HAPPENINGText: Ania Markham

Every year the Netherlands winds itself up, ready for the last day of April. Queensday (or Koninginnedag) is not to be underestimated. A public holiday on a scale rarely seen in other countries, it’s a day when the Dutch throw a huge national party to celebrate the ‘birthday’ of their Queen. Decked in orange, the streets of all major cities and towns heave with a happy throng of locals and tourists.

Coming from London, I was blown away by my first experience of Queensday in Amsterdam. Apart from the colossus second-hand market that enveloped the Joordan neighbourhood in the first half of the day (we bought an original 1950’s American rusty beachcruiser bicycle for 35 euros and a tent for only 10 euros), the canals and streets were filled with busking children, huge beer parties, loud sound-systems and the colour orange as far as the eye could see. And no hassle, just smiley faces, young and old alike.

I’d just arrived from a city that hosted the Notting Hill Carnival every year – a brilliant event on London’s social calender – but one where such a large concentration of people packed closely together (usually about a million), quite often spells trouble and even violence. The streets of Amsterdam, on the other hand, seemed remarkably good-natured and tolerant.

During our second year, we decided to have our very own stall on Queensday outside a friend’s house which was perfectly placed right in the centre of the Jordaan. Manned completely by our group of ex-Londoners, our fancy stall (complete with tent awning to protect from the ever threatening Dutch rain) sold everything including old vinyl, sneakers, clothes and home-baked muffins. Apart from having a brilliant laugh, playing all our old records and resurrecting dance routines from when we were teenagers, – we made a fortune! (About 800 euros by the end of the day). So that’s why the Dutch were so keen to sell their stuff and fought over the best stall locations!

Everyday is not like everyday. A Kai Zastrow book © Melanie Bonajo
Everyday is not like everyday. A Kai Zastrow book © Koen Hauser, Courtesy of Foam Gallery

I can’t recommend highly enough adding Queensday to your future city-visits. Yes, it can be tricky finding accommodation in Amsterdam around that day but if you plan far in advance and get your hotel rooms reserved, you should be OK. If, however, an orange filled party is not on the horizon or you already live in the Netherlands and just want to check out other people’s observations of the day, then head over to the tNt on Herengracht for the Foam Gallery‘s exhibition ‘Everyday is not like everyday: The 120th Day, Queensday’ exhibition running until May 14th. It’s a great collection of images taken on the day from an array of photographers, architects, and film makers, including Bertien van Manen, Bianca Pilet, Otto Snoek, Koen Hauser and Melanie Bonajo.

Everyday Is Not Like Everyday: The 120th Day, Queensday NL
Curated by Kai Zastrow
Date: March 30th – May 14th, 2006
Open: 10:00 – 17:00
Place: tNt
Address: 498 Herengracht, 1017 Amsterdam
Entrance: 5.00 Euro
Tel: +31 (0)20 551 6500

Text: Ania Markham
Photos: Ania Markham

[Help wanted] Inviting volunteer staff / pro bono for contribution and translation. Please e-mail to us.