We are celebrating our 75th anniversary as British Council in the Netherlands in 2020-21 by sharing 75 personal stories from people who have a special connection to both the UK and the Netherlands. Read the 75 NL-UK stories and join us in celebrating our 75th anniversary. Expand the boxes below to read the full stories by Elske van Holk and Yvonne Zonderop. New stories will be added in the months to come.
75 UK-NL Stories - Theatre
Elske van Holk
The UK & STET and me, a unique relationship!
All in all I spent more than 13 years living in the UK and I still feel very connected to Britain. I have always had a passion for the theatre and during that time I had the opportunity to join Southwark Playhouse, one of London’s leading theatres. My time there taught me never to give up when the mission is to present beautiful, relevant theatre. It also taught me how important it is to involve young people and the community in the theatre. So when I returned to the Netherlands it inspired me to start an English-language theatre in The Hague: STET (Stichting The English Theatre) On 6 June 2006 a unique theatre was born. Challenges were presented but I did not give up! Over the past 15 years we have put on well over 120 productions. In 2013 STET Education was established and The Hague Shakespeare Festival was co-founded. So far STET is still the only receiving house for solely English-language theatre in The Netherlands.
To enhance our ties with the UK, four consecutive British Ambassadors in the Netherlands have agreed to become STET’s patron, including the current ambassador, the Honourable Ms Joanna Roper CMG. All of them have shown great commitment to the arts and to STET in particular.
I can proudly say that in 2021 STET is alive and kicking. I have now retired but STET is in the hands of a young and skilled team that – despite all the problems with the pandemic – has continued to develop new, diverse, and inclusive international performances and education programmes. It is wonderful to feel the new energy coming in!
I am grateful for the support STET has received from The British Council in the last 15 years. Congratulations on the 75-year milestone and here’s to a creative future with many artistic exchanges and collaborations. I for one can’t wait!
Elske van Holk
My fabulous Aunt Jackie
London in the seventies is supposed to have been a dreary place. But not for me. Thanks to my fabulous Aunt Jackie, who took me, a 16-year old from The Hague, into her Richmond flat to stay for summer.
Jackie was a natural redhead actress with an enormous energy and a twinkle in her eye. She met my mother’s youngest brother while touring in Australia with the Royal Shakespeare Company. They fell in love, she quit the stage, but not for long. Soon they returned to London to pick up her career.
Jackie taught me British culture like no one would. She and my uncle Joe would share their flat with the properly eccentric Martin, who looked like Winston Churchill in dressing gown, and brooding, baret-wearing Sophie from Czechoslovakia. All would behave perfectly kind and polite, as to show me, a blunt Dutch girl, how to make living together in a small space work.
Off course Jackie took me to the theatre, where she introduced me to the self-deprecating humor the English prefer. ‘Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, that I love London town’, they all sang. Next day she would take me to Biba’s to buy blue nailpolish…
But most of all she bombarded me with books. She would send me Sexual Politics by Kate Millett, poems by Stephen Spender, Salinger’s The catcher in the Rye. All to a 16 year old! She invoked in me a lifelong love for the English language, for it’s wonderful writers. Only later I realized the power of her example. One would wish for an Aunt Jackie for every 16 year old…