Amsterdam is a creative city. It has been for decades – centuries, in fact. Amsterdam has always attracted talent of all shapes and sizes from outside of its borders. From the 15th century when countless Sephardic Jews (who, incidentally, established the modern day banking system and secured Holland’s place on the world trade map) fled from the Spanish Inquisition to the safety and tolerance of the Dutch Republic, to modern day movers and shakers who are attracted to the city’s rich cultural heritage and favourable tax laws. With so many cultures mixing it up over such a long period of time, it’s no wonder that open-minded creativity is entrenched in the city.
Yet for some reason, Amsterdam’s status as a creative hub is still heavily debated. In London, at least. Occasionally, the focus shifts elsewhere and over in Amsterdam we just keep going about our creative business as usual. But it’s only ever a matter of time before the same questions raise their head: Is Amsterdam still a creative hotspot? And, If so, why?
It’s a cyclical question. The last time? It was a buzz topic some four years ago and probably about four years prior to that. It seems that we’re entering another phase of interest.
Which is fine – I can wax lyrical until the (Friesian) cows come home about the whys and wherefores of Amsterdam’s creative credentials. But at a certain point, when will the rest of the world just accept that it is what it is. Do people continually demand that London justifies itself? And how about New York? No, didn’t think so. So why is Amsterdam so different?
It could be down to its size – as it really is a village. Maybe people just can’t accept that a city of such a relatively small scale can sustain itself on a global creative stage. It could be down to the fact that English is not the first language here. And it could even be down to the fact that the Dutch are a relatively humble bunch and haven’t pushed themselves forward in a way that they perhaps should/could have.
The fact is, Amsterdam’s small size makes the creative community here more connected and, ultimately, stronger. While English isn’t the first language, many Dutch would put native English-speakers to shame with both their grasp of the language and their openness to speak it so willingly. And I think it’s to Amsterdam’s credit that they go for subtle flag-waving as opposed to ostentatious rooftop-shouting.
So, can the rest of the world please stop questioning why, or if, Amsterdam is a creative city. Just get over it already. It is, and that’s that.