In France, the first couple of weeks in September are known as la rentrée, it’s when everything gets back to normal after the summer. Schools go back, summer clothes and sun blocker are packed away and preparations are made for autumn, winter and, dare I say it, Christmas.
The UIT Festival in The Hague was a sort of cultural rentrée for the city with all of the theatres, dance companies, museums, orchestras, cultural establishments and festivals setting up their stalls to give away brochures, provide information and often offer cut-price tickets for events over the next few months.
It had been a busy and eventful weekend for the elegant Lange Voorhout in the city centre. Friday and Saturday had seen the Embassies’ Festival when each country, oddly without most Western European ones or the USA, promoted their culture and, more enthusiastically, their food.
On Sunday, UIT took over the two main stages and provided a couple of smaller ones for ad hoc performances by musicians, dancers and the rather numerous amateur dramatic groups. There were still a lot of street food outlets and no out-door festival these days seems complete without the ubiquitous face-painting stall. It was essentially a trade fair with each participant informing and selling to the public but the atmosphere was very much of a carnival. The weather was good and there was enough music and entertainment to keep everybody happy as they wandered through the tress clutching a balloon and/or a bag of frites.
There was also a whole string of short teaser concerts at the Nieuwe Kerk serving as a taster for the many, usually classical, concerts that will take place there and in other venues in the coming months. Performers included the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, the Residentie Orkest from the Zuiderstrand Theater, Opera Zuid and many more. The exceptional strength and variety of contemporary dance, in which Holland excels, was demonstrated at the Lucent Danstheater which offered several workshops during the course of the day.
What UIT demonstrated was the amazing quantity, quality and diversity of cultural opportunities and events that take place in the Dutch administrative capital. You could have gone round the stalls with your diary (and, admittedly, your cheque book) and filled every day until Christmas with something different and exciting. One thing you need never be in The Hague is bored.
Michael Hasted 3rd September 2018