Fury as Belgium cuts audiences to 200

Fury as Belgium cuts audiences to 200


norman lebrecht

December 05, 2021

Cultural leaders in Belgium have issued a collective protest over new Covid rules that cut ther audiences – but leave bars open.

Here’s the text, signed by Peter de Caluwe (La Monnaie), Sophie Lauwers (Bozar), Hans Waege (Belgian National Orchestra), Pierre Thys (National Theatre Wallonie-Brussels) and Michael De Cock (Royal Flemish Schouwburg):

Our cultural houses are shocked this time by the political decision-making that in no way respects reality . We sign a strong opposition against so-called supplementary measures that create a false perception . We have the feeling of being sacrificed to keep other sectors open for a while. It is impossible for us to reinvest while playing for a maximum of 200 spectators. The irrational measure is economically unattainable after a year of constant income losses .
Many culture houses have developed detailed, thoroughly thought out scenarios, invested, and trained their employees over the past eighteen months. None of this titanic work has been taken into consideration. The strict cull of the cultural sector ought to be based on principles of good governance and the rule of law … We ask ourselves what research data caused culture to be so penalised.
Aside from the duty of face masks, the CST control and good air quality ensure that the situation in our halls is absolutely safe . Repeated scientific and certified research proves that, in the case of the Monnai, in full room occupation, there is always more than the allowed maximum of 1200 ppm . Setting up an objective barometer to monitor and have these issues controlled in all transparency by as many institutions as possible is a simple and preventive solution .
Absolute numbers don’t stop because each hall is different and 200 people in some homes represent half the maximum capacity and in other halls only a sixth . We advocate for an individual approach to the problem that takes into account the real situation that is different for every cultural home . We are perfectly able to measure and have every performance checked that everything runs safely for both artists and the public and staff . Our homes can stay open and we expect the generic measure to be exchanged for a clear custom solution . When a problem arises, we take action like we’ve been doing for eighteen months .
We dare to hope that negotiations with the government remain possible to prevent this constant adjustment of the rules and to maintain a long-term vision that we can live together with this virus in the coming months or years Objective ways to apply . Last but not least: Of course we understand the seriousness of the situation and we remain in solidarity with the care sector . The curve has to go down and we’ll keep that in our practice completely into account .



  • caranome says:

    The problem is that the “fury” generated by the classical music community can be ignored with impunity, vs. one by bar patrons, rock music fans, soccer fans etc. It’s numbers.

  • Diane Valerie says:

    Sadly, HORECA has clout, whereas cultural institutions do not. So restaurants and bars will be kept open for as long as possible but concert halls will not. The larger concert halls will effectively be forced to close. For example, the largest concert hall at BOZAR has a seating capacity of 2,100. The Mariinsky Orchestra is scheduled to perform there on December 19th to a virtually sold out audience. BOZAR can hardly hold a lottery to choose the lucky 200 audience members so they will have to bear the loss. This concert has already been held over from the last lock-down and I doubt if there will be a solution any time soon.

  • Anonymouns says:

    It is disheartening. For the most part you would not imagine Brussels is in the midst of a pandemic – restaurants filled to capcity, crowds milling unmasked in Christmas markets. It’s hard to believe concert halls, which require vaccination certificates and masks are fueling the epidemic.

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    The Royal Park theatre has just told is patrons that performances are now on again. It got the all clear from a panel of experts including a leading expert on infectious diseases. Another theatre has followed suit so it may be that the Monnaie, which is regularly sold out, will carry on after all. We are waiting for news on La Norma.

  • BRUCEB says:

    They make a good point that 200 in some cases represents 1/2 capacity and in other places 1/6. Say if in London there was a 200-person limit, whether it’s the Wigmore or Covent Garden? A certain percentage would have made a lot more sense.

  • José Bergher says:

    The best way to fight this and all pandemics and all their variants ― no matter which letter of the Greek alphabet is used to name it ― and to prevent contagion, infection and panic is to immediately close down all concert venues, all movie theaters, all restaurants, clinics, hospitals, radio and TV stations, airports, markets, stores, churches. stadiums, educational institutions, banks, offices and institutions both private and public, and make sure everybody permanently stays off the streets. remains at home and wear masks 24 hours a day.