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You need to know about the Netherlands’ surreal, art-inspired floating parade

The Bosch Parade features a bizarre and chaotic mix of theatre, live music and contemporary art

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham

You’re sat overlooking a gorgeous river in a medieval Dutch city and the following float by: a conch horn ridden by two guys in swim caps, the huge, pink jaws of a blow-up fish and blue-cloaked blokes stood on square rafts chanting about demons. Are you going mad? Nope, you’re just witnessing a river parade dedicated to the painter Hieronymus Bosch. 

Bosch (1450-1516) was one of art’s most fascinating figures, an artist renowned for his huge, fantastical, chaotic images. While not much is really known about the guy, it’s believed that he lived in the Dutch city of ’s-Hertogenbosch – better known as Den Bosch – for most of his life.

To pay tribute to one of its most famous residents, Den Bosch hosts a biennial celebration of Bosch’s life and works. Called the Bosch Parade, the festival offers a mix of contemporary art, theatre and live music, all drifting down the city’s central Dommel River.

Now, if you’ve ever seen a Bosch painting, you’ll know that to properly pay tribute to the guy you’ve got to think of some of the wackiest, wildest shit imaginable. It’s got to be mind-bending and absurd, but also poetic, spectacular and biblical, too.

And the Bosch Parade absolutely does justice to the brilliance of its source material. Its art pieces and performances don’t just imitate figures from Bosch paintings but take proper inspiration from them, updating his ideas for the present day. Expect not just bizarre art but political commentary and even insane performances of heavy metal. Here are a few photos of past parades.

Erik Vink, Bosch Parade
Photograph: Bosch Parade / Erik Vink
Epiloog, Alena Kogan, Bosch Parade
Photograph: Bosch Parade / Epiloog, Alena Kogan
Skypunch Collective, Bosch Parade
Photograph: Bosch Parade / Skypunch Collective

But that isn’t all. This year’s festival will also include a new, special zone in the city’s citadel inspired by Bosch’s most celebrated triptych, ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’. Open before and after the parade, the citadel will space hot tubs, food stalls and a series of musical and theatrical performances.

This year’s edition of the Bosch Parade will take place from June 16 to 19, with tickets starting from €16.50 (£14, £17). You can find out more and buy tickets on the official website here.

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