Manicure among the masterpieces: inside Amsterdam’s cultural lockdown fightback

Some of the jokes pushed the boundaries too: comparing the national Second World War freedom day to “the day that IKEA opened again”, or jesting about “feeling like Anne Frank with a Netflix account” during lockdown. But the audience response was warm, and deeply sympathetic.

And backed by theatre managing director Mr Tjon A Fong, the show went on. “I believe it’s more than just fun,” he said afterwards. “Taking things into the absurd also sometimes offers solutions to situations that you can’t solve only by talking or sheds a new light on topics. When I studied [in London], it was said that Winston Churchill – and I’m paraphrasing – said, ‘If we can’t fight for culture, or if culture isn’t taken into account, why bother?’”

At the Concertgebouw, the mood was equally bullish, despite an emailed warning from the city council. Dominik Winterling, managing director of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, said that while they are rehearsing to perform a streamed concert, there is nothing like performance in real life. “We want of course to draw attention to the fact that the cultural sector is still not open – and we believe that it is being treated unfairly,” he said, pointing out that international studies show fixed-seat cultural venues have a very low risk of spreading infection if safety measures are followed rigorously.

They are also, added Concertgebouw managing director Simon Reinink, specialised in crowd management.

“Our mission is to reach people with the power of symphonic music and this is what we want to do, in front of a public,” said Winterling, the orchestra warming up behind him and 50 seats full of people keen to hear the 45-minute rehearsal. “If you sit in a concert, you are a different person when you step out. This is our purpose – to reach people, inspire them and make their lives a little bit better.”

Across the road at the Van Gogh Museum – where checks were followed, the museum shop was open but the place was deserted apart from 20 hair and nail appointments – it was the same story. Nail stylist Loes Appels signed up because she was convinced there would be no safety risk for anyone and said it was a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to paint nails surrounded by masterpieces – and a peaceful demonstration she fully agreed with.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.