Several cultural institutions and festivals in Utrecht have been left shocked and bewildered by the recent news of a loss of subsidies. The recommendations made by the committee in charge of distributing cultural subsidies in Utrecht have hit hard at various institutions and festivals that have been closely associated with the city for years. The lobbying efforts of these organizations have already begun, and we will now take a look at some of their reactions.

How was the recommendation actually formulated?
Every four years, the municipality publishes the so-called Culture Note. This document outlines the city’s cultural policy. Based on this document, which is titled “Kleur Bekennen” this time around, institutions can apply for a four-year subsidy. A committee established by the municipality, consisting of 29 members who do not work for the municipality to ensure independence, evaluated all the applications.

The applications were assessed based on the criteria of Artistic-Content Quality, Significance for the city, and Feasibility. Each of these criteria could receive a maximum of 30 points, totaling 90 points. Additionally, an integral review was conducted to assess the contribution of cultural institutions or festivals to Utrecht’s cultural ecosystem, with a maximum of 60 points available. In total, an organization could score a maximum of 150 points.

Furthermore, the committee had to consider four pillars from the Municipality of Utrecht’s 2030 Cultural Vision: Pluriformity, an Inclusive Cultural Sector, Stimulating Creative Capacity, and Development Space. This process resulted in a ranking of cultural initiatives.

Both the 2030 Cultural Vision and the Culture Note are documents approved by a majority of the municipal council.

Out of 105 applications received, 5 were treated separately, while the remaining 100 applications requested over €23.7 million, which is more than €5.2 million above the available funds. “Tough choices were inevitable,” as stated in the final report.

The committee’s decisions may result in festivals or cultural institutions that have been closely tied to the city for many years facing financial difficulties or fearing closure. Let’s delve into some of the reactions from these organizations.

BAK, basis for contemporary art,
BAK, a basis for contemporary art, has been active in the city for 24 years. The organization has received over €620,000 in recent years and requested €700,000 annually for the future. However, if the municipality follows the recommendation, no funds will be allocated in the coming years. The organization responded with “shock and disbelief,” describing it as a “devastating blow.” BAK further expressed, “It is incomprehensible how the city of Utrecht wants to dismantle a portion of its own progressive cultural infrastructure, built over the past decades, with a single stroke of the pen.”

Technology and media often take center stage at IMPAKT. The organization received over €236,000 in recent years and requested €270,000 for the future, but their request was denied. The IMPAKT Festival was first organized in 1988 when it was known as the Culture Center EKKO. IMPAKT is the oldest media art festival in the Netherlands, with the organization expressing shock and bewilderment at the recommendation. They also highlighted the lack of investment by the municipality in visual arts and digital culture in the city.

The House Utrecht
Another major player likely to lose its subsidy is The House Utrecht, which receives over €439,000 annually. The institution requested €550,000 per year for the future, but the committee recommended allocating zero funds. Rebecca Sigmond, the director of the cultural institution, expressed being “shocked” and “disappointed,” stating, “We have existed for over eleven years, demonstrating our significance to the city.” The House is a place for performing arts where creative talent gathers to explore, experiment, and perform for the public. They are currently working on a manifesto and hope to influence the decision of the council through petitions.

Dutch Film Festival
This event, which has been associated with the city since 1981, has received over €576,000 annually in recent years. The Dutch Film Festival requested €600,000 annually for the future, but their plans were not deemed satisfactory by the advisory committee. The committee noted that the programming had shrunk each year. The festival expressed being “astonished” by the recommendation, emphasizing its longstanding roots and value to the city. The festival attracts around 90,000 visitors annually.

Another long-standing event in Utrecht is the Tweetakt Festival, which received over €336,000 in recent years and requested €490,000 annually for the future, a request that may be denied according to the advisory committee. The committee expressed being “somewhat surprised by the moderately convincing artistic quality of the plan for the coming years,” leading to Tweetakt’s disappointment with the recommendation.

Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Paul Broekhoff, stated, “If the council adopts this recommendation, it will mark the end of the over 20-year collaboration between the Municipality of Utrecht and the Tweetakt Festival, which moved to Utrecht in 2002 at the initiative of the municipal government.” Tweetakt finds the advisory committee’s conclusion unclear and unfounded. The festival also highlighted its inclusion in the Cultural Basic Infrastructure by the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science four years ago.

What’s next?
The council will review the recommendation, primarily focusing on whether it was formulated within the established frameworks. It is not common for the council to delve deeply into assessing the subsidy applications. Ultimately, the municipal council must also approve the decision as part of the complete municipal budget. It is expected that the aforementioned organizations will engage in significant lobbying efforts. In addition to rejected subsidy applications, there are, of course, numerous institutions that have received positive news.