"To be honest we're not sure what we will do," says Charissa Caron, press officer for Noorderlicht. "We didn't see this coming."
Noorderlicht faces closing its annual photofestival after The Dutch National Advisory Board for Culture recommended the Dutch government cut €500,000 in funding. The final decision now rests with minister Halbe Zijlstra, who has said that he should accept most of these recommendations. Noorderlicht was one of 118 arts organisations that had submitted applications for funding, while the Dutch government has decided to cut spending by 25% over the next four years.
Noorderlicht runs education and commissioning projects and a gallery as well as the photofestival, and is funded by the cities of Groningen and Leeuward plus the Groningen and Friesland local governments as well as the national government. However the €500,000 represents half its total budget. "We're gutted," said Caron. "This year's festival will go ahead as planned but after that we have to decide what to do. The festival is the major part of our budget, so we have to decide if we will continue to run the festival and drop other things. We'd like to focus on the festival, that's our main goal."
Noorderlicht means "Northern Lights" and the organisation is based in Groningen, north of The Netherlands, which Caron suspects may have been part of its problem. "The Dutch National Advisory Board for Culture had several conditions and we met them all so we are very curious, and angry, that other groups, which didn't meet all the conditions, still got funding," she said.
"Most of them are based in or around Amsterdam so we wonder if perhaps they think we don't have a national standing. However we would argue that we have an international standing." Caron added that Noorderlicht would now be chasing other public funds, competition for those grants would now be intense because many other organisations, including 14 orchestras plus ArtZuid, the International Danstheater and Noord Nederlandse Dans also face funding cuts.
Noorderlicht grew out of the Noorderlicht Photogallery, which was set up in 1980 as a place for documentary photography. In 1990 the gallery celebrated its tenth anniversary by launching the Noorderlicht Photofestival, and the Independent Noorderlicht Photography Foundation came into being shortly afterwards. In 2007, PDN described Noorderlicht as one of the five most important photography events in the world. This year's festival, Terra Cognita, will take place from 02 September - 07 October. For more information, visit www.noorderlicht.com/en/
NB story updated on 25 May - correcting Terra Incognita to Terra Cognita. Thanks, Di
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