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Het Kasteel, Alphen a/d Rijn, Netherlands

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In the Netherlands, in the middle of the province of Zuid-Holland lies a town called Alphen a/d Rijn. In this town the local youths are always looking for places to go, things to do and people to meet - just as youthful people do all over the world. In Alphen however, the number of places to visit is pretty limited, so every week it's a matter of finding the proper place to go to.

The main street to have a good time is called Julianastraat (straat means 'street'). It is lined with pubs and dance rooms but many of these establishments do not cater for the younger crowd or those people with children. In 1972, there were a couple of people who decided it was time for a place where the youth of Alphen could hang out, have a drink and a talk, without the risk of being turned away at the door, without the risk of getting soaking wet in the rain and so on. The name of this place was Midas. It was run entirely by volunteers, something that has never changed.

Soon after it was founded, Midas grew to be more than just a place to hang out. The people who ran it started organising parties for the local youths. They invited bands to come over and play to make sure they were a force to be reckoned with in the nightlife of Alphen.

Het Kasteel nowadays

At one time in 1982, the decision was made to change the name from Midas to Het Kasteel, which means 'The Castle'. At that time, the organisation had become somewhat more structured; a board was installed and everything became a bit more professional. People were hired to take care of everyday chores such as maintaining the beer supply, writing press releases and so on.

Also, the number of visiting bands grew, and bigger names turned up in the programme. A random list of acts would include The Pretty Things, Finch, John Wetton, Camel, Hans Dulfer, and Herman Brood. In sync with these bands, some major parties like the Noise-party (Rock) and Midnight Madness (House) were organised and the number of visitors grew steadily.

People who didn't care much for the usual pubs and discos, and were looking for a better way to spend their weekend, finally had a local place to go to.

Stories about pot smoking and punk-lovers (whose only thrill in life is starting trouble...) and more tittle-tattle of that sort is one of the reasons why Het Kasteel is still considered 'alternative' and 'unconventional'. Where there is smoke, there is fire, of course. People are indeed allowed to smoke joints (this is also the absolute limit as far as drugs are concerned), and yes, there are punk-lovers in Het Kasteel. However, these people are not the only ones who visit.

The people who come to visit Het Kasteel vary from high school kids having a good time to middle-aged people who come to see a band and dance side by side with younger people who have just discovered that particular music style; from house music lovers who dance until early in the morning at a Moonlaking-party to over- and under-aged hippies who like to party on 1970s disco-music at an Easy Tune. You also get people who come to visit on weekdays and just want to have a drink and a talk.

As well as the omnipresent party spirit, there is also an educational purpose to Het Kasteel. Every now and then there are workshops organized to constantly improve the skills of both volunteers and people from outside Het Kasteel. Subjects of those workshops vary a great deal, yet they are all in some way connected to things concerning the venue. Some examples are:

  • Video editing

  • Percussion

  • Creating a dance act

  • Improvising in drama

All these workshops usually last a couple of evenings with a presentation from the course-members on the final day

On the whole, Het Kasteel is starting to develop into a centre for music and culture, which is also the reason why the name was changed to Pop en cultuurpodium Het Kasteel. The organisation itself has also undergone some changes. A council of volunteers called the Medewerkersraad now supports the board. The council functions as the operational side of the organisation, as well as an extra link between the volunteers and the board. Also, there is an entity called the Mediaraad, which is a group of volunteers who take care of the PR for Het Kasteel. They handle everything, from advertisements to monthly newsletters.

Since Het Kasteel was founded, many people have come and gone. It has seen many changes in its organisation, and now it looks like it's heading towards an even more more professional way of existence. One thing that has never changed however, is the fact that Het Kasteel is a place for everybody. All music styles are represented and all people are welcome there. That is probably why it has survived the 1970s and it's why it will exist for quite some years yet.

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