Posts Tagged ‘sound pollution’

In 2015 I published this lightly formulated protest against the unbearable sound pollution produced by the Gay pride Canal Pride (with sound systems on board of the boats that send shock waves through all the canals and neighbouring neighbourhoods where the parade passes… and worst the pre- and after-parties with street stages with many hours of sound terror. Did it have any effect? NO there is only brute force and brute commercialism in the minds of the Gay Pride organisers. They aim at tolerance and mutual respect in words but the sound terror that is part of Gay Pride has the opposite effect. Why is it that there must always be bug amplifiers and huge loud speakers, competing for who has the loudest?
Here at least in an image a show that it could all be different and nicer…
After years of Proud & Loud Gay pride Cana Parades that invade the city of Amsterdam with unbearable levels of noise pollution, finally it has dawned on a few more creative inclined fighters for the good cause of emancipation of everyone that it is time to unplug and show that gay emancipation should be considerate also to the inhabitants of the inner town that hosts them. It is not only about the ears of the public, but also their own hearing now and in the future that needs to be recognised. Too long the organisers of Gay pride Amsterdam have remained deaf to complaints about the negative side effects of what in itself is a just cause.

Pain level sound produced not only during the Canal Parade but also on the city streets with outdoor stages during three nights, are experienced as nothing but noise to those who live in the inner town. Many inhabitants are fleeing their homes – some for several days – because of an event that could be liked, but has turned into a hard core commercial enterprise with a competition who has the loudest sound system on board, who dares to turn the amplifiers up beyond any regulation. For those living around the Gay Pride is nothing less and more than three days of ‘sound pollution’.

Many living around the festival will hear from a distance only a mechanical droning base sound without any melody, with some high pitched over-modulated exalted sounds of people shouting in a microphone, this from seven in the evening until midnight during three days. If it was only one afternoon of the Canal Parade moving through the ‘grachten’ it would have been bearable. Each year the outdoor stages produce most of the time the same repertoire of disco and the like, with no renewal whatsoever. The only difference being that the amplification of that repertoire gets louder by the year.

Let’s get over with all this cheap and easily produced invasive self-centred party noise. Let’s become finally creative.

From 2016 on Gay pride Amsterdam will be UNPLUGGED and so many new inspiring opportunities lay ahead: ukelele orchestra on boats, plucking guitars, falsetto voices echoing underneath the bridges, violins, bassoons, flutes, the sound of horns from afar, the dying thunder of timpani, the high tone of a triangle bouncing over the surface of the water and choirs, many choirs of all sorts, performing in many styles…

The emancipation of all those that are treated as unequal will be married to the emancipation of the ear… than the inhabitants do not need to flee or burry their heads under the blanket, wear ear-plugs…

GAY PRIDE UNPLUGGED 2016 will become the herald of a genuine attempt of communicating joy and playfulness to the pleasure of all.

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In 2013, 5 years ago, I made this map and statement to visualise and made understood the extreme sound nuisance produced by the street stages that are part of the Gay Pride manifestation. There is hardly any effect of all the protests (especially by the inhabitants of the inner town of Amsterdam against the street stages with blasing sound systems during three days in a town with a refined structure of working and housing. The Amsterdam city authority are deaf for these protest and favour the Gay Pride use of public space which has developed into a party-industry. There is NO respect for the inhabitants of Amsterdam. The only difference is that we do have this year – 2018 – 21 hours of sound blasting from street stages as compared to 27 hours in 2013. Here we see 5 main street clusters with sound producing stages. In 2018 we count 10 place (in three clusters). [see my article and map on Gay Pride 2018]

but before and after another 27 hours of too loud sound? NO!

Gay pride 2013 offers pleasure and fun for many who all say they LOVE Amsterdam as a tolerant city BUT do they love its inhabitants?

Why is it that we who live close to none less than 5 different outdoor stages near the Amstel river have to flee our houses, because during 3 days there is 27 hours of blasting sound with sub-sonic bass sounds that make our windows vibrate. NO consideration for those who live here, those who have helped to make it a tolerant town, which is now exploited commercially up to the limit making our living habitat into an industrial party zone.

Neither the city of Amsterdam nor the Gay pride organisers seem to be aware of the fact that the quality of Amsterdam is that the inner town has a great mix of functions, one being housing for a very mixed population, from the very rich, to middle classes and even low income housing that has escaped the gentrification process.

JUST THE CANAL PARADE and parties during 1 DAY OK! but 3 days of super loud outdoor events is TOO MUCH

Some of us ask themselves if the industrial booming sounds is the only thing Gay Culture has to offer to our city… The boat parade over the years has developed from a pleasure parade for the eyes into a horror flotilla for the ears.


Can we be embraced in a more positive way next year by the local, national and international gay community?


We are made into UNEQUAL AND UNWILLING PARTICIPANTS by this form of Gay Pride… many living near the open air stages have fled their homes by now… and think about those who can NOT move from their houses because they have no money to go somewhere else, are ill or bound to their house in other ways.

I am about to leave to return only after midnight…. and have to leave again on Sunday from midday to late in teh evening because there is that third day of open air loud music and shouting once more.

Tjebbe van Tijen Saturday August 3. 2013 living very close to the Blauwe Brug over the Amstel river.

PS you should know that the maximum noise levels set by the authorities for the Gay pride (and similar festivals) are constantly broken by the DJs who do not give “a fuck” about anybody else than their fans. Also the specific structure of the city with its canals and the Amstel river and the location of the 5 stages from Amstelveld, Rembrandtplein, Paardenstraat and near the Munt, makes that through reflection and interference the sound produced by the huge loudspeakers travels over the water much further than in other circumstances, it even gets louder at times when two waves of sound combine.

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UNPLUG far too loud GAY PRIDE
– emancipation should be about mutal respect
– about sharing space
– about caring for others
The GAY PRIDE canal parade only takes 5 hours with an over the top loud blasting sounds from all the boats participating… it is still bearable in the sense that it is moving through the town and then for each region it is only 2 to 3 hours of the nasty blasting high tones and deep roaring bases that pollute the streets and houses: still DOABLE.

For years many people from this town have asked the question what this sound blasting street parties that pester entire neighborhoods have to do with ‘homo-emancipation’. Why it is that the local population should be pestered by high volume sound as an expression of ‘love’, and ‘friendship’. This critique is ONLY about the events of Gay Pride in PUBLIC SPACE… when one reads the whole program, there are many valuable and positive meetings, performances, exhibitions and concerts. Concerts that are not out on the streets are of course NO PART of this critique. There are a few events outside this map at Mercatorplein (good idea to go there), none in the Blijlmer, none in Noord… sonly one seems to be an acceptable level of duration (maybe also of sound content) the event planned at the Nieuwmarkt on August the second.

High sound volumes can be produced by anyone these days. Big sound systems can be rented or bought for low prices. FAR TOO LOUD music in the public space is a structural problem in this city, not only during the Gay Parade, there are many contested outdoor festivals that pester whole neighborhoods, ruin public parks and chase away animals. The organizers of Gay Pride seem to be totally blind to these civil protests against commercial outdoor mass events.

WHY HAS THERE NEVER BEEN A THOUGHT, LET ALONE AN ATTEMPT, TO HAVE AN UNPLUGGED GAY PRIDE? Does that idea not fit with the idea of GAY EMANCIPATION? Is the total commercialized party industry of our days the norm?

What comes before and after the (doable) Canal Parade for those who live in one of the ‘clusters’ of open air stages as mapped here is UNBEARABLE.

We inhabitants of this town have many years of experience with the Gay Pride FAR TOO LOUD event… and those who are not deaf and sensible try to flee their houses… If it was only one day that would have been doable. NO it is two to three days now. Many people do not have the financial means to leave their house and town for several days. Check out the permissible permits given by this town council who supports this sound-terror (that is what it is) and chases the people they should care for, the inhabitants, out of their houses.

There is 21 hours of street-stage activity planned, but NOWHERE it is possible to see what is in the making. The organizers, both from the Gay Enterprise and the Municipality are aware that they stretch things to the limit. This explains their vicious strategy of deception when it comes to give a full insight of the impact on town of the coming up outdoors events. That impact is hidden, not shown.

NO OVERVIEW MAPPING by the organizers, NO OVERVIEW MAP by the Municipality. When you check the many web-sites of Gay Pride promotors you are confronted with amateur made agendas full with superlative descriptions, but with no clear indication of what is ‘indoors’ and what is ‘outdoors’ often very unclear about when a specific event is starting or ending.
So the only overview I could find is a municipal page with links to 15 ‘bewonersbrieven’ (letters to the inhabitants)…
Each letter is in PDF format (so they need to be opened one by one). The links to the ‘bewonersbrieven’ do indicate only partly the street of area name, some only carry the name of a bar that has a permit for a street stage, without mentioning a street name, like: ‘Bewonersbrief straatfeest Cafe Reality’, Bewonersbrief straatfeest Vivelavie’.

The content of the ‘bewonersbrieven’ all mention the fact that the event will create ‘some disturbance/nuisance’ followed by a contact number 14020 (which is the general nuisance complain number of the city). There is NO statement about the admissible sound-level set by the municipality and how sound levels will be controlled, if there is any mechanism to stop a situation when too much noise is produced.

Of course us inhabitants of the inner town know, that once the party is going there is NO STOPPING… You can call, wait for a long, long time before getting someone on the telephone. There is always insufficient response capacity, not enough controllers on the ground that have the equipment to do sound measuring, let alone anybody willing or formally entitled to unplug a sound system that breaches all rules.

Nobody ever has thought about the municipality buying sound-control systems that can be steered by the municipality itself instantly and constantly keeping the sound levels at the level promised. There have been many meetings and commissions and procedures, but these are all just for producing documents that prove that ‘on paper’ everything is done correctly.

This is a the typical Amsterdam bureaucracy specialty. The paper work they produce is impressive, but means nothing. Let me quote the titles of two of such documents form the list on the municipal web site:
– ‘Beleidskader 2011’ (policy paper 20110)
– ‘Handreiking voor een brandveilig evenement’ (reach-out paper for a fire safe event)
Then I see a link to a PDF with drawings at the bottom of that list… https://bekendmakingen.amsterdam.nl/publish/pages/96787/6_tekeningen_feesten_en_overig_2018.pdf
And when I browse through this document I come across a few more stages than in the list of letters to the inhabitants: -Geelvincksteeg, -Rembrandtplein, -Elandsstraat/Hazenstraat. Are these street events scrapped? No idea! This almost hidden document just shows detailed drawings for stages and loudspeakers.

The dates and times mentioned in the municipal permits and shown in this map DO NOT INCLUDE the building up and taking down of all the stage equipment, outside bars and the like. Also several permits for sound from street stages end at midnight, but the street parties may continue – according to the permits – for one hour more…

What is also not included is the tremendous noise produced by the municipal vacuum cleaners and broom wagons that will be for hours in the streets and areas affected.

What is not included is the noise and nuisance of masses of party goers who will have not only filled themselves to the limit with alcohol but also with all kinds of other recreational drugs. They will shout, they will piss, they will leave their tins, bottles and so on, on the doorsteps of houses and in wide circles around the core space of the 10 street events.

ALL THIS IN THE NAME OF GAY EMANCIPATION… which thus becomes a lie because it does not produce “love and friendship”. It is just like any other mass consumption party event… that brutally takes over public space and negates the fact that all this is happening inside a city, putting the burden on a few neighborhoods that are already affected by mass tourism and all the misfortunes of being part of the leisure industry that slowly takes over this town.

EMANCIPATION SHOULD BE ABOUT MUTAL RESPECT, ABOUT SHARING SPACE, ABOUT CARING FOR OTHERS, not a self centred international community partying with total disrespect of local inhabitants.


poster I made in the year 2012… nothing has been learned by the Gay Pride Incorporated enterprises and the community that supports their business.

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hit the picture for a full size view

A nice sunday with lots of sun and people enjoying the outside calm of town, or letting some of the outside world in through opening their windows, should be a peaceful and enjoyable thing, where it not for the endemic (*) Buzz Bikers driving their purposely loudest possible  roaring motorbikes (**) through the inner town – especially – to ventilate themselves and their ego’s.

My mind game is imagining the BuzzSwat in action, applied with the same mercy urbanised humans tend to have for an annoying buzz-fly:  SWATTT!

The local police is invisible – seems to enjoy football matches on television in their stations – and something like an ‘Anti-Bikers-Buzz-Squat’ has never been thought of in this permissive city, once home of the bicycle-beer-café with peddling drunken tourists having a good drink and shout (***). Bikers, also,  can freely van their egos around here in Amsterdam.

This message will also be send to our burgomaster who is the first mayor of this town in decades who shows some – hesitant – concern of how “his” city sounds…

We do have all the technology needed to pick these ‘guys’ (no noisy girls on bikes as far as I can see, some but only on the back seat) from the road: sound sensors, fast cameras, helicopters, name it. I am not a biker so I do not know if these bikes have one or modes of operation, within the official noise limit, and outside these limits. If the exhaust system of these bikes have been tampered with, a kind of ‘art of noise’ tuning, to produce maximum effect, the motorbikes are in an illegal state and should be taken off the road on the spot. If the noise production can be hidden at one moment and still be produced at another, a combined system of instant sound and image capture could be used, to collect the needed proof for prosecution and seizure.

I think it will be necessary to also check the motorbike trade for selling and altering such “leisure” products. Motorbikes purposely made noisy, that has no other sense than produce the joy some people must feel, to terrorise their fellow citizens, by temporarily possessing the space and time that is shared with others with the noise they make.

The BUZZ Bikers are criminals stealing the civility of public space.

The poetics of noise, a picture I made March 11. posted on my Facebook page (seems to have vanished there thanks mr. Zucker…) this year when we had a few days of softer weather announcing a spring that was – in hindsight – slow to come. First nice sunday of the year… forget about listening to the birds, “roarrrrr” the bikers take their monsters out for a ride.

Picture I made May 22. when we had a first nice summer temperature evening… and it was spoiled by a constant parade of these motor devils… (posted on that day on The Limping Messenger)

(*) Endemic (as in “disease”) n. : a disease that is constantly present to a greater or lesser degree in people of a certain class or in people living in a particular location

(**) The police of the city of Amsterdam do have special actions and brigades against the disturbance of young scooter drivers, being both a danger because of wild driving and a nuisance because of the noise produced. Also scooters are so high on the wish-list of youngsters that the ones that are not fortunate enough, will steal them. I have witnessed these squads several times and noticed that especially young Moroccan guys were singled out as they seem to excel in breaching a few laws while driving these fancy scooters (though a xenophobic bias can be not excluded at the same time). I asked an officer of such a squad once why they did not also target the noise of the more affluent big motorbike drivers and the hellish noise they produce, as well as super high speed traversing through the inner town, often passing several police stations without any counter action. I was told, that this was “not a priority.”

(***) After years of complaints, beer-bike-cafés have been – almost – forbidden since after a whole series of court cases. The discussion was whether or not a bicycle-beer-bar was still a bicycle or not. A court decided that the maximum width of a bicycle or tricycle was 1,50 meter. Most of the versions going around where more than this measure limit, though inventive entrepreneurs did develop a beer-cycle-bar that stays within the law-limit.

See also my two earlier articles on
– 25/5/2009: ‘Cycling Cafes’: Cycling Cafes and Drunken Skippers in Party City Amsterdam
3/6/2009: Cycling Cafes down the hill in Amsterdam

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How to do a poll on the level of appreciation of animals of human loud music festivals in public parks and if needed to take appropriate measures? As policy change can be slow, I just designed a set of earmuffs for the rabbits of the Amsterdam Oosterpark (as they have an extreme sensitive hearing apparatus)

When human city culture gets in the red level the park rabbits will be handed out specially adapted earmuffs.

When human city culture gets in the red decibel-zone the park rabbits will be handed out specially adapted earmuffs.

The ‘partying nation’ Holland will not fail to use any occasion to throw a public manifestation of leisurely fun which, since  ubiquitous cheap electronic sound amplifying devices have become available, means lots of noise enhanced by  lots of drinks. One of the favorite venues for these undertakings is the Amsterdam Oosterpark which recently hosted a festival called ‘Appelsap‘ (apple juice) organized by a bunch of  friends, all hip hop aficionados, which was certainly not non-alcoholic, with Heineken as one of the main sponsors. “THE best) Dutch hiphop-events. In the beautiful Oosterpark we take hiphop back to its roots”, reads their web site. Lots of fun for sure: out, proud & loud … but what about  … the roots of the park and what makes up its  innate beauty?

This a one of the many Youtube renderings of the recent Appelsap hiphop event in the Oosterpark, the sound must have been so loud and/or the recording equipment may have had no special dimming switch, because the sound track  is totally overmodulated, so rejoice the noise….

A triptiche of chance in original intend and actual usage of the musique kiosk/dome at the Amsterdam Oosterpark.

Change of original design intend and actual usage of the musique kiosk/dome at the Amsterdam Oosterpark; both options could coexist but when one takes in account the frequency of such loud events the question can be raised if animals and vegetation of our city parks can cope with the crowd and its noise. I also found some web-traces of a Christian evangelic organization that used the same music temple for their 2009 Pentecost praise-the-lord meeting... so who knows what paradisal scenes could have been observed at that other instant of park life.

This spring a local city councilman Martin Verbeet (of the social-democrat party/PvdA) made an attempt at restoring the park to its “historic function” by banning all alcohol usage within the park confines. This measure was aimed primary at full-time  alcoholics, a species that traditionally congregrates in public parks (can be seen all over the world). In fact the alcohol-habit people disturb not too much and even give a certain security by their daylong presence on the park benches  withholding  more badly inclined park visitors from trespassing upon non-assertive park dwellers. Side effect of this zealous municipal policy was that local inhabitants who like to have a nice drink with their picnic  would also fall under the new alcohol ban. Apart from the feared diaspora of debased alcoholics onto the doorsteps of the neighboring streets, the new regulation had a surprising exception paragraph for major events like Queens-day (the 30th of April, a Dionysian national bacchanal in the Netherlands). Who knows if  beer-multinational Heineken has been lobbying, or it could have been the feared loss of votes from the partying minded masses,  within a few weeks the zero-alcohol-in-the-park campaign was withdrawn by the local council. Some park visitors regret this sudden retreat and signal that the group of drinkers can get so big that certain people feel menaced and do not dare to pass the drinkers benches….

The official Amsterdam city sign that makes many people, not just tourists, wonder what this could mean and next to it a make shift bar during the Appelsap (apple juice) festival which had more than just soft drinks.

The official Amsterdam city sign that makes many people, not just tourists, wonder what this could mean and next to it a make shift bar during the Appelsap (apple juice) festival which had more than just soft drinks.

Fellow councillors of other parties have been mocking the zero-alcohol measures of their colleague Verbeet (chairman of the local council), some (D66 party members) even have held an illegal demonstrative drinking party, the local daily newspaper Het Parool wrote negatively about the alcohol ban, and members of  Verbeet his own party choose  not to support him on this topic. A personal démasqué for Martin Verbeet, but maybe some of the good intentions of the councillor may have been overlooked.  In november last year the local party fraction of the social democrats made a research on the functioning of the Oosterpark (102 respondents, 81 on-line inquiry, 21 written reactions/ street interviews) and it must have been upon the outcome of this small research that the zero-alcohol measures have been decided.

-Alcoholics -Drug addicts -Children -Adolescents -Sporters -Picnicers -Other
-Alcoholics -Drug addicts -Children -Adolescents -Sporters -Picnickers -Other issues

There is a lot of moaning in the bare 13 pages of this report from gays that frequent the bushes for back to nature outdoor sex, to the obligatory complaints about dog shit, befouling humans, public toilets, unleashed dogs and dog fights, mopeds and bicycles on pedestrian ways … Surprising is that – apart from dogs – animals are hardly mentioned in the report, or it must be the escaped or freed green parakeets that some  people hold to be a nuisance and of course the arch enemies of any human: the rats who criss cross the park at will. Geese, moor-hens, swans and herons are taken for granted, rabbits remain unnoticed and I am sure that a tiny corner of the arch of Noah should be reserved for other more discrete park inhabitants that have managed to escape our attention.

Noise nuisance, sound pollution if you want, is mentioned by several interviewees, especially late night drumming, screaming and  other forms of  rambunctious behavior. There is also a positive approach to the park, an attempt to formulate what it can or should be, as shown in the following statistic.

-Green lung for the town -Play=area for children -Sporting area - Oasis of tranquility -Hang-out spot for youngsters -Art stage -Other

-Green lung for the town -Play area for children -Sporting area - Oasis of tranquility -Hang-out spot for youngsters -Art stage -Other functions: tai chi spot; picnic and party; garden architecture; café, terrace environment (...)

Again animals are only implicitly represented in the report as part of the “green lung of the town” or the “oasis of tranquility”, though tranquility may for some people exclude even the communication of birds. There are known instances of deportations – organized by a team of city-biologists – of whole troops of geese whose claxoning was found to be unbearable by human city dwellers. Which tempts me to deviate to the somewhat reversed subject of birds dialoguing with the city sounds of ambulances and car alarms (I do have at times whistling conversations with birds that reside in the tree across my kitchen window). This to emphasis that an insight in the animal experience of human sound production and its cornucopia of amplifying devices is very much needed. What are they doing when there is an influx of a rock, hiphop or jembee drums? Are they fleeing? Hiding? Creeping deep in a hole safely below the roots of a tree? Do they leave the park forever after yet another blast-out?  Just play the Appelsap Youtube video once again and let your imagination work. When the hiphoppers speak about roots, let me do so so as well:

What then,was the idea of having a city park? Bringing nature -in an organized human format – into the city? Giving the experience of a garden to those who did not have one? Breathing fresh air? A practicing ground for civic behavior? A place to show yourself and  your family if you were wealthy enough? A way to get some understanding of nature – for alienated city dwellers? Or is all that totally out of fashion and should we better think about  a dropping-ground for children, a jogging parcours,  a skaters circuit, a music esplanade, a juvenile hang-out, a cruising area,  a chill-out spot? Is there any possibility to fuse modern city culture with its apparent need for loud sounds and mass audiences with an ecological attitude that can be branded ‘modern’ as well?  Can these two practices  be reconciled at all? Might it be an idea to get as aware of people’s “noise habits” as we are of  people’s “drinking habits?”


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A recent municipal flyer with the text: "prevent nuisance on the water" with a second text line added by me: "Prevent nuisance on the land"
A recent municipal flyer with the text: “prevent nuisance on the water” introducing more strict rules for pleasure boats on the Amsterdam canals, with a second text line added by me: “Prevent nuisance on the land”, as lately a new vehicle appeared in the streets of Amsterdam, the fietscafé (bicycle café) a contraption on four or more wheels with a beer bar with ten or more seats  fitted with a set of pedals connected to a central conveyer system that makes the thing move with all its noisy clients peddling, drinking, sweating and shouting!

Maybe Amsterdam has always been “A-Party-City” even in the old days for the sailors who managed to get back alive after a trip to the East or West Indies (under the most appalling conditions), having their jenever (Dutch kind of gin) in quantities beyond our imagination and roaming the streets in a drunken state;  also the merry-making during special markets, the ‘kermesse’ (originally a fair to celebrate the church patron of a town) with intoxicated and bawdy public behavior, transposed to the football fan celebrations, the Queens-Day and Gay Parade extravaganza of now-a-days. With its Red Light district and ‘coffeeshops’, ‘paddoshops’ and other places and opportunities to consume recreational drugs, a major part of the tourists choosing this town, choose it to go partying, to get stoned and drunk, whereby  sex – if  it can be performed at all in such a state  – will often be more in the tourist’s imagination than for real.

One man’s pleasure easily turns into the other man’s burden and in certain tourist hot spots of town the negative effects of this kind of tourism are felt on a daily basis by the inhabitants. The cheap package deals of Easy Jet and the like have introduced plain-loads of partying-tourists who congregate in the Red Light District, around the Nieuwmarkt, Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein. The Britons have carved out their niche in the area with the highest number of whores, bars and pot-sellers and are known for roaming around in flocks and – as herd animals – tend to be more noisy, than the more individual Latin and Teutonic city roamers. This may all sound like some form of calvinist abhorrence of  (public) pleasure display, coupled with a tourist-phobia, but, as can be expected, it is the Dutch themselves who tend to make most of the noise and nuisance. Forgone are the days that popular outbursts of gaiety and pleasure where happening only on the aforementioned ‘patrons days’, as a kind of social safety valve in the tradition of the Roman maxim “give the people bread and games.” Partying has become the central core of Dutch society as has been recently researched and visualized in a splendid way by the Algerian/Belgian photographer Morad Bouchakour in his book “PARTY! in the Netherlands”, published in 2002.

Click image for a link to a library description of this book by worldcat.org

Let me quote just a few lines from the introduction of this book by Bas Heijne: “if there is so much concern in the Netherlands about how traditions are allegedly no longer being honored, then why are the Dutch throwing so many parties? If there’s one thing this country has, it’s a party culture. No occasion escapes unnoticed. There is isn’t a day without an excuse to celebrate.” The book depicts “almost every conceivable type of party, at every level of society” in the Netherlands and, however amazing the book maybe in its visuals, we are spared the noise on which most of the parties shown are thriving.

Noise – loud and unappreciated sound if you wish – is a spatial thing. It invades, often far beyond what can directly be seen, it may bounce on water, from walls, come back under unexpected angles, it may creep in through resonating floors or ceilings, it may be high pitched or subsonic, it may be continuous or bursting in with a sudden shock. A loud party of the neighbors is something one may need to tolerate once in a while, but it always is an intrusive act upon one’s personal living environment, lest one chooses to join the neighbors party or flee one’s house.

The inner city of Amsterdam is a network of canals, a product of  its original watery and muddy environment and the needs for local transport and its initial function as a European staple market with traders houses and warehouses along what the Dutch call ‘grachten’. Most of the inner city is situated on, or nearby these waterways. As the original transport functions were lost, modern forms of tourism took over the canals with rather big motor boats equipped with panoramic windows and sound systems used by a guide explaining all the views. This last thing has – over the years – been modernized and most tourist boats are now fitted with localized small speakers at the individual seats, so the people living or working along the canals have been freed from the echoing simplistic explanations with each passing of yet another tourist boat. Another considerate measure toward people living in the museum-like inner town, have been a municipal policy to supplant the polluting diesel motors of the tourists boats with electrical motors, a slow process of enforcing that has taken many years, but has really improved the ‘soundscape’ of the city.

Nothing but good news one would say, till the moment that the growing affluence of certain layers of Dutch society – who have a liking of showing off their wealth – combined with the miniaturization of electrical equipment, especially amplifiers and loudspeakers. The phenomenon of the party-boat parade was born. Luxury boats with drinks, loud chatter to cross over even louder amplified music. The nuisance of a party at your neighbors was exported to the canals of the inner city of Amsterdam. So ghetto-blasters changed their function and became yuppie-blasters, the crumbling walls of the ghetto were supplanted by the facades of  lordly houses and the acoustic properties of  the water surface combined with the bricks of the historic buildings worked together to give an optimum impact.

Some sample pictures taken by tourists visiting Amsterdam of local part-boats of the better situated classes parading during summer through the canals of Amsterdam. Beer and wine coolers, sound systems and comfortable deck seats characterize these boats. It is a phenomenon that only developed in the last two decades with the new rich enjoying the parade of their success.
Some sample pictures taken by tourists visiting Amsterdam of local party-boats of the better situated classes parading during summer through the canals of Amsterdam. Beer and wine coolers, sound systems and comfortable deck seats characterize these boats. It is a phenomenon that only developed in the last two decades with the new rich enjoying the parade of their success. Click the picture for a full size view.
People living on house boats in the same canals, and also the inhabitants of some of the smaller canals or next to a lock and the like have been complaining for many years now about these pleasure outtings with no consideration at all of the discomfort for the inhabitants on or next to the water ways of the inner city of Amsterdam. Click the picture for a full size view of this happy crowd.

It is also in this period that smaller and smaller, and cheaper and cheaper sound-systems, were capable of producing more and more volume and so next to poor man’s ghetto-blaster, came the low class car sound system, that can turn a tiny car into a mobile discotheque. Once this mobility had been discovered, the separation of the private and the public came to a sudden end. Any fool may nowadays becomes a broadcaster of their own favorite music without any need for a radio license. One takes one’s car drives into the city, pushes up the volume knob and the capacity of the newest equipment is such that the car owner does not even need to open the window to let the passerby and even the inhabitant of adjacent buildings join into someone’s car-casts. At first something derived at by using bigger and bigger speaker boxes, and recently a even more bodily experience of loudness has been made possible whereby any part of the car’s body can be vibrated and becomes a sounding device. It was but a tiny step to transfer these systems to any kind of boat and go on a pleasure water tour.

The municipal flyer has this arguing texts to convince the party-boat people that they should behave in a more considerate way: "Sound over water reaches much further than over land. It is a nuisance for the inhabitant. We are not speaking about 'cozy' chatting on little boats. But purposeless shouting and much too loud music. Think abot the children that try and to sleep."
The municipal flyer has this arguing texts to convince the party-boat people that they should behave in a more considerate way: “Sound over water reaches much further than over land. It is a nuisance for the inhabitant. We are not speaking about ‘cozy’ chatting on little boats. But purposeless shouting and much too loud music. Think about the children that try to sleep.”
The less fortunate classes enjoying their boat party during Queens-Day in the canals of Amsterdam; notice the big sound system packed in the small boat in the left hand picture element
The somewhat less fortunate classes enjoying their boat party during Queens-Day in the canals of Amsterdam; notice the big sound system packed in the small boat in the left hand picture element; the wooden shoe boat has once be made as an advertisement boat for Heineken beer, probably recycled later as a pleasure boat, I remember seeing it for years parked in the Prinsengracht near the bridge of the Vijzelstraat. Click the picture for a full size view.

These sound systems have become also an integrated party of partying on the water in Amsterdam, especially during the two yearly grand parades of Queens Day in April and the Gay Parade through the canals of Amsterdam in August. No environmental and lest health rules seemed to apply to these pleasure boating events, which on the other hand do force many inhabitants out of the city during these days, especially people living on one of the hundreds of housing boats along the cities canals.

After many complaints and petitions the local authorities have started to limit some of the loudness excesses, but the tolerated massive sound pollution on Queens Day and the Gay Parade, have made public loudness somehow socially acceptable. A person – like me – complaining about it would get a standard reaction from police and other authorities, like “well then you should not live in the inner town” and I remember some organizers of the Gay Parade responding on my complaint posted at their web site with “what is your age? maybe you better move to the countryside” (so much for the gay emancipation movement  recursing to age-discrimination). 

It was a most happy moment when last week I spotted several big size A0 posters on public billboards next to the river close to my house with the new municipal campaign: “prevent nuisance on the water.”  The graphic language in rebus format did catch the eye immediately . Finally some officials caring about ‘ the sound of the city’, also attempting to argue instead of  menacing with punishments or fines.

The municpal flyer reads: "Too much alcohol by a boatsman is as bad as driving with too much alcohol.."
The municpal flyer reads: “Too much alcohol by a helmsman is as bad as behind a steering wheel of a car.

It must have been the same day, that a sudden  moving sound of a whole group of drunks cut through the relative tranquility of our double glassed home… it could not be the usual football fans that load themselves with beer across the river at the Rembrandtplein before diving en masse into the subway that brings them to the big Ajax football stadium in the outskirts… the sound differed from this dispersed unstable crowds crossing the bridge … so I looked out of the window and saw and heard a vehicle – a Beer-Bar-Cycle passing (as depicted and described below). “What a shame”, these were my first words and of course I knew this kind of vehicle that until that day hardly choose to move through my part of town. 

An example of a what is called a Fietscafé (Bicycle Cafe) in the inner town of Amsterdam; one can hear them coming, passing and disappearing on a long distance as bouts of drunken shouts accompany the pedalling exercise

An example of a what is called a Fietscafé (Bicycle Cafe) in the inner town of Amsterdam; one can hear them coming, passing and disappearing from a long distance as bouts of drunken shouts accompany the pedalling exercise. On the one hand professional alcoholics are constantly moved from the streets, especially in the inner town, while this display of public drunkenness is allowed as long as the main “driver” has signed a contract that she/he will stay sober during the rental trip.

The municipal slogan was still fresh in my mind: “Prevent nuisance on the water” and so I thought “but what about nuisance on the land?”  Which drove me to produce another rebus-banner to be posted soon on the streets of Amsterdam. 

My rendering of a new rebus to stop the Bicycle-Beer-Bar or Fietscafé pestering the inner town neighborhoods with public display of drunkeness.
My rendering of a new rebus to stop the Bicycle-Beer-Bar or Fietscafé pestering the inner town neighborhoods with public display of noisy drunkenness.



Three impressions taken of the Bike-O-Beer, Fietscafé, Party Bike, or whatever other name this device has been given, taken from Flickr.

“Fietscafe, aka bike-bar -only in Amsterdam says lludovic’s photostream; “weekend in amsterdam (yes, it’s a mobile bar powered by pedals under their feet and a barman in the middle keeping them hydrated)” says M Baskett;  “Ubriacarsi pedalando. Si sale, si ordina una birra, si pedala in libertà, tra schiamazzi e risate… una cosa così la trovi solo ad Amsterdam” (Getting drunk while peddling. You go out, you order a beer, you pedal in liberty, from shrieks to bouts of (hysterical) laughter… such a thing one only finds in Amsterdam”  says Tioma

The official municipal folder nuisance on the water can be found at the web site of the department of inner waters of the town: BBA.

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