The Netherlands went into full lockdown last month to help protect its healthcare systems as their COVID-19 cases reached record levels. Though some businesses were approved to reopen, like salons and gyms, Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated that all cultural venues would have to stay closed for at least another week.
In response, as reported by Dutch News, around 70 illustrious arts venues across the Netherlands opened up as temporary hairdressers, gyms, and nail salons on January 19, in playful protest against COVID-19 restrictions.
This one-day “Theater Hairdresser” initiative was created by comedian Sanne Wallis de Vries and actor Diederik Ebbinge — to show the unfair closure protocols placed on the arts industry.
“[This is] a playful initiative to draw attention to the dire situation in the cultural sector,” read their official statement. “Getting a haircut while you can finally enjoy the performing arts again, where all the rules of the corona measures are followed as closely as possible.”
Hairdressing services were offered alongside Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) live at the Concertgebouw, while beard trims and manicures were available at the Van Gogh Museum.
“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,” RCO managing director Dominik Winterling told the Washington Post.
“Our mission is to reach people with the power of symphonic music, and this is what we want to do [in a live public setting],” Winterling added. “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.”
— Het Concertgebouw (@Concertgebouw) January 19, 2022
“We do not understand and there is no reasoning for it because we have shown over the last two years that it’s very, very safe to go to a concert or to go to a museum,” director of Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw concert hall Simon Reinink, told Beaumont Enterprise New Agency.
“Actually, it’s our profession — crowd management,” Reinink added. “We know how to deal with large crowds. And we’ve done it in a very, very safe way.”
The Washington Post reported that before the protest, several theater houses withdrew from the initiative following local officials threatening to issue fines, according to Wallis de Vries.
However, following the event, an opinion article by around 30 mayors published in a Dutch newspaper instigated requests from officials for a national review from the government of current measures to ensure there would be widespread “social and political agreement.”
The mayors stated that it would be impractical to “forcefully convince Dutch citizens of the correctness of the measures through repression.” Comedian Wallis de Vries added her hope that it would be “impossible for the government to ignore both our actions and the reaction of mayors.”
According to the New York Times, reports from the Netherlands have shown over 200,000 new COVID-19 cases over the past week, however, hospitalizations have decreased.
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