Klarendal: from drugs to fashion?
Klarendal was built in the mid 19th century as a working class area, in response to a growing need for labour. At the time, Arnhem was expanding rapidly due to the growth of industry, railways and the construction of new residential areas for the upcoming class of merchants and administrators. Space for expansion was found North of the city centre. The first wave of construction consisted of cramped compounds of small houses, virtually slums. From the very start, the Arnhem council was confronted with the area’s poor social and hygienic conditions, marking it as a problem area. The area also became separated from the city by the construction, on an embankment, of the eastern railway, which for instance cut the area’s arterial street, Klarendalseweg, in two. Partly in response to this blight, various social housing complexes were established, initially by religious organisations, like the ‘Luthers Hofje’ at the Hommelseweg, and later the ‘Mussenwijk’ in the eastern part. These complexes are now protected monuments.
The 20th century started with major improvements. Slums were cleared. Better houses were built, and a luxury shopping gallery was created at the gateway to the Klarendalseweg (1926), adding to the role of the Klarendalseweg as the area’s main street. After the war, however, the area lost its attraction, the main street dwindled, and wealthier residents started to move out. In the 1960s, the council made plans to radically modernise the area, with the idea to replace the 19th century houses by high rise flats amidst green spaces. However, this met too much opposition to be accepted. In the decades to follow, business and housing stock continued to deteriorate, and Klarendal turned into a decaying area in an otherwise prospering city.
The 1970s and 1980s witnessed an influx of immigrants, seriously changing the area’s social mix. The original population moved out to the suburbs, to find better and bigger houses in greener settings. Klarendal became infested by problems of drugs, prostitution and crime. Social unrest grew, culminating in riots in 1989. Local ‘veterans’ combated the police whom they accused of doing too little against the junks. In response to that, the drugs and crime problems were contained, for instance by the establishment of a local police office and the reduction in the number of coffee shops. Not much change in the area’s social mix occurred however, and the number of shops continued to fall.
Then, rescue came from urban policymakers. From the 1970s onwards, Klarendal became a ‘neighbourhood improvement’ area, resulting in massive investment in housing replacement and renovation. Much of this was carried out by the local housing corporations. As a result, only 40% of pre-war housing is still standing. Investments were also made in retail space, such as the new shopping centre at Klarendal, which opened in 1990s. A dedicated commercial strategy emerged in the mid 2000s, with emphasis on pubs, restaurant and a particular focus on one sector, that of fashion. The latter was facilitated by providing affordable workshop and retail spaces notably along the Klarendalseweg. In doing so, vacant buildings were filled, and blighted spots made way for appealing public spaces. New buzz and activities appeared, including popular events such as Fashion Night held annually in June. Popular places emerged for eating and drinking attracting customers from ‘all of Arnhem and beyond’. In 2013, a new ‘multifunctional’ neighbourhood centre opened, containing a school, nursery, medical centre, meeting places and sports facilities. The area met with local and national media attention, was described as a ‘place to be’ and even turned into a showcase of ‘gentrification’.
A hodgepodge of proles, Turks and newbees
Many of the Turkish families have lived in Klarendal for a long period of time, some since their arrival in the Netherlands in the 1970s and 1980s. Consequently, they really feel like true ‘Klarendallers’ and feel more connected to the ‘old’ (Dutch) Klarendallers than the new ‘gentrifiers’. An interviewed newcomer disagrees and sees the Turkish population as part of the ‘import’ since they behave similar to the gentrifiers: “they are very tidy. Very friendly and withdrawn: ideal Calvinist citizens you could say.”
A community worker remarks that the Turkish population is not at all that different from the other citizens. Like other residents, the Turkish population also applaud changes in the neighbourhood, because Klarendal has become safer and their houses have been improved. However, like many ‘oud-Klarendallers’ they also feel that some of the changes are “not for them”. With small budgets, none of the Turkish women can afford to buy designer bags sold in the Modekwartier. However, some of the newcomers express the same concern: “I like them [the fashion shops], but I would not enter them, no. I like to window-shop, to get nice ideas (…) but those are not shops I would like to get in, that is not my thing (…) mostly because of the prices.” Another male newcomer states: “That entire Fashion Quarter, yes, I like it, but it is for a very limited target group.”
There thus seems to be a mismatch between the new commerce in Klarendal and its residents, regardless whether they are ‘oud-Klarendallers’, Turks, or newcomers. Most of the interviewed residents express a feeling of pride regarding their neighbourhood and feel obliged to ‘defend’ Klarendal’s image. Interestingly, while insiders and visitors from outside Arnhem value Klarendal’s redevelopment, residents of other parts of Arnhem are apparently unaware of the changes and still regard it as a problem neighbourhood.
At first sight, there are no real struggles between different population groups, yet regular daily interaction is limited. While the old-Klarendallers have clear locations to meet (tobacco store Simone, cafe The Sailor, or on the sidewalk of Kapelstreet), the Turks congregate at the mosque, at home or in separate community groups. The newcomers often work outside the neighbourhood or even outside the city, spending less time in the neighbourhood with other residents. However, when looking more carefully and in-depth into a local initiative called the Ballroom Theater, the situation becomes more complex.
The Theatre of Social Mix
Policy-makers want people of different social backgrounds to mix and integrate. Critics say it's an impossible and even undesirable goal. But what do we see happening in practice?Continue Reading
In a recent white paper entitled Arnhem’s Housing Principles 2025 the city’s government sets itself a clear goal for the next ten years:
“[In 2025] Arnhem no longer has any neighborhoods harboring concentrations of people with very low incomes. This could bring them into a downward spiral. However, affordability is very much under pressure for people with a low income. […] For them, we provide enough affordable and varied housing possibilities in a variety of neighborhoods. This enlarges choice options and prevents (undesirable) concentration.” (De Arnhemse Woonprincipes 2025, October 2015: 12)
Policy-makers tell us rich and poor have to be mixed residentially, also in Klarendal. It is supposed to be beneficial for the ‘social balance’ of the neighborhood. Moreover, those people being mixed have to get along well and properly ‘integrate’. Now who would oppose to that? Well, some remarks might be in place. First off, mixing is most often still a very one-sided demand.
Very rarely are the less well-off invited to come and live among the rich for good social measure. The popular Dutch film and its spin-off series Flodder, wherein this type of mixing is attempted by moving an ‘anti-social’ family to a villa town, remains but a comic television fairy-tail. Moreover, research shows that mixing working and middle classes does not necessarily have the assumed positive effects. The conception that higher income groups stimulate the local economy as consumers or act as role models for the disadvantaged is scarcely found true in actual practice. The alternative however, is a strict segregation of groups. And although this may have some advantages, like strong social networks, there are serious drawbacks as well, if only that people living in one and the same city have no idea of each others existence any more. This readily translates into the erection of political and financial barriers between city dwellers, social walls that subvert general solidarities and in the end seriously obstruct social mobility. Should Klarendal mix and integrate then? Maybe this is the wrong question in the first place. Maybe we need to ask ourselves, what do we do with our diversity? A story well known within the neighborhood might provide a provisional answer. This is the story of the Ballroom Theatre (Ballroom Theater).
Ballroom was an initiative by a cultural entrepreneur living in the neighborhood. She was already appointed by the municipality as a ‘cultural scout’ to look for opportunities to try and involve people in the neighborhood into cultural events that otherwise could not or would not. The event comprised a series of vaudeville evening shows, hence the name Ballroom. The theatre was to be very approachable, with an eclectic program. The organizer deliberately tried to mix certain high and lowbrow culture, with for instance having local Turkish wrestlers have a go on stage supported by an opera singer.
What was very important was that some prominent older ladies from the neighborhood acted as party hosts, serving drinks and food. For them, that was an important recognition of their status as originals of Klarendal. One could say, it accorded them the appropriate status in relation to the ‘guests’ of which many were new middle class residents. Also, the unofficial ‘mayor of Klarendal’, a local community leader, acted as the show host, dressed in a ringmaster costume.
Interesting about the Ballroom event was that it had a real theatrical life of its own. The two years when it was organized, in 2008 and 2009, were both a highlight and tragedy. The first year everything went great and was a story of heroism on stage as well as off stage. The shows sold out easily and the visitors and local press were ecstatic. The second year, however, went completely sour. Due to a series of misunderstandings among the organizers, surely amplified by a good dose of identity clashes, the cultural scout quitted halfway during the second series of shows. Mainly due to a lack of organizational skills among the people left behind and the concurrent homogenization of social connections, the theatre lost its mixed character and became a rather monocultural folk music festival, enjoyable only for the Klarendal originals.
The story touches on the question of what makes a place. Events like Ballroom are highly significant to the very peculiar life of the neighborhood yet they will never be visible in the socio-economic statistics and will not have a profound impact on daily routines. In other words, as a volcanic singularity that redistributes habits, if only temporarily, it counters the indifference of social tectonics, yet will not change the life of the inhabitants of Klarendal in the structural way policy-makers and critical geographers would demand. As a point of affection and conversation the event eventually binds friends and enemies, rather like a work of art usually does. And like a work of art, it is very hard to design policy for. Singular events like these are characterized by neither generally necessary nor sufficient conditions. Still, we can recognize the effort that goes into them, the fidelity they incite, and the power they have to bind people through their differences. Thus they are the events that make up real neighborhood life.
Business in Klarendal: the return of the hats
From the onset, Klarendal was built as a commuting area. The local economy originated from local demand for food and other daily consumption and services. Typically for a working class area, many little shops and other venues (workshops, pubs, etc) appeared. When the area was upgraded in the early 20th century, its economy also grew on the basis of city-wide demand. A distinguished shopping gallery emerged at the Klarendalseweg, where, unique for its time, the Arnhem population was exposed to modern shop windows. On display were fancy lighting equipment, stylish men’s hats, new tools and gadgets and luxury comestibles, such as poultry and quality vegetables, Until the 1950s, Klarendal teemed with economic activity.
Then, after the Second World War, decline set in. Changes in consumption patterns and the moving out of the original population caused a gradual decline in shops and other business activities. The luxury shops were the first to close. Venues catering for local consumption survived longer. In the 1960s , there were still 32 bakeries, 25 pubs and 16 other shops. Only a few of those remained 30 year later. Some new businesses were established by the immigrant population, but numbers remained low. From the 1970s till the 1990s, the area witnessed a strong growth of illegal economic activities, notably in the form of drugs and prostitution.
From the 1990s onwards, while illegal activities were successfully combated after the riots, business activities for both local and external consumption started to grow again. A new shopping centre emerged at the Klarendalseweg, hosting a supermarket, stores for cheap clothing, convenience and household goods, laundry, etc. Elsewhere, new shops opened, such as an organic bakery and butcher. Additionally, business activities appeared reaching beyond local demand. First, pubs and restaurants, such as Grand Cafe ‘Goed Proeven’, hipster bar ‘Casper’ and restaurant ‘Sugar Hill’. Second, a cluster of fashion workshops and outlets emerged notably around the beginning of the Klarendalseweg. About 50 business were established, selling for instance very fancy bags, dresses and, once more, hats. The development of this ‘Fashion Quarter’ was enabled by subsidised rents and other support measures. At the moment, most businesses only consist of one-person, part-time activity. Whether the ‘Fashion Quarter’ will be able to grow and prosper, remains to be seen. The ‘hat shop’ that started at the Klarendalseweg in 2010 moved to the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam. So where to a buy a hat in Klarendal now?
A brand new day for Klarendal
This is a guest story by Berry KesselsContinue Reading
A big green champagne bottle rocks gently in the breeze, towering above the railway . The Sonsbeeksingel is bounded on one side by the embankment and on the other side by a row of rundown buildings dating from the early twentieth century. Two ‘coffee shops’ in the row are still functioning. A third is empty. And that’s where today the glasses are being raised. A few hundred people are talking, laughing and drinking toasts round the giant bottle, pressing in turns against a gleaming shop window. ‘Marck & Mo’ the window says. Visitors reach the heart of the shop by strolling over a footbridge and past a collection of luxury leather bags.
It’s August 2006. Besides Marck & Mo, three other designer shops have opened their doors in the Klarendal district of Arnhem. The assembled guests are excited; they can hardly believe it. Does this initiative have any chance of success? For decades, this neighbourhood has been a steady source of newspaper stories from the police blotter. ‘Series of car break- ins’, ‘Girl wounded by attacker’, ‘Woman waylaid at ATM’, ‘Windows shattered’, ‘Addict bleeds to death in the street’, ‘Police raid drugs café’, ‘Junkie pad cleared’. The headlines in De Gelderlander newspaper speak for themselves.
The day starts off overcast, but as celebratory speeches punctuate the champagne consumption, the clouds tear apart. It’s a magical moment. A passing steam locomotive belches black smoke and blows its whistle. The doors of the mosque next to Marck & Mo open up for a pair of Muslim newlyweds, who stride out in all their African glory. ‘Oooohhh’, sigh the guests. Is this part of the programme?
Almost twenty years earlier, Klarendal had made the front page of The New York Times. Klarendal residents had pushed German cars on their sides, broken the windows of drug dens and driven off drug tourists, furious because their neighbourhood had degenerated into the epicentre of the city’s drug trade. The Germans in particular crossed the border daily by the hundreds to get their kicks in Arnhem. In some streets the turnover from drug dealing amounted to more than a million guilders a week. The Klarendal ‘coffee shop’ owner Harm Dost was the most wanted man in Germany.
Klarendal had hit rock bottom. This wasn’t the first time the people of Klarendal had risen up in revolt. In its eagerness to keep up with the municipal Joneses, the Arnhem city council had torn into the working-class area with a wrecking ball. Housing blocks were the answer, built on broad avenues. But that, too, was more than the Klarendalers could take. With tough perseverance and a lot of lip they managed to stop the demolition and to prevent even more of the distinctive old houses from being swept away.
A neighbourhood with colour and character, that’s Klarendal. The Jordaan of the east. People with their heart on their sleeve and gardens decked out in orange whenever the Dutch football team does the country proud. More than seven thousand people in a neighbourhood that has grown up around the Klarendal Windmill since the mid-nineteenth century. The backbone of the area is the Klarendalseweg, which turns into the Sonsbeeksingel and ends in the Hommelstraat. The heart of the city lies a bit further on, inside the ‘singel’ ring. In 1970, the neighbourhood began going downhill: high unemployment, low incomes, little schooling, drug-related trouble, psychological problems, poverty. Klarendal became a depressed area. For decades the neighbourhood was left to get dirtier and more derelict. Some of the workers began earning more money and moved away. The lively Hommelstraat-Sonsbeeksingel- Klarendalseweg shopping axis gradually fell silent. The shop windows began gathering dust and were converted into bicycle sheds or warehouses.
May 2008. Can’t You Feel a Brand New Day blares from the stage built at the spot where the Klarendalseweg runs into the Sonsbeeksingel. Flower petals flutter through the air. Thousands of people applaud. Rising behind the stage is a monumental building. ‘It’s as if it’s always been there’, sighs a Klarendaler. Waiters run back and forth tentatively, unaccustomed to the layout of the grand café that fills the building’s ground floor. On the first floor, plasterers are putting the finishing touches to the walls. This proud, former post office now goes by the name of ‘Station Klarendal’. It used to be located a good kilometre further up near the Arnhem railway station but had to give way for the expansion of the tracks. With great care it was sawn into 125 pieces and rebuilt here, to serve as an icon for the renewal of Klarendal. The number of designer shops has now grown to fifteen. Klarendaal calls itself the Fashion Quarter. For three days, locals from Arnhem and people from far beyond have come to gape and stare. The two hundred seats in the Goed Proeven café-restaurant are fully booked and will remain so for years to come. ‘Klarendal’s image in the newspapers today is more often positive than negative’, say the Klarendalers. And: ‘I wouldn’t buy a dress for five hundred euros, but this sure is better than those junkies were.’
The renewal began at the start of the twenty-first century. Paul Scholten, the mayor at the time, called the local residents to action with the motto ‘Come on, Klarendal!’ Joined by the police, social workers, the municipality and the housing corporation, as well as by urban developers, artists and architects, they began thinking about what was wrong with the neighbourhood and what had to change. At the high point of this process, hundreds of residents met in scores of Klarendal living rooms at the same time to talk about their district. City officials drank coffee with them and feverishly took notes. The beating heart of all these activities was the Klarendal centre for volunteer work, where residents and professionals constantly ran into each other.
What did the Klarendalers want? Clean and tidy streets! A no-nonsense approach to drug problems and criminality! A crackdown on slum landlords. A new school to halt the exodus of children to schools outside the neighbourhood. A place where senile Klarendalers could live out their old age in peace. And: the return of the lively old shopping axis. Until the seventies, Klarendal had attracted people from all over the city. They bought clothes in the downtown area and then crossed the ‘singels’ for bread, vegetables, meat, groceries, tableware, hardware and more. Located along the Hommelstraat, Sonsbeeksingel and Klarendalseweg were more than a hundred shops: bakers, butchers, grocers, greengrocers, cafés, ice cream parlours, hairdressers and barbers and much more. Most of them disappeared in the last quarter of the twentieth century, forced out by the arrival of the supermarkets or the evaporation of purchasing power. ‘Give us our shops back’, said the Klarendalers.
In around 2003, important actors such as the municipality and the Volkshuisvesting Arnhem housing corporation, along with the residents, decided that enough was enough. Klarendal was going to become a pleasant place again. The municipality donated a lorry to the neighbourhood that was driven by a volunteer neighbourhood supervisor from Klarendal. Within two weeks the trash had disappeared from the street.
Although Volkshuisvesting Arnhem promised to invest in the shopping axis, it was clear that the old shops would never come back. There was no economic basis for them. In the meantime, the American academic Richard Florida had just discovered the ‘creative class’ as an engine of economic development. Arnhem is bursting with creative people. The ArtEZ Institute of the Arts has about thirteen hundred students who are being trained in every branch of the culture: music, dance, theatre, typography, the visual arts and architecture.
ArtEZ also has fashion: a first-rate school where international fashion houses go to select their designers. Arnhem graduates have made it to the top of the design departments at Diesel and Lanvin. Viktor & Rolf are among the best in the world, and the reputation of Arnhem fashion studios like Spijkers en Spijkers, Humanoid and People of the Labyrinths extends far beyond the country’s borders. For fifty years the fashion department had developed in the shelter of the academy. Then in 2007, both the city and the country were stunned at the combined creativity that became apparent when the first Arnhem Fashion Biennale was held in a former milk factory. Lisette Schmetz and Piet Paris launched a tradition of fashion festivals held every two years in which the focus is on design and the international fashion media turn out in droves.
A sultry summer evening in June 2009. Slender fashion-minded young women balance on high heels near the wall surrounding the terrace at the Goed Proeven restaurant. A techno beat resounds from the platform of the Klarendal Windmill. Sturdy models caught in the strobe lights move stiffly like robots. Thousands of people stroll past the designer shops in Klarendal. Now there are more than twenty-five of them. The Fashion Quarter grew out of the relationship between Klarendal and ArtEZ. Young fashion designers have moved into the former shops, which the Volkshuisvesting housing corporation bought up and restored. Many of them actually live over their shops. Located on the first floor of Station Klarendal is the Arnhem Fashion Factory, a studio that produces small collections for designers and students at ArtEZ. Secondary vocational school students do internships here and are trained to become skilled cutters. Farther up on the Sonsbeeksingel is the Arnhem Mode Incubator, where recently graduated fashion designers can spend another two years learning the ropes of the business.
The municipality has invested a great deal of money in refurbishing Klarendal. In the evening, light from the nostalgic green lampposts shines on the clinkers of the cosy Klarendalseweg. Unemployment has gone down, jobs have increased, private individuals are investing in real estate again, and research shows that the Klarendalers are finally regaining confidence in their future and are satisfied with their housing conditions. Researchers like Gerard Marlet of the Atlas of Dutch Municipalities regard these changes as quite exceptional. The people of Arnhem have chosen Station Klarendal as the biggest improvement of the first decade of the twenty-first century, and the National Renovation Platform awarded Klarendal the Golden Phoenix for the best area transformation in the Netherlands.
Summer 2012. The four handsome apartments in the restored former Children’s Home next to the Arnhem Fashion Incubator on the Sonsbeeksingel are now inhabited. The dilapidated Menno van Coehoorn Barracks has become a bustling cultural centre. Nearby, the best espresso in the Netherlands and Belgium is served at Sugar Hill’s outdoor café. All around Sugar Hill, at the north end of Klarendalseweg, about twenty designer shops are now open for business. Van Hulsteijn Bikes produces its exceptionally beautiful racing bikes there and delivers them to South Africa, Japan and France. The Fashion Quarter has more than fifty shops, trendy cafés and restaurants. The Plaatsmaken gallery and print shop has now located near the Klarendal Windmill, and next to the Goed Proeven restaurant the Hotel Modez and Caspar café have opened their doors. Guests sit outdoors and watch the passing trains, bubbles rising brightly in their glasses.
Berry Kessels (social developer) is working for Volkshuisvesting Arnhem, a social housing company in the Netherlands.
From government-driven demolition to ‘sweat equity’ renovation
The first urban developments in Klarendal consisted of small single room dwellings, built between 1830 and 1888. These dwellings were of substandard condition and the area developed a (national) reputation as a slum. This spawned the first wave of demolition and renewal, which occurred between 1890 and the Second World War. Slums were cleared to make way for cheap working-class row houses. It was during this period that the first social housing estates were built: ‘Kapelwijk’ in the central part and ‘Onder de Linden’ and ‘Mussenberg’ in the eastern parts of Klarendal. Motivated by concerns over the decline of the area, a second round of urban renewal commenced in 1972, which lasted until the end of the 1980s. Especially the southern parts of Klarendal were targeted for urban renewal clearance and new housing construction. As a result, more than 40% of the total housing stock now dates back to the past decades. Renewal occurred under the heading of ‘Building for the Neighbourhood’, which meant that new dwellings had to be built for the original inhabitants of the neighbourhood. Enhancing the social diversity of the neighbourhood was not an explicit policy concern. Not yet…
This changed in the nineties, when housing policy makers at national level began to emphasise the benefits of enhancing the social diversity of residential environments. This was to be achieved through redeveloping homogeneous neighbourhoods so that they would contain a greater variety of houses by price range and tenure. Renewal activities in Klarendal were also influenced by this emerging consensus. In 2000, 83 per cent of the housing stock was rental, of which Volkshuisvesting owned the bulk – 2200 dwellings. Because the second wave of renewal mobilized strong resistance by residents, Volkshuivesting opted for tenure conversion, rather than selective demolition and new construction, by selling parts of the social housing stock. The proportion of owner-occupied housing rose from 17 per cent in 2000 to 30 per cent in 2015. In turn, the social rental stock was reduced to 57 per cent and private rental increased to 13 per cent. Volkshuisvesting now owns 1750 of the total of almost 4000 dwellings in Klarendal.
Average growth rates on assessed values of residential property in Klarendal from 1999 to 2013 stood at 68 per cent, considerably higher than the rate for the city of Arnhem as a whole (58 per cent). In contrast, real estate agents have not observed similar increases in purchase prices, even though they recognize that the neighbourhood offers a potentially ‘good investment’ for home owners. Indeed, this potential is increasingly recognized. Recently, several properties have been renovated by their prospective owners under a “sweat equity” programme aimed at rehabilitating the dilapidated housing stock. Professional investors and developers have also lately discovered Klarendal. One developer is constructing twenty modern family homes on a vacant block, two other investors are renovating existing dwellings.
Klarendal’s politics: protest, riots, deliberation
While the recent arrival of the Fashion Quarter (Modekwartier) might suggest otherwise, gentrification is not entirely new to Klarendal. Already at the end of the nineteen sixties plans were conceived to demolish most of the area and replace the old with new luxury housing. Back then community leader Tempo van Vlaanderen (nicknamed after the brand of his delivery wagon) and with him many others sprung into action and effectively stopped those initial plans of ‘urban renewal’. In ‘72 this also led to the establishment of Committee Klarendal (Werkgroep Klarendal) which was quite successful in securing the construction of cheap and good housing for its working class residents. It was wholly in accordance with the political spirit of the times, with protest and polarization.
On a national level these antagonistic politics again gave way to the typically Dutch ‘poldering’ in the nineties, focusing more on consensus. Also in Arnhem, where for a long time the Labour Party (Partij van de Arbeid) was in control, the electoral landscape was fragmented, urging much more consensual politics. White papers attest to this: with everybody having their say they become a jumble of promissory bureaucratic lingo. However, in the same period, Klarendal also developed from a politics of struggle to deliberation, in which the residents’ association was entirely incorporated as a neighbourhood council (bewonersoverleg).
The most recent changes in the neighbourhood, from the 2001 ‘Klarendal Come On!’ initiative onwards, have been the product of the coming together, in the neighbourhood council, of active residents, social workers and representatives of the housing association and municipal government. With the riots as a historic low point of public trust still in the back of people’s minds this is considered a proud achievement. Crucial has also been the timely financial boost from the national ‘empowered neighbourhoods’ program (krachtwijkenbeleid) by minister of state Ella Vogelaar (2007-2009). However, these funds have long dried up in the meantime, and with recent national austerity and decentralization measures setting in, the big political challenge is to keep talks going among neighbourhood stakeholders to soften and direct the blows.
Attractive as it might be, we should be aware that the renewed emphasis on cooperation and deliberative consensus (‘overleg’) carries its risks as well. Democracy can be practiced in many ways and any one way is not necessarily wholly better than any other. Every form has its pros and cons, and people will not be better served by one or the other. In the old political style differences were magnified and actively shaped: workers against owners, ‘us against them’. In the new way of running politics there is a risk of differences not being properly addressed. A bureaucratic atmosphere emerges in which deviant opinions are dismissed as ‘irrational’ or just ‘shouting’. An atmosphere also, in which new, middle-class residents often thrive better, leading to a situation in which differences that are definitely there can only be expressed through undesirable channels and places. Klarendal’s history teaches us that many styles of practising and discussing politics are possible. It proves important that, when organizing a neighbourhood platform (‘wijkgesprek’), one has to keep in mind and make room for those different styles.