Amsterdam – Food for Thought

by | 12. April 2019

Amsterdam| On the 12th of April, the Europe Dome visited the multicultural city of Amsterdam. Right in the middle of the Passage in De Hallen, a bustling centre for culture and craftsmanship, the Europe Dome invited everyone to join in discussions on citizen participation and food security. Mirte van Hout writes about her experiences in Amsterdam. 

De Hallen are a meeting place in the neighbourhood of Amsterdam West and offer a diverse range of products and services. The impressive building used to be a depot for trams, but has been transformed into a vibrant centre of art, culture and catering. This was only possible due to the combined efforts of architects, neighbours, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders.

Under the roof of De Hallen, people can come together to watch a variety of movies in De FilmHallen, to read books from the there located library in the book café or to rent art from the gallery Beeldend Gesproken. Apart from these cultural activities, we passed initiatives that are educating craftsman. For example, we were standing right next to Recycle, which trains people with a distance to the labour market to become bicycle repairer. Finally, De Hallen hosts the immensely popular FoodHallen, where various different kinds of food from all over the world can be found, tried and tasted. 

The Dome in the Passage Way of De Hallen

“We should strive towards a more transparent and fair democratic system; in this sense sortition, namely random selection of representatives, could be a more fair and balanced way to represent us. Its going to be like a checks and balance system, where different people, that are represented check one another from different levels.”

Ralph Maartens

Participant under the Dome

 We peeked in a few times and came across Mexican taco’s, Hong Kongese dim sum and Mediterranean dishes. In this way, De Hallen serves cultural, social and professional purposes, all at once.

 In this colourful and diverse atmosphere, we erected the Europe Dome. As we were standing in the middle passage way of De Hallen, everyone who entered De Hallen was walking right into the geodetic structure of our dome. Right below the painting where a people’s uprising was depicted, the European Public Sphere project invited passer-by’s to participate in open discussions on democracy and Europe. While standing on the ladder to build the Dome, several people already approached us to ask what our project was about and how they could join. They tilted their heads to read the folders or laid a hand on the wooden beams and pulled softly. 

Some were amazed to see the structure of the dome, while others pursed their lips and told me, with the air of a professional, how pressure was distributed over the entire surface of the dome. I liked seeing the different kind of reactions the dome brought up and talking to people about their personal ideas regarding the European Public Sphere project.

Still, it was interesting to see that even though we were in this central place in Amsterdam, where every shop and initiative seemed to scream “sustainability” and “awareness”, many people were hesitant to join. Luckily, we found an eager participant, who had travelled all the way to Amsterdam for the Dome Talk. He joined our first talk, in which we discussed citizen participation. Starting with what a citizen is and what we can do to find more resonance of our ideas in politics, the conversation evolved and touched upon the history of democracy. 

Video of our 5 stops in the Netherlands

Video of our 2 stops in Luxembourg

Later, we even drifted off to the concept of democracy through random selection and dived deep into the practicalities, but also the philosophy behind such a system. While being the moderator of the talks, I enjoyed how engaging our participants were discussing the topics – to such an extent, that I also joined in the conversation several times.

During our break, we considered the idea of eating something in the beautiful, but expensive FoodHallen. In the end, we decided against it and found a market just outside De Hallen, where food was also sating and significantly better priced. We found an empty bench in the sun and discussed what ideas had passed in the previous talk. Personally, I gathered my thoughts on food security and quality, in order to be able to moderate the next Dome Talk properly. It would be the first time we were discussing this issue and even though it is a broad topic, I imagined it would be hard to get people being enthusiastic for discussion on this matter.

Luckily, the second Dome Talk was visited by more people. Relating the topic of food quality and security to the EU, the participants talked about international trade agreements as well as internal European treaties on the bioindustry and agriculture. Moreover, the participants stressed the importance of taking your own responsibility in the matter of food waste and food quality multiple times. Some argued that we want food to be aesthetically pleasing, while we do not realize where our food actually comes from. Several participants concluded that we need to go back to locally produced food again and the first contributor even mentioned his own vegetable garden, exemplifying how this rendered him self-sufficient.

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The day ended in style, as we drank a well-deserved Dutch beer in De FoodHallen, accompanied by one of our participants. While building down the Europe Dome, another surprise was still waiting for us. From the front of De Hallen, we heard loud but swinging music approaching. Amazingly, while we were standing on the ladders, unscrewing the beams from the structure of the Dome, a Brazilian carnival band was coming down the passage way. They paraded around the Europe Dome, the beautifully dressed up dancers shaking their hips next to the stable and rigid wooden structure.

As such, the day ended with a swinging blast and as we prepared for our next stop in Den Haag, we were still humming the happy sounds of the carnival band.


Some impressions from our Dome Event: