Pop stage Barrard relives fifty turbulent years

Het Paard in The Hague has grown from a lousy youth club into an adult Pop Temple. A common thread in programming is the local music scene. “We want to be a starting point.”

Thijs Papôt

It is displayed like an archaeological find: an old dressing room door, covered in an astonishing amount of tire posters. It’s a collection of footnotes into the turbulent history of horses, that you can look at for a long time. The “excavation” is important, because tangible memories of the past of the Pop Temple in The Hague have not been left since the renovation.

More stories. Visitors are invited to share their personal stories about the horse at video booth, in the former smoking area. Director Magel Blunden hopes to bring her “unforgettable concerts, embarrassing situations, or even love stories.” “We want to release it as a compilation.” The occasion is the 50th anniversary of the stage which opened its doors on Prinsegracht on October 21, 1972 in the name of the Trojan Horse.

“The Hague longed for the horse at the time,” says Robert Jean Steps, keyboardist and Hague physician. Beatstad The Hague was considered the mecca of Dutch pop music at the end of the sixties. Big names like Shocking Blue, Golden Earrings, and Sandy Coast led the scene, which is reported to have more than 2,000 bands.

Musical discovery and experience

“Lots of subculture, but no stage of its own,” Steps says. Musical discovery and experimentation dominated the 1970s. An exciting time from an artistic point of view, but not very interesting commercially for gymnasiums and discotheques.” The horse came to the rescue.

The crowd was great when Stips sang there for the first time with the progressive rock band Supersister. The boardroom converted into a former Catholic girls’ boarding school turns out to be no match for the band’s popularity. “The building was a maze of corridors and rooms, crawling with visitors who didn’t fit into the room.”

Ten days of party

With a ten-day remembrance program starting October 21, the horse will explore the past, present, and future. In addition to performances by Belgian Deuce and White Lies from London, there’s a “Kitchen Party” by artist and chef Jasper Odink Ten Kate and the festival evening The Time is Now is all about “swimming against the tide,” incl. Dutch-Iranian singer Sevdaliza and rap duo Lionstorm.

More information about horse.nl

Therefore, the Paard van Troje, located in three 17th century mansions, was intended to be a youth center, initiated by the work of municipal welfare. The founders thought it was an apt name, because they wanted to conquer the elegant Hofstad from the gut. With a range of activities that breathe “freedom”. For example, there were yoga in the confession room, drawing lessons and a women’s café in the basement and “naked dancing” in the chapel.

The goal was to provide a meeting place for “all young people in The Hague” that would bring together a great mix of visitors. Groups of hippies, Surinamese, and Hells Angels gathered around the table football, pool table, and steam boiler of the café in the attic. Parade historian Robert Jean Robb says he did not want to be a melting pot. “It was a multicultural powder keg, and drug use was the proverbial fuse.” A violent incident, complaints of drug turmoil and disturbances led to the shutdown twice in a short time.


Trojan horse 1973Stockfish statue, The Hague Municipal Archives

I went there secretly

The negative image has stuck with the center for a long time, according to Roep. “I went there secretly when I was 15, because my parents thought it was a ruined place.”

The center also played a prominent role in the Dutch culture of tolerance. The presence of a home dealer in cannabis attracted significant attention from the media and policy makers, and in 1978 he served—with the intercession of a local drug advisory committee—as the blueprint for a national soft drug policy.

The rise of the squatters movement and punk music ushered in a new era, in which, in Roep’s words, “Indian strings and floating dance” were replaced by link chains and fierce pogo. Shabby but relaxed musician Henk Korn epitomizes the atmosphere at the time. “You kept your coat or threw it on the floor. There was no wardrobe.”

Cool stickers

It became the musical living room in The Hague, where Korn’s band Hallo Venray enjoyed the name “House Band” for a long time. “Because we were squatting across the street so we could be called in quickly to provide support work or to test the sound system.”

Despite the organizational and financial chaos of the early years, Het Paard succeeded in her ambition to become one of the hallmarks of the Dutch pop circuit. For local and foreign teams as well. The hall could boast of cool posters of bands like The Cure, U2, Pearl Jam and Radiohead – which had yet to break through at the time. And it’s never mentioned, the surprise nightly concerts of Prince and Mick Jagger.

Property remained a problem

Ineffective property planning remained a problem. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to attract famous foreign artists to The Hague,” says director Blunden, who worked as a programmer in the late 1990s. Also because the Dutch hall landscape went through a process of modernization at the turn of the century, with expansion being the norm. Het Paard could not stay behind and the municipality eventually surrendered.

After a four-year renovation, in which only the facade was preserved, a new large hall was put into use in 2003. The concrete and soundproofed structure inside a box, designed by architect Rem Koolhaas, can accommodate 1,100 people – a double capacity. Perhaps less distinguished, but the horse (now without the Trojan) is back on the international map. Blonden: “We are now one of the largest cultural institutions in The Hague, with a quarter of a million visitors annually.”

Trojan horse 1977 photograph by Robert Shears, collection of the municipal archives of The Hague

Trojan horse 1977Sculpture by Robert Shears, The Hague Municipal Archives

The music scene in The Hague

This was also the result of more audience-friendly and broader programmes, with space for art and literature, student evenings and political meetings as well as music and dance. “We are no longer niche theater, but we are spreading pop culture in the broadest sense of the word,” Blonden says while Guus Meeuwis Roads set up his show in the main hall.

A common thread in programming has remained the music scene in The Hague, with new generations of talent. Paard’s debut performances were also the starting point in their careers for newly arrived bands such as Di-rect and Son Mieux. “We want to be a starting point for artists by guiding and supporting them.”

The most reasonable place on earth

Blunden notes that beginning musicians have had a tougher time since the pandemic. “People have a lot to catch up with after two years of Corona: parties, concerts, weddings. It seems that this is at the expense of the lesser-known orchestras that we present in the small hall or the cold café.”

Hague veterans like Henk Korn still find shelter in Bard. “The most logical place on earth” to christen a new Hallo Venray album last month, according to Korn. Honoring the Joy Division in the upcoming Anniversary Week is a nod to when they can be found daily in Paard.

Or was everything better in the past? “The horse has changed from a dirty knickers club to a clean knickers club.” He laughs. “This is not a judgment of value.”

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