The importance of being Open

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I have a few true loves in this world. My wife and sons, my love of writing and I really do love Utrecht. It was the best decision of my eldest sons life to move to Utrecht and I fell in love with the city on my first visit. My wife also adores Utrecht. I also love openness and honesty. More about that later.

I have enjoyed writing for UtrechtCentral. It is often quite hard to translate Dutch into English and so some of my earlier work may seem a bit clunky, but as I get used to it I hope you’ll agree it is getting better.

The best part is talking to people I would never have had the opportunity of speaking to and they are such an eclectic bunch. There is so much talent in Utrecht and being able to share news of their abilities is a joy.

The progress of FC Utrecht may not be part of that, but the sporting prowess for example of the region is immense with so many people taking part.

But it is in the Arts and Cultural sector that we see so much positive activity and with the amazing number of different events and shows available, Utrecht is really fortunate and I hope you Utrechters are taking advantage.

The Film Festival, Literature Festival and Ateliers route to name but a few.

Then there are the hundreds of volunteers who work so hard to put projects on for you to enjoy. I have again been lucky to speak to many of them. They are happy to give up their time for UtrechtCentral.com and we really appreciate it here.

Then unfortunately there are those who don’t engage, for whatever reason. It was a shame that the agent of Wesley Sneijder did not answer any of my calls. Why can’t his client answer a few questions about life away from Utrecht? Is it all a secret? The same with Ibrahim Afellay. Are we in Utrecht not worthy of a response from professional footballers? I don’t mind if they cannot, but it’s the lack of respect in giving a response that I don’t like. The lack of openness. Interestingly, so many footballer’s male and female are on my long list of non-responders. Why are they so special?

I thought it would be of interest to you Utrechters to see what life was like at the centre of the English-speaking world, London. So, who better to ask for their views than the Dutch Ambassador to the UK. I decided to message the embassy via Twitter as that seems to be the current tool of choice, it got off to a sticky start when the Embassy misunderstood my request as I show below:

Sep 1

UtrechtCentral.com - Authors - Jon Wilkins
Hi As an E
nglish language blog in the Netherlands would it be possible to get an interview with the Ambassador for http://UtrechtCentral.com ?

 Sep 4

 
Dutch Embassy London

 Hi Jon,

The virtual writing group sounds like a nice idea. However, the type of audience you are aiming for is unfortunately not the same audience we are trying to reach. The same applies for the interview with the Ambassador. It would probably make more sense to contact prominent people in Utrecht to promote your initiative or other bloggers that write about literature. Hope this helps.

Kind regards,

Koen

So a bit of a crossing of wires, so I explained:

Sep 4

UtrechtCentral.com - Authors - Jon Wilkins
Thanks for that. My request for an interview didnt really have anything to do with literature. It was more that writing for an English speaking blog in Utrecht it might be interesting to get the Ambassadors perspective on things English in relation to the Netherlands.

Sep 4

Dutch Embassy London

The Ambassador is pretty busy, so I don’t think we can honour this interview request. Makes it easier for me to judge if this would be something the ambassador could cooperate in if I knew what type of questions would you have for the ambassador and how many readers your blog gets.

So the implication here is that size matters. Were we a big enough agency for the ambassador to get involved. So I tried again:

Sep 4

UtrechtCentral.com - Authors - Jon Wilkins

OK I will draft a couple of ideas and send to you. Thanks

Sep 4

UtrechtCentral.com - Authors - Jon Wilkins

We are getting towards 10,000 hits a month at the moment.

Please give a short bio about yourself, where you studied, where you are from etc.

If you have a recent photo could you download it as well

How long have you been ambassador in the UK?

Is this something that you always wanted?

How did you get this post?

Are you an Anglophile?

What talents do you bring to the post?

What are your impressions of London?

And the most memorable place in the UK you have visited?

Can you give me 3 similarities between the English and the Dutch?

And 3 major differences

How will the UK cope with Brexit?

Are you optimistic that Brexit will help Europe or the UK?

I will send a draft for your approval before we publish.

jonwilkins@btinternet.com

Sep 4

UtrechtCentral.com - Authors - Jon Wilkins

If the ambassador does not want to answer any political questions that is fine.

Sep 5

UtrechtCentral.com - Authors - Jon Wilkins

 Any thoughts?

So there proceeded to be a long wait. I imagined various secretaries scurrying about, looking for the Ambassador, checking diaries or even, I laugh to myself now, asking Simon Smits what he thought. The man who on his Twitter feed posts that one of his aims is Strengthening NL-UK relations. I imagined the lights on all night at the Embassy as they rushed from office to office, it would be alive with checks and queries. Who were UtrechtCentral? Who indeed! Eventually I tweeted a message to remind them of our existence:

Sep 15

UtrechtCentral.com - Authors - Jon Wilkins

Will you be responding? Just so that I know whether to get in touch again. The waiting is unbearable!

Sep 19


Dutch Embassy London

Hello Jon, apologies for not getting back to you earlier. The questions sound interesting, however the Ambassador’s schedule is currently packed for the upcoming months so I’m afraid we can’t help you any further with your request.

Best,  Kelly

I had to breath deep and think about this, as we are after all in the information generation and I only wanted a little information, so I asked:

Sep 27

UtrechtCentral.com - Authors - Jon Wilkins

In that case is there anyone else on the staff who could?

And perhaps a little cheekily:

Sep 27

UtrechtCentral.com - Authors - Jon Wilkins

His wife perhaps leaving out the political questions?

But to no avail.

Oct 1

 Dutch Embassy London

 Hi Jon, both are unfortunately not available.

And there you have it. so much for dialogue and what a treat you Utrechters have been denied.

Oct 1

UtrechtCentral.com - Authors - Jon Wilkins

Oh well I did try, just disappointing that you couldn’t find time to ask them as no one is that busy

My final response may not be so professional, but I hope you can see where I am coming from. Who actually decides who speaks to whom? Are the Gate Keepers actually imposing their own will on those they are employed by? Do our intended interviewees ever hear of our requests or is there a series of filters that eventually mean the query is lost in a storm of paperwork? We will never know. The Gate Keepers will never tell us. Its more than there job is worth. And from there we get the English expression Jobsworth a man who sticks so rigidly to the rules that his unbending nature eventually starts to work against him.

To end, most people we approach for conversations are only too happy to speak to us. They are interesting, inspiring and OPEN. They are pleased to talk about their work. they are not sour and disillusioned, they want to share. That is why it is all the more disappointing when there are negative or no responses. They seem to be so unusual compared to the general reception we get. Dutch people are open, but not all Dutch people show openness. To those who do, keep telling us your stories as you MAKE Utrecht what it is.

What do you think?

Should people make themselves available for interview if they are in the public eye?

If paid by the public is it their duty to speak?

How private should their private lives be?

Does the public have a right to know?

Share your views with us.

Tell UtrechtCentral what you think.

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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