Door op 26 juni 2014

Arts & culture: more budget for innovation and brutal cuts at the same time – what’s the deal?

Magical cultural innovation ending in ruins?

 Call it coincidence. Newspaper De Limburger last Saturday published two articles – almost adjacent to each other – about the city’s proposals for investments and cuts for the upcoming years. Published in the “Kaderbrief”, the prelude to the city’s next year’s budget.

The Magical Maastricht event can count on a million euros support the next five years, whereas the budget for art and culture is hit by considerable cuts.

Both are allied to the city’s (eu)regional economy. Both supplying events and entertainment that make our Maastricht more attractive and valuable.

Our Alderman for Economical Affairs and Finance had lengthy meetings with the entrepreneurs involved in Magical Maastricht. Result: a million euros support for the event.

Politically a clever and shrewd strategy. Magical.

Our Alderman for Culture sent a letter to the partners in the cultural society of our city with a profit warning and then phoned those that drew the short straw. How much and why was announced. Nothing else. Please be informed that your budget has been cut.

Well, at least this was done before notifying the press and making public how much was cut where. Timing is everything…

 The one Alderman complies to the coalition agreement that exclaims “together in dialogue” through the newly opened blinds. The other probably thought it an impossible mission. Try engaging in budget discussions with the colourful patchwork blanket of cultural partners and societies – it would never work.

This city is truly blessed with that patchwork blanket. It is exactly the reason why we are so highly ranked in the G9 and why we belong to the most significant art and culture cities of the Netherlands and Euregion. Which again results in many partners entrusting their business to our city, deciding to invest and participate. Our city’s economy blooming from it all, and especially small  cultural societies and initiatives naturally profiting on the side.

Intro Insitu, Marres, Bureau Europa, Maastricht Youngsters, KOM, BV Limburg, to name just a few.

Many people in Maastricht have no knowledge of their existence. Which shows there is work to be done, as – as stated in the Kaderbrief – an insufficient number of people think of art and culture as relevant.

So abandon them altogether then? Luckily that is not yet the statement this coalition is making.

Hopefully the Alderman finds the time to visit these societies and institutions that other cities are so keen on. The mantra being: let’s leave budget cuts for what there are for now.

The Hague and Rotterdam have decided to together serve 1.2 million people with their cultural agenda. Another G9 city, Amsterdam, has decided to revoke the budget cuts on culture.

SP, D66 and VVD speak highly of culture as a strong economical engine. Claiming that it is not up to politics to decide what is quality when it comes to art. Wanting the discussion on contents and programming with those who are in this business, the experts in the field. Making bottom-up decisions.

Those cities copied that very well from the Maastricht coalition agreement.

The PvdA council members did take the initiative. Dared to have those discussions with that colourful patchwork blanket. Not to reject all budget cuts. But to get the experts involved and that way clarify and show that large cuts bring short term profit only. That ruins never are rebuild to their economical value. Not even with a million euro reserved for cultural innovation.

Innovation that is still being investigated, as we can read in the plans.

Bottom-up research into sensible budget cuts. Bottom-up innovation. It is the only way.

That cannot be done by the politicians only. That is done by all 23 – to quote our national soccer coach Van Gaal.

That’s the way to success. Teamwork please.

Albert Nuss,

Chairman PvdA