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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.

 


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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.

 


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‘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.

 


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70,000 take part in ‘Unmute Us’ protest march

Tens of thousands of people took part in the ‘Unmute Us’ protest march in cities across the Netherlands on Saturday (21 August).

The march, spearheaded by the Dutch event industry and attended by festivalgoers, called on the Dutch government to end the ‘arbitrary’ restrictions that have effectively written off the festival summer.

Around 70,000 people attended the marches in Eindhoven, Groningen, Nijmegen, Utrecht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, including more than 2,000 parties from the Dutch event industry.

Ziggo Dome, Awakenings, Down The Rabbit Hole, Soenda, Apenkooi Events, Vunzige Deuntjes, and Kultlab were among the event companies that hosted floats in their home cities.

The event also drew support from the likes of DGTL, A State of Trance Festival, Amsterdam Open Air, Best Kept Secret, Defqon, Dekmantel Festival, Lowlands, Mysteryland and Paaspop.

The protest marches were reinforced by performances from DJs and artists such as Ryan Marciano, Joris Voorn, Goldband, Bizzey, Sandrien and Joost van Bellen and speeches by Kluun, Tim van Delft (De Staat), Lusanne Bouwmans (D66) and Michiel Veenstra (3FM).

“The fact that an ambitious idea can grow into a real movement in such a short time is typical of our field”

“I had so many goosebumps all day. This is our scene, this is what we live for. Happy people, music and positivity. I only now realise how terribly I missed this,” says Bram Merkx, initiator of Unmute Us.

Jasper Goossen, co-owner of Apenkooi Events (DGTL, Amsterdam Open Air, Elrow Amsterdam), says: “Today we issued the best possible business card. The fact that an ambitious idea can grow into a real movement in such a short time is typical of our field. I am very proud of our entire industry. We now expect a quick response from The Hague.”

The protest comes after the Dutch government banned large-scale events such as festivals until at least 19 September amid fears over the spread of the highly infectious delta variant.

One-day events with a maximum of 750 visitors are allowed for people with a Covid-19 app showing they have been vaccinated, have recently tested negative or have recovered from a case in the past six months.

The organisers of Unmute Us want the ban lifted by 1 September, which would still come too late for festivals such as Down the Rabbit Hole (27–29 August), A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (20–22 August) and Mysteryland (27–29 August).

 


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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.

 


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