iAmsterdam
Mark Smith is a British writer and editor living in Amsterdam. His journalistic adventures in the Netherlands have included tracking down the country’s tallest man, attending butler school and canoeing through the canals in February. He is senior editor of FANTASTIC MAN and has contributed to publications including ELLE UK and The Guardian.
June 9, 2017

Open season at the Vondelpark

Mark Smith is a British writer and editor living in Amsterdam. His journalistic adventures in the Netherlands have included tracking down the country’s tallest man, attending butler school and canoeing through the canals in February. He is senior editor of FANTASTIC MAN and has contributed to publications including ELLE UK and The Guardian.

The stately Vondelpark revels in its bohemian past via a series of eclectic al fresco spectacles. Here’s a taste of what’s to come this summer.

It’s without question that the Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s flagship green space – a glorious, stately idyll modelled on a fantasy of 19th century English living and leisure as envisaged by the landscape starchitect of the day, Jan David Zocher. The park was opened to the public in 1865 as a place designated for ‘riding and strolling’, but – shock horror! – the sounds of strumming, shouting and singing soon penetrated the dignified serenity, as the ‘Nieuwe Park’, as it was known back then, became a popular place for Amsterdam’s creative types to showcase their talents in a time before YouTube and the X Factor.

When a statue of 17th-century poet Joost van den Vondel was added in 1867, the park’s artistic sensibilities were sealed with a name change. In the 1950s, informal pre-hippie ‘happenings’ began to enliven the park, reflecting a burgeoning countercultural spirit that would culminate in the late 1960s with round-the-clock love- and music-making. Amsterdam responded, as it usually does, by replacing suspect, unfettered spontaneity with impressively organised fun. In 1974 the ‘Vondelpark Openluchttheater’ (Vondelpark Open Air Theatre) was born in a purpose-built amphitheatre near the 1930s Modernist pavilion of the Blauwe Theehuis café. Since then, from early May until late September each year, the eclectic programme of the Openluchttheater has incorporated a heady array of professional artistic disciplines.

Vondelpark Openluchttheater

The Openluchttheater seeks to offer something for everyone – and this year is no exception, with a ‘Language No Problem’ programme. June’s packed schedule includes a performance from ICK Amsterdam – the superb contemporary dance ensemble whose repertoire typically contemplates ‘the body in revolt’ on 9 June – a concert from the Ned Pho Go ensemble (a compact version of the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest) on 11 June, and a gig from Trijntje Oosterhuis, the much loved pop-and-jazz sensation who flew the flag for the Netherlands at 2015’s Eurovision song contest, on 25 June. Gallowstreet, who take to the stage on 18 June, are a twelve-headed Amsterdam-based brass band who claim to have invented a new genre, namely analogue dance music. A mixed bag indeed!

July brings a three-day taster of performances from the excellent Julidans contemporary dance festival (7, 8, 14 July) as well as classical repertoire from the singer Nora Fischer (16 July), a Bob Marley tribute (23 July), and a special Parkpride version of Amsterdam Gay Pride. Although attendees are invited to make a voluntary donation of €1 per visit, performances are entirely free. Those hippies would be proud.

Vondelpark Open Air Theatre

Text: Mark Smith for A-Mag Amsterdam Magazine May – June 2017

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