At a televised press conference yesterday (6th May) in Den Haag, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and health minister Hugo de Jonge revealed that there is an end in sight for the devastating restrictions on the arts and culture that we have had to endure over the past weeks.

From 1st June concert halls, theatres and cinemas will be allowed to reopen but with a maximum audience size of thirty who must be seated 1.5 metres apart and entrance will be only by advance booking. Museums will also be able to open but again, only by advance booking and the 1.5 metre rule will be enforced. You will be able to travel to the venues by public transport which will also return to normal on that date – however, by law, face masks will have to be worn.

From 1st July maximum allowed audience size will be increased to 100, but distancing will still be necessary.

The current ban on festivals and other large organised events is due to be lifted on 1st September but more information on this will be available later. All the measures announced yesterday are, of course, dependent on a continued reduction in the infection rate. Confirmation of go-aheads for events will not be given until a week before the deadline.

Of course, the above measures are good news for the arts and culture. However, as most events have been cancelled for many weeks ahead it is going to be difficult to reinstate or create programmes at such short notice – but at least most of the artists and performers involved will probably be available. For galleries and museum the scheme will work much better and be easier to apply and it means that in places like the Rijksmuseum one will be able to look at the pictures and not the back of somebody’s head.

The main problem though for the performing arts is limiting an audience, or rather the total number of people in the building to thirty. For most venues that is impractical and would certainly mean they would lose money. For large venues like De Doelen in Rotterdam 30 people wouldn’t even fill the front row and they would be outnumbered by an onstage symphony orchestra by about two to one. Plus, the practical issues of getting people in and out of the auditorium without them infringing the 1.5m rule would be very slow and cumbersome – even more so when the audience size is increased to 100.

No doubt all the venues and museums will be busy organizing events and they will certainly be issuing press releases to that effect in the next few day. ArtsTalk Magazine will be receiving all this information as it comes in and will be among the first to publish it.

This is all good news and a step in the right direction. Let’s hope things continue to get better, that infections continue to drop and a semblance of normality resumes. But, in the meantime, stay safe and well.   Michael Hasted    7th May 2020