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The Barber Of Amsterdam? Dutch Culture Sector's Hair-Razing COVID Protest

Theaters, museums and cinemas welcomed "essential services" on their stage floors to make a point about the industry's struggles during the latest COVID lockdown.

a man getting his hair cut while a symphonic band is playing in Amsterdam's concert hall

Theater Hairdresser a peaceful protest against Netherlands' continued nationwide lockdown in the arts sector

It’s an unusual sight even in these unusual times: in the Royal Concertgebouw, Amsterdam's prestigious concert hall, a man sits on stage getting his hair cut. Behind him, an orchestra plays Charles Ives' Symphony no. 2. In front of him, dozens of people are watching — both the orchestra, and to see when it's their turn for the next haircut.


For one day it was possible: getting your hair cut in a theater or attending your morning Pilates class in a museum. This was project “Theater Hairdresser”, an initiative set up to protest the Netherlands' continued nationwide lockdown in the arts sector, even after restrictions on other businesses were reduced.

The nation of 17 million entered a strict lockdown on Dec. 19 to try to slow the spread of the Omicron variant, fearing the increase in cases would overwhelm its relatively small intensive care capacity.

Last week, the government relaxed some of its measures and permitted non-essential shops, hairdressers and gyms to open again. But the government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte decided to keep cinemas, museums, theaters and other arts and entertainment venues closed.

It's a playful protest

The decision was met with great disdain since museums and theaters have repeatedly bore the brunt of the Dutch COVID policies. This sector was the final one to open during the last two lockdowns, leading to financial hardship amongst museum workers, artists, producers, and technicians, according to RTL nieuws.

“Theater Hairdresser” is the sector’s response. It’s a playful protest, initiated by cabaret artist Diederik Ebbinge. Approximately 70 theaters and 100 museums participated in the protest, reported the NRC.

a women getting her nails done by a nail technician in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

A nail parlor in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

Hollandse-Hoogte via ZUMA Press

After Security Council discussions on Tuesday night, mayors announced that they would be enforcing the COVID-19 measures. This led to tension everywhere as to whether and when the police might intervene. In the end, many municipalities only received a warning. But in other places – such as Nijmegen, Utrecht and Rotterdam – actions were prevented or stopped.

Yet, it seemed some authority figures and police felt for the arts and were reluctant to act. "You could feel from everything that the warnings were half-hearted," said Ebbinge, reports NOS.

Theater ‘De Kleine Komedie’ in Amsterdam staged its light-heartedly defiant opening, NRC reported. Jochem Myjer, a well-known Dutch comedian standing in front of the doors disguised as a security guard, winked and said: “That’s possible, because we are a hair salon. If it were a theatre, it would never be allowed of course.”

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