring the Fieldlab results while neighbouring country Belgium (which reportedly has the same percentage of vaccinated and infected) is using the report as a basis to organise large festivals.
“Do you realise that with these measures you are ruining the international leading position of the Dutch event industry?”
“What is suddenly wrong with the Fieldlab results while you, through [deputy prime minister] Hugo De Jonge, fully embraced them during the press conference on 28 May?” the group asks.
The letter also asks why are festivals potentially only allowed to open from 20 September, a week before the end of the festival season.
“What arguments do you have for choosing this specific date and not 1 September, the date on which we wish to open?” the group questions. “Do you realise that with these measures you are ruining the international leading position of the Dutch event industry?”
The letter also highlights issues around the government’s coronavirus support for the sector (which is due to end soon), the perceived betrayal of young people (most of whom got vaccinated in order to go to an event, according to the group) and the cabinet’s inconsistent response to communicable diseases.
The group has given the cabinet until next weekend to break recess and answer the eight questions before it takes further action.
“As you have noticed, we are able to mobilise large-scale protests, which, despite their size, remain positive and peaceful. But don’t confuse our peaceableness with complacency. Our patience has run out,” the letter concludes.
350+ Dutch fests join protest: “We will not be silenced”
More than 350 organisations from the Dutch event industry are backing a protest march against the government’s ‘arbitrary’ restrictions which have effectively wiped out the festival season.
Last Friday (13 August), the cabinet announced that the current restrictions preventing multi-day festivals with overnight stays will remain in force until 19 September – despite the promise they could take place again when everyone has been offered the vaccine.
The protest, dubbed ‘Unmute Us‘, has drawn support from some of the Netherlands’ biggest and best-known festivals such as DGTL, A State of Trance Festival, Amsterdam Open Air, Awakenings, Best Kept Secret, Defqon, Dekmantel Festival, Down The Rabbit Hole, Lowlands, Mysteryland and Paaspop.
While many of the aforementioned festivals have been cancelled as a result of government restrictions, other large events outside of the live music industry have been permitted to take place with hundreds of thousands of attendees.
“Elsewhere in society there is room for full football stadiums and overcrowded fairgrounds, but safely organised events are not given any space. And that has been the case since the start of the pandemic, more than a year and a half ago,” reads a statement on the ‘Unmute Us’ website.
“It is measured with two measures, with the message that Formula 1 in Zandvoort (operating at two-thirds of its normal capacity, with 105,000 visitors per day) can continue as an exception for the time being. It shows a total undermining and misjudgment of everyone who cares about culture and nightlife.”
“The studies and results are a painful reminder that at this point not corona, but politics is the cause of a festival-free summer”
The organisations involved point out that it was the government itself, along with Fieldlab, that conducted months of scientific research and pilot events to determine whether festivals could be organised safely.
It was ultimately revealed that, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, the risk of Covid-19 infection at concerts and festivals is about the same as being at home.
“The studies and results are a painful reminder that at this point not corona, but politics is the cause of a festival-free summer and uncertain future,” the ‘Unmute Us’ manifesto continues.
As well as event organisers, it is hoped that the campaign will galvanise young festivalgoers who have ‘been delivered empty promises by the government and kept on mute’.
“With ‘Unmute Us’ we make a fist. We are sending out a clear signal to The Hague: it can no longer be done like this, we will not be silenced. The sector asks for a clear plan for the future, with measurable agreements, but also for recognition of the emotional state of the many visitors and makers who do not feel heard. We want to be able to meet again, laugh and dance again. Above all, we want to be able to look ahead again.”
The ‘Unmute Us’ protest march will take place on Saturday 21 August in various Dutch cities.
ID&T drops lawsuit against Dutch government
ID&T says it sees no legal grounds to advance with the preliminary injunction proceedings against the Dutch government for its restrictions on live music events.
Earlier this week, the government announced that only small, one-day festivals will be permitted to take place in the Netherlands this summer due to the number of Covid-19 infections and hospital admissions.
In response, the lawyer representing ID&T and more than 40 co-claimants from the live industry contacted the state lawyer to request the Outbreak Management Team’s (OMT) advice and the substantiation of the decision.
After deliberation between all parties, ID&T says it has become clear that the current summary proceedings cannot be continued.
Rosanne Janmaat, COO of the ID&T group says: “We are extremely disappointed in the outcome of the decision. In our opinion, Fieldlab Events has shown that it is possible to organise events in a safe and responsible way, but the cabinet has decided otherwise. Despite this, our lawyers have indicated that, in view of the OMT advice on which the cabinet’s decisions are substantiated this time, there is little chance of overturning the decision by means of summary proceedings.”
“We assume that the cabinet will soon take a structural decision and that we will be able to fully open again in September”
On 13 August, the current decision on live music events will be reconsidered by the cabinet.
“We assume that the cabinet will soon take a fundamental and structural decision and that we will be able to fully open again in September,” continues Janmaat.
“After all, it has always been communicated that when everyone who wants to has been able to vaccinate, that is the way out. If the government lets us dangle again and does not offer a sustainable future perspective, we will prepare possible legal steps and perhaps even call on our entire supporters of fans, suppliers, artists, etc. to mobilise and make themselves heard.”
The Dutch promoter – known for events such as Mysteryland, Sensation, Milkshake and Decibel Outdoor – announced the summary proceedings in early July after the government reimposed Covid restrictions weeks after they were lifted.
ID&T was then joined by more than 40 event organisations including Event Warehouse/Paaspop, DGTL and F1 Dutch Grand Prix Zandvoort.
Dutch festival organisers dealt another big blow
Only small, one-day festivals will be permitted to take place in the Netherlands this summer, the Dutch government has announced.
From 14 August, events with a maximum of 750 attendees can take place provided they meet a series of restrictions.
Attendees must be fully vaccinated, recovered from infection within the past six months, or present a negative test from Testing for Access. Visitors are also asked to take a test five days after the event. The events are not allowed closed festival tents.
Multi-day festivals with overnight stays are not allowed until at least 1 September, after the government last week extended the ban.
Events that cannot meet the aforementioned restrictions will not be covered by the government’s guarantee fund.
In addition to the measures for the event sector, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte also announced that those who get the Janssen jab will not be considered fully vaccinated until four weeks after, rather than two.
“[The government’s decision is] a bitter pill for the industry that has been closed for so long”
The Alliance of Event Builders (Alliantie van Evenementenbouwers) has reacted to the news: “Unfortunately, we conclude that the government is once again imposing a major restriction on the events today. As a result, the event industry is again faced with serious disappointment.
“After the multi-day festivals with camping last week, many one-day festivals and multi-day festivals without camping are now also deleted from the summer calendar. A hard decision and of course another big blow, a very sad observation and bitter pill for the industry that has been closed for so long.
“We will soon resume talks [with the government] for the period after 1 September. With the further increase in vaccination coverage and the insights from the Fieldlab Events studies, the Alliance is committed to a responsible, full opening of the planned events.”
Initially, the government was due to give a decision on one-day events without overnight stays on 13 August but the date was brought forward at the request of the events sector.
It’s like that the summary proceedings that promoter ID&T filed against the government also played a role in bringing the decision forward.
The event organiser – which has been forced to cancel events including Mysteryland – and 44 industry peers have filed a lawsuit against the government because they believed a decision on 13 August would be too late. The preliminary relief proceedings have been temporarily adjourned pending today’s decision.
The lawyer representing ID&T and co-claimants has contacted the state lawyer to request the Outbreak Management Team’s advice and the substantiation of the decision. ID&T will consider these documents and decide within two days whether the summary proceedings will be continued.
Lessons learnt from ‘super-spreader’ festival
Verknipt, an outdoor festival in the Netherlands, has become a cautionary tale for the sector after it recorded more than 1,000 Covid infections among 20,000 attendees.
The two-day event took place in Utrecht in early July and all attendees were required to show a QR code that demonstrated that they were either vaccinated, had recently had a Covid infection, or had a negative Covid test.
Despite the festival’s entry requirements, the event recorded 1,100 infections among the attendees, prompting the municipal health service (GGD) of Utrecht to investigate the origin of the infections, as well as suspected large-scale fraud with test tickets.
The GGD checked the pathways of nearly 400 infected Verknipt visitors from the province of Utrecht and concluded that at least 34% of those surveyed were likely Covid-positive even before they arrived at the site, it was reported by de Volkskrant.
The festival accepted negative rapid tests taken up to 40 hours prior to the event, meaning attendees had a significant window in which they could become unknowingly infected. Experts said the timeframe was ‘far too long’.
“We should have had a 24 hour [period], that would be a lot better because in 40 hours people can do a lot of things”
Lennart van Trigt, a spokesman for the Utrecht health board, or GGD, previously said: “This period is too long. We should have had a 24 hour [period], that would be a lot better because in 40 hours people can do a lot of things like visiting friends and going to bars and clubs.”
According to the GGD’s research, about 90% of the infected festivalgoers surveyed had attended multiple other social events earlier that week at which they may have become infected – following the relaxation of nightlife restrictions on 26 June.
The GGD was not able to trace the other infected festivalgoers from other regions and stressed that the research is not complete. The health service found no indications of large-scale fraud involving test tickets.
Another issue was that residents in the Netherlands could get a Covid pass for the festival immediately after being vaccinated and didn’t have to show a negative Covid test, though research shows it takes several weeks for immunity to build following a Covid vaccine.
“It is striking that 34% of the infected festival-goers we examined were already infected,” says the spokesperson for the GGD region of Utrecht. You can’t blame the youngsters, she thinks. “They had heard from the government that they were allowed to party.”
Just over two weeks after the Netherlands’ rollback of restrictions, Covid cases increased exponentially and the Dutch prime minister acknowledged that the cabinet made an error of judgment.
The easing has largely been reversed in the weeks following as the government this week extended its ban on multi-day events until September, resulting in the cancellation of major events such as Lowlands, Down the Rabbit Hole and Mysteryland.
More than 30 other event organisations including Event Warehouse/Paaspop, DGTL and F1 Dutch Grand Prix Zandvoort joined ID&T as co-plaintiffs in its legal proceedings against the Dutch government over the “carelessly prepared” restrictions.
Dutch gov delivers death knell for summer festivals
Dutch festivals such as Lowlands, Down the Rabbit Hole and Mysteryland, will not be permitted to take place this summer after the government extended its ban on multi-day events until September.
The ban on non-seated public events and multi-day festivals with more than 1,000 attendees came into effect on 10 July and was set to remain until 14 August, when the government would decide whether festivals after that date could go ahead.
However, the cabinet has sealed the fate of the summer season sooner than expected, ruling out multi-day festivals until at least 1 September due to uncertainties surrounding the Delta variant of Covid.
Following the news, Mojo-promoted event A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (aka Lowlands), which would have taken place between 20–22 August, has been called off for a second consecutive year.
“This is a very bitter pill because the developments surrounding corona have clearly gone in the right direction in recent months,” says Mojo. “Based on that, we started the preparations for Lowlands full of enthusiasm and all artists, suppliers and especially you were ready for a fantastic weekend in the polder. While this is a major setback, we understand and respect [the government’s] decision.”
“This is a very bitter pill because the developments surrounding corona have clearly gone in the right direction”
All Lowlands ticket buyers will automatically receive a refund for tickets purchased in 2020 and 2021. The next edition of the festival is set for 19–21 August 2022.
The organisers thanked the government for setting up the €385 million insurance fund, which they say would guarantee the survival of the sector, as well as Lowlands itself.
Mojo has also been forced to cancel Down the Rabbit Hole, which had already moved from July to the weekend of 27–29 August for a one-off visit to the Biddinghuizen (home of Lowlands).
“No matter how big that setback is, we respect that decision and are happy with the life preservation buoy in the form of a guarantee fund that allows us to support artists, suppliers, caterers, and all the other thousands of hands that make Down The Rabbit Hole,” says Mojo.
All ticket buyers will automatically receive a refund for tickets purchased in 2020 and 2021. Down the Rabbit Hole will return to its usual home of Groene Huvels in Beuningen between 1–3 July 2022.
“No matter how big that setback is, we respect that decision and are happy with the guarantee fund – a life preservation buoy”
Mysteryland (cap. 60,000), the Netherlands’ oldest and most famous electronic music festival, will also forego 2021 due to the extension of the ban.
This year’s sold-out edition was due to take place between 27–29 August in Haarlemmermeerse Bos in north Amsterdam.
The festival’s promoter ID&T, along with a raft of Dutch event organisers, recently initiated summary proceedings against the government over the initial ban on multi-day festivals.
“We understand that this isn’t the news you were hoping for, and it breaks our heart to share it with you,” ID&T wrote.
“During the last months, our whole team has been pushing the limit, working day and night to create what would’ve been the most magical weekend of the year, while also complying with the changing regulations set by the Dutch government. With only a month to go till a sold-out Mysteryland would’ve taken place, all stages and shows were ready for our festival adventure, but unfortunately, it seems it wasn’t meant to be this year.”
“Unfortunately, the Alliance jointly with the government had to conclude that [multi-day festivals] are an unfeasible scenario”
Elsewhere, the Alliance of Event Builders says that it understands the cabinet decision: “Over the past few weeks, we have had intensive consultations with the government about the conditions under which multi-day camping festivals such as Lowlands and Mysteryland can continue.
“Unfortunately, the Alliance jointly with the government had to conclude that we have now been overtaken by reality and that this has become an unfeasible scenario. The quality and responsible festival experience for visitors, employees and artists cannot be sufficiently guaranteed.”
Organisers of one-day festivals will have to wait until August before the government decides whether or not they can continue with their event. The same applies to other one-day events without overnight stays.
The government’s tightening of restrictions comes in spite of Fieldlab’s findings from three months’ worth of pilot events in the Netherlands show that the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home.
Fieldlab is an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies, including the Alliance of Event Builders.
ID&T joined by raft of co-plaintiffs for gov case
More than 30 other event organisations including Event Warehouse/Paaspop, DGTL and F1 Dutch Grand Prix Zandvoort are joining ID&T as co-plaintiffs in its legal proceedings against the Dutch government.
ID&T, known for events such as Mysteryland, Sensation, Milkshake and Decibel Outdoor, announced on Friday (9 July) that it will initiate summary proceedings against the Dutch government over new Covid restrictions, which have been reimposed just weeks after they were lifted.
The co-plaintiffs say that the Dutch government’s decision to categorically ban non-seated public events and multi-day festivals until 14 August is “carelessly prepared and incorrect”.
The organisers have asked the judge in preliminary relief proceedings for permission to allow public events that meet the Fieldlab conditions.
Fieldlab’s conditions for organising a safe event, without social distancing, are based on findings from three months’ worth of pilot events, and have been endorsed by the Dutch government.
Dutch prime minister Rutte said the government won’t give any more clarity until 14 August for events after that date, leaving organisers in the dark.
“It is inexplicable to not have clarity of the conditions under which we can organise the event three weeks prior to the event”
Ritty van Straalen, CEO of ID&T, says: “We are overwhelmed by the support we received from our visitors, artists and partners in the past days. The fact that so many parties in the market are joining us reflects perfectly what the impact is on the entire public events industry.”
Imre van Leeuwen, managing director at F1 Dutch Grand Prix Zandvoort, says: “As a large-scale sports event, we deal with a long lead time and large financial risks. For us it is also inexplicable internationally to not have clarity of the conditions under which we can organise the event three weeks prior to the event. It’s even more disappointing that, despite the good work of Fieldlab Events and the high vaccination rate the Netherlands has achieved, we may not be able to make the event a huge success with the whole world watching.”
Joop Soree, CEO of The Event Warehouse, organiser of one of the biggest festivals in the Netherlands, Paaspop, and WiSH Outdoor, among others: “We join ID&T and the imminent summary proceedings because of the enormous (financial) consequences caused by the lack of clarity. We need to know where we, and the events industry, stand.”
The other parties that have joined the summary proceedings are Don’t Let Daddy Know, 24-uurs Solexrace, 4PM Entertainment, A Venue Events, Absolutely Fresh, Apenkooi, Apex Event Productions, BeetjeDansen Events, BZB, Chasing the Hihat, De Wijze Uil and E&A.
Elevations Events, Feestfabriek, First Vision, HockeyLoverz, Intents Events, Life Over Future, Minority Events, Nomads, One of the Guys, Par-T, Rebirth Events, Rotterdam Dance Parade, Sensation Events, Sportvibes, Thuishaven Events, Toffler, Trees of Live, UDC, and ZeeZout have also joined.