RAVING IN PEACE
Unmute Us! Fight for your right to party: March for the return of nightlife in the Netherlands.
The Covid-19 global pandemic devastated the social lives of billions of people in a very short time frame. In 2020, events and festivals started getting outlawed on the pretense of containing the spread of the disease.
But it has been a year and a half since the coronavirus first punched the world in the face. Vaccines have been developed, lockdowns have been lifted, and the world cautiously tries to come back to life.
This social crisis was felt all over the world, but in the Netherlands, the techno and dance music community was hit particularly hard. It spawned an organization whose purpose is to fight for the rights of the Dutch festival and event industry.
“Unmute Us” is a foundation established to give a voice to the Dutch festival and event industry, which they consider unfairly marginalized during the covid pandemic. They demand the immediate reopening of clubs, bars, and festivals to full capacity under the conditions of Testing for Access. To accomplish this, “Unmute Us” has engaged in continuous dialogues with policymakers and has staged two large-scale protests in the streets.
“It was a really cool thing to see everyone come together and be involved again.” - says local DJ, party organizer, and writer Aron Friedman. Aron has been involved with “Unmute Us” since the beginning. He wrote the official letter to the prime minister for “Unmute Us” and spoke at the first protest. - “To see them all unite was really heartwarming and invigorating to experience after being locked down and disconnected for so long.”
Typically, the Netherlands hosts more dance festivals than any other country in Europe. But this year, because of Covid restrictions, many of these events have been driven to neighboring countries.
The Belgium festival scene has exploded, although the country has been going through the same pandemic crisis, relying on much of the same Covid research and field as the Netherlands. These same field lab reports, however, seem virtually ignored by the Dutch government.
Perpetual party lockdown
At the present moment, it would appear that the Covid-19 pandemic in the Netherlands has become more manageable than twelve months ago. That does not mean that the corona crisis is over, nor that the infections won’t spike again. Nevertheless, there has been lessening of many social restrictions.
For instance, sporting events, such as Formula 1 racing and KNVB football, have been held in the country with proper testing and vaccination requirements.
But the government has given no indication of such full reopening for the dance and nightlife crowd. Recently, there have been half-step modifications to the Covid policy, such as allowing bars and nightclubs to open from 6 pm to midnight but no later. However, it seems illogical that it would be safe to be in a bar before midnight and unsafe when the clock strikes midnight.
Why are the brakes still on for the Netherlands? Is there something more to the Dutch ban on partying? Is this an attempt to ruin an industry that the country is famous for? Is this a battle against a disease or a battle against a culture that many in power view as a haven for drugs, crime, and chaos? Is there an ulterior motive to kill the dance music scene once and for all?
Regardless, this perpetual party lockdown is destroying the livelihood of so many people involved with the event and entertainment industry. Dutch relief funds were very unequally distributed toward the big festival organization and away from individual “ZZP'ers” or freelancers. It is these self-employed people without personnel that are hit the hardest and suffer the most.
After two protests and several discussions with policymakers, “Unmute Us!” is done talking. “Unmute Us” is now taking the government to court. We will have to wait to see if legal action will achieve the aims of the “Unmute Us!” foundation or just serve to antagonize lawmakers even further.
The issue the “Unmute Us” movement confronts is not really about health or safety. It’s about trust. Many in the event community feel betrayed, persecuted, and lied to by the Dutch government. Like most in the industry, Aron Friedman feels “manipulated” by policymakers. Used to increase vaccination numbers as with the “Dansen met Jansen” campaign, yet blamed for spikes in Covid numbers, as with the “disco peak” this summer, while still unfairly restricted when compared to other aspects of Dutch culture.
For now, the Dutch people who just want to get together and dance are left with few options other than getting vaccinated and then doing what the government tells you to do.