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Archive for May, 2015


Categories: Art and Culture
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By Alison Smith


ARTZUID is an outdoor Sculpture Exhibition that takes place every two years in Amsterdam South. It extends for 2.5 kilometres along the Apollolaan, the Minervalaan and as far as Zuidas.  Running from 22nd May to 22nd September,  this exhibition has been put together by Rudi Fuchs, a former director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.  This year the selected artists have been given their own “podia” and there are 18 in all to walk along and look at.  The exhibitors are an international selection of artists including Georg Baselitz, Jaume Plensa, Tony Cragg, KAWS, John Chamberlain, Georg Herold and Mimmo Paladino.

I have to admit that I’m not a great fan of modern sculpture and certainly no expert, but I spent a pleasant couple of hours strolling around and admiring the artwork.  Here are a few snaps of what you can expect.

There are plenty of mutated human forms:

Some obvious inspiration from Disney:

And a series that could have been entitled “Mud and Rust”:

There is a podium that I will call “Oops!” as it looked like three figures slipping on the same banana skin, albeit gracefully, and gave a strange and ironic feeling of movement.  Worth a look.

These were my personal Favourites. The giant head is an optical illusion and worth a look. Very serene.

I don’t think that this was part of the exhibition, but it certainly fit in with the themes of mutant man and falling down.

Not sure this was part of the exhibition

If anyone reading this article is a modern sculpture aficionado and would like to give a proper and knowledgeable review of Artzuid 2015, please send your article to our editor  I just hope that my little tour will whet the appetite and convince more folk to go along and enjoy this unique, free exhibition.

ARTZUID is in the open spaces of Amsterdam South, so you can go along anytime and look at the sculptures free of charge.  There is a visitor’s pavilion at Minervalaan 1 (opposite the Hilton Hotel) It’s open from 10:00 to 18:00 daily, and sells catalogues for €20 and routemaps for €3.  Trams 5, 16, 24 and 25 all go to this area.  If you’d like to learn more about the sculptures, there is a website where you can book a guided tour

The website where you can book a guided tour
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Art as propaganda or reality?

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The Kim Utopia and North Korean Perspectives

Written by Dave Thomas 

Photos Courtesy of Drents Museum

After an hour of studying the paintings and watching a documentary about North Korea in The Kim Utopia exhibition a restless feeling seeped under my skin. My western mindset found the paintings of ecstatic workers, sublimely pretty traffic wardens and tranquil farm scenes far too surreal. Yet other paintings depicting barbaric American soldiers torturing a North Korean or setting crops on fire struck a chord with the atrocities in Vietnam, adding a possible sliver of truth to the overt propaganda machine. Yet what kind of regime would commission a painting of bounteous sheaths of corn at a time when most of its citizens were starving?  And why does nearly everyone always look so vibrant and happy?

Philippe Chancel, Airang Festival to celebrate the 90th birthday of the late Kim Il Sung, © Philippe Chancel

90th birthday of the late Kim Il Sung, © Philippe Chancel

Images from the documentary revolve in my mind as I walk past paintings of industrial achievements reminiscent of the Soviet era. Students laughing in an English class, songs singing the praises of the fatherland blasting out of a factory radio (when there was not a power cut) and kindergarten children learning the ‘wellington boot’ story of the Great leader, which demonstrates just how much he loves his people. The overriding message that jarred in my head? Everything from power cuts to food shortages was blamed on the Americans but if a factory worker made a mistake they unreservedly apologised: our Great Leader is infallible but I am not? And by then I was standing in front of a painting that showed two men fishing. An ordinary scene reminiscent of a painting in my parent’s home. Again those nagging doubts – surreal but is it really that bad?

An Ch'ang-gi - Een scène uit de Koreaanse oorlog

An Ch’ang-gi – Een scène uit de Koreaanse oorlog

Time out. At the Drents Museum, Grandcafe Krul always serves a couple of dishes related to the temporary exhibition and I enjoyed a North Korean salad. A brief digression. The interior of the cafe is that of the former Maison Krul at Noordeinde 44-46b in The Hague where Queen Wilhelmina used to enjoy drinking hot chocolate.

The Kim Utopia is in the new wing of the museum. The rest of the museum is housed in the former provincial house built in the nineteenth century. It includes a chapel, which dates from when the site was a Cistercian abbey. This chapel is host to North Korean Perspectives, an exhibition of work from the North Korean press agency, photographers, photojournalists and international artists.

What you see is neither a politically correct utopia nor a dystopia that might be closer to a reality. Young people clearly having fun at a theme park, a tired mother with her children on a bus, a leader who apparently always wears the same clothes wherever he goes, roads full of potholes and countryside propaganda. Alice Wielinga’s works are the most provocative: each picture combines a utopian painting with a harsh photo reality, but then not even America lives up to its dream.

A black and white photo from the North Korean press agency showed rows of apartment buildings. It reminded me of my time in Albania soon after the fall of the iron curtain. We were warned never to stand on apartment balconies because they were prone to collapse.

Exhibition details
The Kim Utopia and North Korean Perspectives both run until 30 August 2015 at the Drents Museum in Assen. The museum also contains many other permanent exhibits ranging from Dutch art in the period 1885 to 1935 to archaeological finds in Drenthe.  
Address: Brink 1, 9401 HS Assen (10 minutes walk from Assen railway station)
Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday 11.00 to 17.00
Tickets: Adults 12 euros, children and Museumjaarkaart holders free


Get a taste before you go:
You tube video of The Kim Utopia
Get a taste before you go:
Alice Wielinga ‘s works from North Korean Perspectives:
Important if you do not speak Dutch
The exhibition texts are in Dutch, but at the information desk you can ask for a guide to the exhibitions in English


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Home is where the art is

Categories: Art and Culture, Expats at home
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Home is where the art is

By Jane Walmsley


I am happy to admit that I am something of an Ignoramus when it comes to ‘Art’. 
I am as capable as the next Philistine of meandering around a museum looking at Masterpieces, but please don’t involve me in a discussion on brush strokes or the quality of light – my enjoyment just doesn’t extend that far.

While much leaves me awestruck an equal amount leaves me thinking “Emperor’s new clothes”, especially in the Modernist section. Yes, my name is Jane, and I am an Art Ignoramus! So in my blissful ignorance of things ‘arty’, what constitutes a worthwhile piece?  I have two criteria; does it ‘call to you’ and, would you put it on your wall?  A David? If I had the wall space – yes!  Van Gogh, definitely.  Picasso?  I’ll take a pass.

So with what, if anything, do I populate my walls? 
Sadly, nothing of significance, but I have one piece that I cherish for the colour, the style and the subject; a piece of inexpensive Pop Art but no less valuable to me for that.  Four different facets of my son’s face, ‘Warhol-ed’ in my favourite colours, computer printed from photos.

The styling is iconic, (which famous person hasn’t had the Warhol treatment?), the colours vibrant and, of course, my son’s beautiful face, captured in that moment of time with all the eloquent expression of exasperated adolescence.

Does it call to me?  Of course it does, I can almost hear him saying “Oh Mum, really??!!”
Have I put it on my wall?  Well….. er, yes.  So clearly then it meets my criteria but is it ‘Art’?  Should Art be universal or personal? Should it be for the masses or for a significant few?  Don’t know the answer to either of those, but I do know that I will never tire of this piece or replace it with something new.

Each day I look at it I see something different and the colours make my soul sing.  Gosh, I sound like Sister Wendy Beckett, and if a picture can make you do that, it’s got to be Art!  Hasn’t it?

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A Day at the Keukenhof

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By Andy Symmonds


In the absence of our official BritSoc photographer this month we decided to use the photos taken last week during a visit to the Keukenhof. The primary aim was to take some visiting friends there to show them around, but there was such a riot of colour that the camera was in regular use. It may be due to the cooler start to Spring but the flowers in the gardens were in superb condition with vibrant splashes of colour wherever the eye strayed. We hope that you enjoy the pictures!

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One Last Push | Expat Poetry

Categories: Expat Poetry
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One Last Push

by Carol Moore


Morning sunrise, the smoke bellows up

Across the field, then seeps into the sky

The smell of despair creeps in and around

Amongst cigarette butts lying on the ground


He bellows an order, chest heaving deeply

His mouth is wide screaming that we must push on, keep going!

Coldness and fear are simmering around us

The dug out and dirt is disgusting and dank


We look at each other, eyes locking in at the same thoughts

A quiet nod, how did we get to this?

Bang! Thud, another thunderclap of shelling

But how do we keep going and do we really still care?


I hold my precious chain and photos so dear

My sweetheart back home and children who play so warmly

In the soft evening falling light, laughing

With their innocence shining through


Squelching and screaming, they pull a man past me

With limbs dragging, disjointed and bleeding

When will we stop going over, never to return

That sinking feeling of I am next


Slowly, we drag our feet through the dark slippery trenches

Sticking like superglue in the mud

Knee deep, not wanting to go

The major shouts deafening!


What can I do? I look at the sky lit up like a bonfire

I owe it to my countrymen, we all make the sacrifice

The promise I made, but sweat slowly drips down to my heavy boots

Stinging my weary eyes


One last push toward the dugout ladder

One last heave and deep heavy sigh

Force my body up and over, rifle turned outwards

Ready for battle! We cross together

Coffee Festival Amsterdam

Categories: Food and drink, Music and Theatre
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The Amsterdam Coffee Festival, 16 May 2015

Starring three singer-songwriters, hot from a freshly brewed pot of young musical talent.

By John Richardson, Editor in Chief, Britsoc Magazine “Fish and Chips for the Soul


Saturday May 16. NDSM-Wharf, Amsterdam.  The Amsterdam Coffee Festival, following the huge success of  The London Coffee Festival, took place in a giant ship building warehouse on the north shores of Amsterdam’s ‘Het IJ’ river. Now in its second year, the festival celebrates Amsterdam’s vibrant coffee scene. Informal and buzzy, the warehouse was bustling with artisan coffee and gourmet food stalls, tastings and demonstrations from world-class baristas, interactive workshops, street food, coffee-based cocktails, live music, art exhibitions and more.



Singer-Songwriter Rich Stephenson shows how to make a cup of coffee with an Amsterdam bike

Rich-Stephenson-webHard to get a cup of coffee
Ironically, I found it really hard to get a cup of coffee. The stall owners seemed more enthralled by each other and the event than by customers. I guess it’s the thrill of starting something new, and being at the coffee event of the year. Or maybe they were just too cool to serve people. I don’t know. I couldn’t work it out. We did find a kind of Heath Robinson coffee making machine that made coffee when you cycled. Again we tried to catch the attention of the inventor, but after 20 minutes we moved on.

Coffee and Martini
We then tried the Coffee and Martini stall. Unfortunately, the Martini police had raided his stall the night before and confiscated all his hooch. But he was allowed to sell a  rather strong unpasteurised lager, and that’s how I became drunk at a coffee festival.

Freshly brewed pot of singer-songwriter talent
Lucky, I was there for the live music on the Saturday stage, which had a London Hyde Park theme going for it. Hot from  a freshly brewed pot of young musical talent were three singer-songwriters that impressed me greatly: Rich Stephenson, Sharlette and One Clueless Friend.

Rich Stephenson is a singer-songwriter that reminds me of Loudon Wainwright III. Dressed, like his many fans, in a vibrant orange  ‘I AM RICH’  T-Shirt and matching pumps—which contrasted brilliantly against the green Hyde Park theme— he gave an energetic, athletic, foot stomping performance that was infused with infectious and catchy lyrics.


Rich Opening Song Coffee Festival A’dam May 2015 from John Richardson on Vimeo.

I first saw Rich 18 months ago, and he’s really progressed into a mature songwriter. Some of his new ballads confirm my suspicion that we’ll be hearing more from Rich.

I AM Rich-Fans

The ‘I AM RICH’ Fan Club

Actually, I’m a couple of euros poorer as I bought a ‘I AM RICH’ T-Shirt and CD-EP. Visit Rich’s Bandcamp site here (where you can listen to and buy the EP & T-shirts)

One-Clueless-Friend(web)One Clueless Friend
One the great surprises on the Hyde Park stage were One Clueless Friend. Laid back and unassuming,  their sound had a kind of Pink Floyd menace wrapped in a beautifully crafted melodic aura. Effortlessly brilliant and beautifully sublime, I felt I’d witnessed the discovery of something truly rare: the real thing.

Straight from the Department of Cool, Sharlette and her guitarist sang and played with a moving depth that resonated with me on many levels. Vulnerable yet confident, she hooked your soul with her hauntingly hot-blooded voice, laid bare with resonating lyrics and her partner’s equally poignant guitar riffs. Apart from the coffee, this was great way to spend a Saturday.Sharlette_Singer_Songwriter


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Vlaardingen on Koningsdag

Categories: Family and Children, Kids, Koningsdag
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By Dee Bodle



image1What a day, we were in Vlaardingen on Koningsdag this year and we had a great time, the weather was very kind to us and at one part of the day we were in sunbathing mode with a nice beer in hand. It is around 6 years since we have been to Vlaardingen on Koningsdag and it had so much going on, firstly starting at 7am in the morning the town centre changes into a ‘kleedjesmarkt’ which  literally takes over everywhere with people selling everything but the kitchen sink.


Everything is then officially opened at 10am by the Mayor in the Veerplein and then the balloons are released.


Down by the Fishbank the runners are getting ready for the fun run which starts with the children of all ages running around the harbour area, this year it was won in fantastic style by a 10 year old girl who beat off all the competition. The main event is more of a competitive race this year being the 68th year that it has been run with both the 5k and 10k runners running at the same time. My partner’s father ran this when he was 65 and some of the runners were well in excess of 65 so I take my hat off to them.


On other areas of the harbour area children had lots to entertain them, boats with entertainment, bouncing castles, hook a duck and the Brandveer giving them the opportunity to hose down a building and believe me there was a very long queue for this.


During the day Vlaardingen comes alive with the sound of music in a variety of forms from singing, entertainers and musical groups so from midday until 7pm there is plenty to entertain you.


So all in all it was a fantastic day which was finished off by a fabulous fireworks display at 10 o clock which could be seen all over the town as the fireworks went high into the sky. We had a lovely time and when I was asked to do a piece on Koningsdag outside of Amsterdam i hope I’ve given you a flavour of what is happening elsewhere.


Vlaardingen also has another great weekend on the 12th & 13th June with their ‘Loggerfestival’ and I can promise you a great time with music, dance and lots of things happening so if you fancy something different then Vlaardingen has a lot to offer.


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De Oase van Matisse – Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

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By Alison Smith

Matisse-Stedelijk-MuseumIn bygone days we knew who our Bank Manager was.  Nowadays we take money from a machine and pay money into a machine.   If we want a statement or to make a payment we (yes, you guessed it) do it via a machine (computer, phone etc)  After more then 20 years of doing business with the Rabobank  I have a contact name but I no longer have what I would call a Bank Manager.  Given that I didn’t think my Bank even knew where to find me, I was pleasantly surprised to receive  an invitation to an evening preview of the new Matisse exhibition “De Oase van Matisse” at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.  I couldn’t have been more delighted to accept this invitation as I find Matisse one of the more fascinating artists of 19th and 20th century.

I think the reason I find Matisse so interesting is because of his artistic journey.  He lived to be 84 and, having started painting when he was 20, he spent more than 60 years developing his vision and experimenting with new mediums.  Those 65 years were perhaps some of the most exciting and fast moving times in the world of modern art. Sometimes he was at the forefront of a new artistic movement such as Fauvism, other times  he was influencing as well as learning from his contemporaries such as Derain and Cezanne.  Henri Matisse cannot be labelled as belonging to just one particular movement, except perhaps to say he was a leading figure in the development of modern art.  As well as being a painter, Matisse was a sculptor and printmaker, textile designer and collage maker with his concentration on the expression of colour being the common theme.

The Stedelijk exhibition “De Oase van Matisse” follows Matisse’s artistic journey and places him side by side with his contemporaries and next to other, later, artists where hisMatisse-3 influence is clear.  The Stedelijk uses a lot of works from its own collection but has also borrowed works from all over the world to make it more complete.  There are more than 100 works in the exhibition, and it offers a unique opportunity to see Matisse in a more complete way and learn more about this enigmatic artist.

Starting with his early works, still life and portraiture, which is how many artists begin, we can compare his ‘Woman Reading’ (1894) with Manet’s work and see how Matisse very quickly develops his own style.  His Fauvist paintings are displayed alongside those of Kees van Dongen, André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck , and the exhibition follows his forays into cubism and expressionism placing his work alongside that of Chagall, Picasso and Kirchner.  The exhibition also suggests the influence of some of his abstract works on such artists as Mondriaan, Malevich  and Rothko.

The most surprising part of the exhibition for me was his work with textiles.  Matisse created many designs for ecclesiastical robes and these are on display.  Easy to miss but at the end of exhibition there is a room with a huge cinema screen where you can watch footage of Matisse, by now an old man, expertly cutting out his gouache shapes with a huge pair of dressmakers’ scissors.  He gives the finished cuttings to his assistant who, following his instructions meticulously, pins them to the wall of his room.  He sits and contemplates the effect and makes minute changes to the angle or position.  He would mount the whole design on his wall until he was satisfied for it to be made into the final work, either to be mounted as a collage, or as a design for a robe.

Matisse-1Of course, the piece de resistance is the enormous work ‘La perruche et la sirène’ (1952 – gouache on paper, cut and pasted) It measures 7.68 m x 3.4m and takes up a whole wall of the exhibition and is one of the greatest examples of Matisse’s cutout art. It was created after a period of illness when Matisse was confined to his room and he referred to it as “a little garden all around me where I can walk”

The way the exhibition is laid out tells a flowing story and shows how Matisse was always on the innovative edge of the next new art movement, culminating with his work in cut outs and textiles, where he went far beyond any other artist of his time.

….And bravo to the Rabobank for sponsoring such an excellent exhibition.

(The exhibition can be visited at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam from  27/3/2015 – 16/8/2015)

The oasis of Matisse
27 Mar – 16 Aug 2015


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British Language Training Centre | Britsoc Sponsor

Categories: Britsoc Sponsor/Advertiser, Business, Education, Language, Language Training
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Welcome to the British Language Training Centre located in the heart of Amsterdam

Your centre of choice for English and Dutch courses as well as Cambridge Examinations, Business English, International Legal English, International Financial English and Teaching English (TEFL) qualification courses

The BLTC trains for internationally recognised Cambridge certificates and is the Dutch Test Centre for IELTS, the International English Language Testing System. In March 2015  BLTC became an official examination centre for Cambridge Business Examinations  BEC, ILEC and ICFE.

Getting there

The BLTC is located in Oxford House in the centre of Amsterdam, close to Spui.

Oxford House
Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 328/E
1012 RW Amsterdam


Tel. : 020 622 36 34
Fax : 020 626 49 62

British Language Training Centre
Welcome to the British Language Training Centre located in the heart of Amsterdam

Car parking is limited. The nearest parking garages are Bijenkorf, De Kolk, and Muziektheater/Stadhuis.

Trams 1, 2, and 5 stop in front of the door (tram stop ‘Spui’).
Trams 4, 9, 14, 16, 24, and 25 stop at Rokin (a two-minute walk).