BOOMERANG AGENCY, Amsterdam / UNMUTE US / 2021
In the summer of 2021, the Dutch government finally allowed bars and restaurants to re-open.. Some major sports events were able to take place. But on August 13th, after a long wait, the government announced all festivals would be cancelled. The already ravaged events sector was again on its knees. And its pleas went unheard. An industry which employs over 100.000 people felt ignored by politicians. After months of continued lockdown and restrictions around group gatherings, society was also feeling the hit and depression, anxiety and isolation was at an all time high. The brief was to bring people together again and raise awareness for an industry that had been silenced.
Noisey gatherings were forbidden but we needed a way to make our voices heard. So we hacked the system. We called our protest #UnmuteUs. Because we knew that the government couldn’t silence a protest if the protest was about unmuting people. So, that was our solution. A protest disguised as a festival, a festival disguised as a protest. A movement to represent those who felt silenced and give them a voice and forum for self-expression.
Our biggest challenge was to activate people to join our movement. We needed to unite people through their collective experience. ‘Unmute Us’ reflected society’s sentiment. It showed the desperate need for a dialogue with politicians. Whilst also representing the feeling of being unheard. The (un)mute button was also relevant to our COVID-19 lockdown habits, where we all had gotten used to online video calling — it was a recognizable symbol for all.
Armed with a simple slogan and the mechanism of the unmute button, we were able to make a clear point; that we were tired of being silenced. #UnmuteUs became a statement, a standpoint. We used a hashtag and a dynamic logo with accompanying branding which we shared online with our community. Very soon, our campaign went viral. It was shared by more than 300 artists and festival organisations. It forced the government to take notice. But more than that, it awoke the nation from its slumber. That was the power of UnMuteUs.
#UnmuteUs became a movement that inspired more than 220.000 people to take to the streets. What started with a viral social campaign, turned into the biggest demonstration in the Netherlands in the last 17 years. Marches took place in ten major Dutch cities. More than 300 artists joined us. Over 4000 companies signed our petition, forcing the government to take notice. That was the power of one idea that managed to unite the nation. Last but not least, festivals were able to open their doors again from September 25th and the spirit we had lost was revived.