SSBA Salon is making things happen in Amsterdam

SSBA Salon is making things happen in Amsterdam

Oct 1, 2012 |  by  |  Art
About the author
The name's Ciaran, a 27-year-old guy who loves the idea of a discovery, even if it actually isn't one. Among many other Sherlock Holmes adventures, searching for art and music is what keeps me going. High Five!

Personally, I don’t have a clue about what goes down inside the monstrous walls and cavities of the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam. But as it just so happens, there is something very interesting brewing up in the attic there. Two young guys have gotten an all systems go to set up a creative test lab from scratch. With their new approach to cultural events and the launch of their online magazine, they’re bringing Amsterdam’s pool of creative spirits together. Slowly but surely, they’re making a name for themselves. Maarten Bul & Chris Julien, the initiators of SSBA Salon.

Guys, let’s start off with an honest question and an honest answer. Do you think our readers have already heard of SSBA Salon before?
Chris: “Uhm, no, probably not. We started setting this up back in January, so we’re not exactly new though.”
Maarten: “To be fair, we haven’t tried to use any complicated marketing strategies to get our message out there. People are given the chance to gradually discover us within their own timeframe. We don’t want to be the ones shoving information down someone’s throat.”

We’re extremely privileged in what we do. I mean, we even have our own key to the whole theatre.

From what I’ve heard, it seems like an amazing opportunity. What kind of background do you come from? Is it in any way related to what you’re doing now?
Maarten: “Although I’ve always had a lot of different cultural interests, my background is in business, marketing and advertising. I also used to spend a lot of my free time organizing parties such as Stad van Spinoza and Boycott. Chris is the philosophical one who also has a great interest in culture. He was also organizing parties of his own such as Katapult and Backstage, and that’s more or less how we met. Now with SSBA Salon we’re still organizing events, but with a much stronger culutural impact.”

Where does the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam fall into place then? They’re financing everything and giving you guys this once in a lifetime chance. How did it all kick off?
Maarten: “The director, Melle Daamen, who we had met before thanks to Amsterdam’s nightlife, asked us if we wanted to organize a party for the theatre to become more attractive to people like us. But the two of us decided that we wanted to do more than just one party.”
Chris: “Maarten and I put together a very elaborate pitch, which consisted of about 80 slides. Eventually we got down to the real business and the main conclusion was that both sides had a very positive feeling about the whole plan. We’re extremely privileged in what we do. I mean, we even have our own key to the whole theatre. We made our dream proposition and they said: “OK, get to work!”.”

There are so many really cool things going on in this building. It’s an intensely motivating place to roam around and everyone pulls each other along

Let’s talk about your goals though. Do you believe Amsterdam is currently missing out on something? What are you trying to contribute culturally?
Chris: “Our goal with SSBA Salon isn’t to become some secondary department within the theatre. We’re working hard to become a separate brand with its own identity. Amsterdam is a city full of little cliques; a lot of the people we bring together know each other already. Our role is to make full use of all the potential through co-creation.”
Maarten: “The essence of what we do is trying to bring creative people together. We’re a test lab that supports young entrepreneurs. We focus on current affairs in Amsterdam, looking at what’s going on in town through the eyes of the creative minds of the city. We’re breaking away from the old habit of deciding what’s cool ourselves and instead finding out what’s hot and reeling that in to us.”

It must be a great experience to be working at the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam. Are there ever any mishaps though or run-ins with theatre hierarchy?
Maarten: “There are so many really cool things going on in this building. It’s an intensely motivating place to roam around and everyone pulls each other along. The theatre however is organized like an official institution. The quality of work is extremely high and everything is very well controlled and efficient. This is something that we clash on every now and then and have to get used to. But it’s also a great learning opportunity that works both ways of course.”

In a few final words, what is SSBA Salon ultimately about?
Chris: “It’s like going to a bar and hearing a good story.”
Maarten: “But all the credits have to go to Melle Daamen. Without his support and faith in us, we wouldn’t be where we are now. He’s given us complete freedom to really make things happen.”

Feature image courtesy of Joris Groot.

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