Open season at the Vondelpark
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.
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.
Text: Mark Smith for A-Mag Amsterdam Magazine May – June 2017