New name, new concept: Uitmarkt opens way for future

After 45 years the Uitmarkt festival in Amsterdam, which has traditionally kicked off the Dutch cultural season, has come to an end in its current form. From next year the annual event will be called DE OPENING. It will be hosted in a different city every year, and it will be more in line with today’s cultural visitor. As the organisers say: The time had come for a new start.

Every year in the last weekend of August, Amsterdam’s Museumplein and Leidseplein squares traditionally came alive with a bustling selection of theatre, musical concerts and a variety of performances. Since it began in 1978, De Uitmarkt was the kickoff for the national cultural season in the Netherlands, providing a taste of what was to come. It was known for its bountiful array of market stalls, multiple stages and a whole lot of that good old Dutch ‘gezelligheid’.

But the heavily-criticised, sober event of last year, as well as some financial and other issues, led the organisers of De Uitmarkt to do some research into the event, in order to find out if it was time for something new. This showed, among other things, that it had increasingly become an Amsterdam festival. It was attracting a regular local crowd, but had lost its national appeal. It was no longer bringing together a wide and diverse range of art and culture and no longer met the needs of the various cultural initiatives themselves.

However, the research also revealed great potential for the event. So, from 2024, under the new name DE OPENING, it will have a new format: it will be more inclusive and more contemporary, and it will be organised by a different host city every year. ‘It can be compared to a national event such as King’s Day or Sinterklaas,’ says organiser Stichting Uitmarkt. ‘Each year, one city organises the central festival heart of DE OPENING, consisting of a central stage and live TV broadcasts. In addition, this city showcases its own cultural locations to the public, with its own local cultural programming, debates and any additional programming such as writers’ cafés. Other cities can join under the same national name with their own cultural institutions and their own programming, which benefits cultural diversity and reach,’ the organisers further explained, and added: ‘The campaign also has the aim of enticing Dutch people to visit and experience art and culture during DE OPENING.’

To sum things up, Blueyard, the company behind the research and the new concept, says: ‘No more stalls and flyers on the Museumplein, and no longer mainly Amsterdam as a location, but an ‘OPENING’ for the whole of the Netherlands.’ DE OPENING will be organised every year in the last weekend of August, and in the run-up to and during the weekend there will be online and offline media and national TV attention.

The new festival will start in 2024; this year the opening of the cultural season will be celebrated on a small scale. Held in the last weekend of August 2023, visitors can book Sneak Peek Tours in Amsterdam’s Royal Theatre Carré on Saturdays and Sundays, where they can get acquainted with various previews of the cultural season. On Saturday 26 August, a big show with well-known artists will be broadcast live on TV from Carré by the NTR on NPO 2. In addition to Huub van der Lubbe, Eric Corton, Jett Rebel and Claudia de Breij, there will be performances from others such as the New Cool Collective, Naaz, Spinvis and the Groot Omroepkoor.

Geerte Udo, director of Amsterdam & Partners and board member of Stichting Uitmarkt, says: ‘It turned out that we should all celebrate what great art and culture we have to offer for one weekend a year. That is why we are really starting over nationwide with DE OPENING. To wake people up after the summer holidays: Go to the theatre, to a museum, a concert or to a bookstore.’

Written by Femke van Iperen