Monday, December 25, 2006

The hope of Alkmaar

What is it that makes Alkmaar so great, even though nothing changes here? I always describe my home town to foreigners as 'little Amsterdam'. That's because everything that makes Amsterdam so famous is also there, but in small. We also have canals, but not a lot of them. We also have coffeeshops, but only about ten of then scattered throughout the centre. And yes, there's even a small red light district in Alkmaar. It's all in one street.

But I realized this week that there's one thing that makes Alkmaar really interesting: it's punk. That's right: punk. I'm not talking about the music or the fashion style (real punks don't even exist anymore in Alkmaar. The real ones are sleeping on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg). I'm talking about the anarchistic mentality of some inhabitants of Alkmaar. There's a history behind it.

In Alkmaar there were two places that are punk: Parkhof and The Raad. Parkhof is a youth centre sponsored by the government, but one that is totally going their own way. A lot of famous punk bands have played there. I even played gabber house there (until extreme right youth came to my parties and I wasn't allowed to play that music there anymore).

The other one, The Raad, was a famous squatter house. The huge building was painted in all colors of the rainbow, so you couldn't help but noticing it. I used to go to illegal parties in there. Every friday there was electronic music and every Saturday there was a band -most of the time punk music. And there was no closing time. The parties ended when everybody left. A lot of bands used to practice there and there were a lot of art projects initiated there. The police didn't do anything agains the illegal parties. In fact, the police station was about 200 metres away from it. The Raad is the perfect exemple of where the Dutch tolerance policies (that also brought us the coffeeshops) create something good.

But last year the Raad has been demolished. The government planned to build appartments there. In the meanwhile, another group of squatters found a new location. It's a place called Wunderbaum on the outskirts of the city. I was there on Saturday. There was a punk band playing, there was cheap beer and there were the same people I knew from the Raad. It's not as cool as the Raad, but at least it's a good alternative and the place totally rocked!

These kind of places are necessary in Alkmaar, where the pubs close at 2:30 and where there's only one club open until 4:00. Now these closing times is often frustrating the young people of Alkmaar. One way to deal with this frustration is to get aggressive or to use excessive amounts of drugs. Often people demolish things or get into fights because of that - I even saw a massive fight last night, on Christmas eve (!). It's good that there's a place where everybody can party on. It's the medicine against the strict and totally unnecessary closing policy of Alkmaar. If there's hope, it lies in the underground...


Anonymous Ludo said...

I totally agree with you.
the Raad was definately the best that has ever happened to me. Idealist meeting with all cultures mingled up to a grat crowd of people.
To my regret, The Raad is no more. TheWunderbaum is the only option now, but it is a small bandage on a big wound.
what I'd like to add:
Do not wait for someone to arrange a party, but stand out, and arrange one yourself.
(I'm planning on squatting a house in Bergen (NH), 5 km from Alkmaar, so if it is succesfull, everyone is welcome to have a great time.

2:46 pm  

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