Amsterdam’s light show failure

For the past ten years, Amsterdam has hosted a light show festival on the canals during the dark winter months. This show has been popular with locals and tourists alike, and people can see the lights from both land and water.

NOT taking off any more 🙁

This year, due to the ongoing chaos of Covid (policy), most of the lights are turned off at 5pm, in line with Covid restrictions requiring that bars, restaurants, most stores and museums, and other tourism-related activities stop by 5pm.

But this makes no sense for an outdoor light festival. Why not leave the lights on and let people walk by (or come on their boats) to see them? Why not, since take away food and drink are allowed after 5pm, encourage small businesses to set up shop, selling drinks and food at some installations?

One reason why not might be is that the festival is primarily devoted to the interests of “business partners,” i.e., the boat companies looking for ways to attract tourists during the off season. (I hate these companies for their enormous, ugly floating blockades.)

Now I looked briefly at the financial statements of the stichting (non-profit foundation) that runs the festival, and I see that over 60% of its funds come from the city and ±15% comes from “sponsors,” but that would not be the first time that the city has subsidized tourism. (I was scanning quickly through the Dutch, so please comment on my mistakes or information I missed.)

What’s ironic (or “funny” as the Dutch would say) is that the current city government has vowed — after years of “please fuck, smoke and piss all over our city” promotions — that Amsterdam Tourism would spend less time on attracting foreigners and more time on engaging with citizens. 

Turning off the lights at 5pm, at the same time as the boats stop running but NOT at the same time as residents wold want to enjoy their city, seems to contradict this message.

My one-handed conclusion is that Amsterdam has lost a golden (lit!) opportunity to make a Festival that truly serves its citizens and small businesses. 


Update 10 Dec [in Dutch]: The lights will stay on until 10pm 🙂

H/T to MV

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Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

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