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  • Writer's pictureOscar Schulze Casademunt

Forum Groningen facing million-euro deficit

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

A building in Groningen
The Forum from the outside © Alexandra Theodorou

Financial problems in the Forum could lead to setbacks in the centre’s ability to host cultural events.

The ten-story cultural hub is facing a significant deficit after a hike in energy bills this year. Dirk Nijman, director of the Forum, confirms that the energy costs for 2023 have exceeded the centre’s annual budget by €800,000.

“Energy is the main problem,” he says, referring to the rise in energy prices and the practice of buying energy for the whole year. This means that the Forum had to purchase energy at the beginning of last year, grappling with the high energy prices due to war in Ukraine.

This expenditure has coincided with a seven percent rise in labour costs, as well as a six percent increase in rent for the Forum’s buildings, which are owned by the municipality.

This financial hit has resulted in a number of measures to keep costs down. Dirk explains that the Forum has frozen spending on book collections for a year, decided not to fill in vacancies for two months and will probably have to host exhibitions less frequently. This means that the Forum will hold international conferences every two years, instead of every year as it currently does.

Forum inside © Alexandra Theodorou

While Dirk emphasises these are short-term measures, they will concern the many residents of Groningen who use the Forum as a cultural space.

Someone at risk of these cuts is Stephanie, a mother of one, who regularly uses the centre. “I would struggle to do without it,” she says, adding that it is especially useful for parents.

The Forum is a place where parents can meet up and the children can go off and play, she says, as well as proving a good place to immerse children in books in several languages.

Stephanie explains that she emigrated from Australia over two years ago, so the Forum’s rich collection of children’s books allows her young son to read in his native language, but also pick up Dutch for the future.

A children's library at the Forum © Alexandra Theodorou

The Forum is similarly useful for Luc van Zijl, junior account manager, who finds himself there several times a week. When asked about his use of the centre, he replies “Mostly for reading. Sometimes the cinema, sometimes the lockers. And if there’s a new exposition I always go and see that.”

Aside from the multifunctionality of the Forum, Luc says that the centre inspires him. “[It] is a place where I can come to ease up and let my creative side float,” he says, “The building itself is an inspiration and so are all the people that come here."

Although the Forum has had to make small cuts, Dirk remains optimistic about the future, and remains confident about the centre’s cultural significance in Groningen.

The Forum has received 2.4 million visits since December 2022, proving to be the best attended year since the centre’s opening in 2019, according to Dirk.

“We are in the middle of society,” says Dirk, speaking to the centre’s position as a cultural hub in the city, “We want to part of people’s lives.”

With forecasts that the Forum’s energy bills will be €600,000 cheaper next year, amid negotiations with the municipality for increased funding, the Forum will hope to continue being part of people’s lives for years to come.

A library of books with a woman reading
The library of the Forum © Alexandra Theodorou

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