Why cultural project resources should absolutely be a core task for this Antwerp city council

It is no longer news that councilor Ait Daoud hardly has contact with the cultural sector she is responsible for *. But with the recent decision to completely scrap the project resource culture over the next three years, she is pushing it very far. Project grants must absolutely be a core task for this city council. It is not low-hanging fruit to pick in a cold budget exercise, on the contrary. These resources feed the very roots of Antwerp’s entire cultural ecosystem. By following along, you touch the backbone of the cultural sector.

This is what many young artists have tried to make clear in a week of their protest at the Grote Markt in Antwerp, where a number of well-known voices were also heard. AKO, Antwerp Arts Consultation, put it on the table on behalf of the professional field in a conversation with the cabinet culture. This is what different houses like De Studio communicate through their own channels. That’s the signal from a number of authors by withdrawing from the Author’s Ballet, the start of November’s book month. This is what even within the majority sounds through the mouth of an N-VA councilor and the chairman of Antwerp’s Vooruit branch. And that, of course, is our message.

In short: so many people have already made themselves heard, and yet the ships of Ait Daoud remain completely deaf. She continues to pretend that the sector will not feel her savings. Her saying that project resources are indefinite resources and therefore can be deleted without impact is simply wrong. Nor is the excuse that in times of crisis it is not a core task for the city council to make project resources available. The corona crisis showed that these resources are desperately needed for the sector to flourish.

Unfortunately, that insight turns out to be short-lived. Less than two years ago, Flanders also tried to limit its project resources. The opposition was unprecedented and the decision was reversed. And just when the call for support sounds loud, and it is a government’s task to guarantee the future of the cultural sector in the long term, the doors in Antwerp slam again.

So one can only conclude that ships Ait Daoud have very little sense of what is actually needed within the cultural sector. She underestimates the importance of culture and the talent present in our city. It hampers operations or stifles the enthusiasm of passionate officials.

It is five to twelve for the ships Ait Daoud to change course and secure the future of Antwerp’s cultural sector. Instead of sticking her heels in the sand, it is better for her to step back from her position to put everything in order and to catch all the signals. The final decision will follow in November during the budget negotiations. We can only hope that the insight is there by then.

Femke Meeusen, councilor in the cultural district of Antwerp (green)
Niel Staes, municipal council member Antwerp (green)


* The position of the ships Ait Daoud has defied all imagination since the beginning of this legislature:

  • She excels in silence when party colleague and Minister of Culture Jambon threatens to delete 60% of the Flemish project resources for culture in November 2019.
  • She decides at the end of 2019 to pull the plug on Winterfire after eight issues. However, an annual and well-attended initiative that offers a stage to both local and supra-local artists.
  • She is again remarkably quiet when her sector is groaning under the corona crisis.
  • She no longer provides resources to De Carroussel. Although this mobile and corona-proof open-air theater offered additional playing opportunities.
  • She takes some action when her party colleague and Minister of Culture initially makes far too few resources available under the renewed art decree at the beginning of 2022.
  • She refuses to acknowledge the poem ‘Ransom’ by urban poet Ruth Lasters as urban poet, resulting in Lasters’ dismissal. However, the poem was preceded by a strong participatory process.

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