Sla navigate over

Interview with Sietse Bakker, director of Amsterdam 750

01 January 2023

In 2024 and 2025, Amsterdam celebrates the 750th anniversary of the city. The 'official' history of Amsterdam begins on October 27, 1275. Amsterdam receives the Toll Privilege on that date, the oldest document mentioning Amsterdam and its residents. With a thousand days to go until the 750th birthday, we speak with Sietse Bakker (38), program director of Amsterdam 750, a project of the municipality since December 1, 2022, which "creates, connects, and coordinates" for the jubilee year.

Sietse Bakker, director of Amsterdam 750

Bakker grew up in the Amsterdam neighborhood of Osdorp and built a career at the Eurovision Song Contest, first internationally and later as Executive Producer of the 2021 edition in Rotterdam. And now, he is eager to make his own city proud.

You are the director of the celebration of Amsterdam’s 750th anniversary. Who do you work with for this?

“Internally, I was welcomed by a fantastic team of people, some of whom have been working on ‘750’ for months or even a few years, from the program office and from other organizational units. Together with the program manager, I report to the municipal secretary and the mayor. And I have the opportunity to collaborate with numerous parties in the city.”

You worked for a long time for the Eurovision Song Contest. How does that relate to Amsterdam 750?

“There are mainly a lot of differences. But what they have in common is that you try to establish something where everyone feels welcome, in order to connect people and build something beautiful together that contributes to a shared identity.”

What will be the highlights of the celebration?

“We are, of course, looking back and searching for new stories from the history of the city. But, above all, we are looking forward. Amsterdam 750 is about thinking and dreaming about the city of tomorrow and how we can build it together.

We will certainly have an iconic opening on October 27, 2024, and celebrate the birthday itself, a year later, in grand style. We celebrate the 50th anniversary of SAIL, Kwaku, and the Marathon, three events that originated in the jubilee year of Amsterdam 700. And there is so much in the works! From museums, theaters, and artists’ collectives to neighborhood associations, schools, and businesses; Preparations for Amsterdam 750 are already in progress behind many doors.”

Who are you targeting?

“I sometimes call it the most challenging target group: Everyone. The jubilee year is for all Amsterdammers here and elsewhere, and for everyone who holds the city dear. Think, for example, of people from the region who come here to work every day. We are also proud of Amsterdam as the capital, so the jubilee year will also have a national touch.

As far as we’re concerned, there will be something to do around 750 every day that year. And when I see what is already being prepared in various places, I am absolutely not worried about that.”

I still remember the 700th birthday of the city in 1975. I was in elementary school at the time, and it deepened my love for the city. Does that also play a role now?

“I think few Amsterdammers need to be taught love for the city. While we may be known as critical, we are very proud of it! Once you’ve embraced Amsterdam in your heart, it’s forever.”

Does the celebration carry a political message?

“Amsterdam 750 is for everyone. And wherever I go, I say; While the municipality plays its role, it’s not the municipality’s party. It’s the city’s anniversary. And in that, there’s not a political message, but a message of pride and connection, where everyone can contribute in their own way. A great example of this is the Amsterdam 750 Foundation, which financially supports the most beautiful neighborhood initiatives in each district around the jubilee year.”

Does it add something lasting to the city?

“We definitely want to leave something behind. That could be something tangible or intangible. What that is will become clear between now and the start of the jubilee year.”

Where are you from yourself?

“I am a born and raised Amsterdammer. I grew up in Osdorp, in the Dijkgraafplein neighborhood. As a child, I fell asleep to the sound of the bell of tram line 1, later tram 17. I went to the Calandlyceum in Nieuw-West, studied at the UvA at the Oudemanhuispoort and INHOLLAND in Diemen. I lived in Estonia for two years and rediscovered my love for Amsterdam upon returning. Now I live with my family in Landsmeer, near Amsterdam-Noord.”

How do you find the atmosphere in the city?

“To capture Amsterdam in one atmosphere? Impossible! You often only need to move a few streets to taste a different atmosphere. But I also see that Amsterdammers are concerned about things like inflation, climate change, affordable housing, and the war in Ukraine. And you encounter those concerns everywhere.”

What is your favorite place in the city?

“Can it be two? The first is on top of the A’DAM Tower. The city lies at your feet there, and on a clear day, you can see far beyond the city limits.

The other place is the Amsterdamse Bos. I liked going there as a child, and I’ve been told that my great-grandfather planted trees there. Although it was once created by humans, the older generation still often calls it the ‘Bosplan’, it now feels like a real forest, where nature regularly takes over. It makes me realize that the choices we make now will determine how we pass on Amsterdam.”