Amsterdam’s Metro Line 54 Becomes a Mobile Podcast Studio
In a city with more bicycles than people, it is assumed that everyone gets around pretty easily. But without a night metro service, residents of Amsterdam Southeast feel disconnected from the nightlife in the city. MOB (Mobiele Omroep Bijlmer) stepped in to raise awareness.
On the face of things, Amsterdam Southeast is well connected to the rest of the city. The metro line 54 will take you from the most southeasterly corner of Amsterdam, Gein, to Central station in just 22 minutes, with journeys running every ten minutes, seven days a week. But things start to get tricky at night, with the last metro home running at 12:30 AM. Understandably, many residents of the southeast would like to stay out later than this and enjoy the nightlife that Amsterdam has to offer. But in order to get back to the Southeast in the early hours, one has to catch a night bus. A bus that only runs once per hour and, on top of this, takes the best part of an hour to cover the same distance as the metro.
Up until this point, the City of Amsterdam has refused to extend the hours of the metro service as they say it will cost too much money relative to the demand for it. But following other big cities such as Berlin, Barcelona and Copenhagen who have successfully implemented a night metro network, the people of Amsterdam Southeast have begun to demand that the city take their wishes seriously. In early 2020, the authorities announced that they would launch a pilot to test out the idea of a night metro. There has been no talk of when this pilot would take place, however, and the issue seems to have faded to the back of the administration’s minds. Mobiele Omroep Bijlmer, decided to take things into their own hands. The initiative, set up by Jesper Buursink and creative studio Vinger.nl and carried out as part of the HOBU placemaking project, hosted a guerrilla radio show in line 54 metro that aimed to raise awareness for the need for a night metro to the Southeast.
The focal point of the show was nightlife in Amsterdam, a nightlife scene that means many things to many people. From DJs and MCs to medical staff on their way to a nightshift — all these people form the lifeblood of Amsterdam’s after dark hours and would benefit greatly from a night metro service. The show involved live music, reports and personal tales from Amsterdammers using line 54. The rhythm of the metro line guided the structure of the show; the duration of a ride from Amsterdam Central to Gein, the opening and closing of the doors and interactions with travellers all fed into the production of the podcast. Guests included upcoming musical artists, MCs, and spoken word poets as well as those who just happened to be passing by. Passengers were invited to listen to the broadcast through silent disco headphones and the radio show can now be accessed as a series of six podcasts.
This intervention sees cultural production and activism combined. MOB created a live and interactive event showcasing Amsterdam’s arts and culture, at a time when many people were feeling out of touch with this scene, due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is also the activist element of the show. Normally, to hold an event like this on the metro, you would have to request a permit from the municipality. But MOB recognised that it is sometimes necessary to take things into your own hands in order to get those in power to listen and take your issues seriously. In this case, MOB gave a voice to the people of Amsterdam Southeast and helped in their fight for a night metro service and better connection to the city at all hours.