Thrifty Germany Takes On Debt To Rescue Arts

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Thrifty Germany Takes On Debt To Rescue Arts

As evening sunshine ripples through a ripening pear tree, birds chatter above the distant hum of a lawnmower. Then, suddenly, the singers of Lübeck’s rock and roll choir raise their voices.

Swaying and smiling, they run through their repertoire: classics like Jailhouse Rock and Ghost Riders in the Sky.

Germany’s cultural life is slowly coming back to life. The German government has set aside more than €1bn (£896m; $1.13bn) to protect the arts – in addition to a furlough scheme and grants for freelancers.

The coronavirus outbreak silenced amateur choirs. Concerts are still forbidden and the rehearsal room remains out of bounds.

But many are trying to find ways to safely sing again. For the Lübeck singers that means practice in their conductor’s garden.

“You come home with a smile after every time you sing with friends here. That was really missing,” says one of the singers.

House lights on as theatres return

Galleries have reopened to (masked and distanced) visitors. So have some theatres – like the Theater Combinale in Lübeck, where they are preparing a new piece, written during the months when the house was forced to “go dark”.

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On a stage cluttered with lighting equipment, two actors try out a scene before an empty auditorium which can seat 120 people. They will only be allowed to let 40 in to see their performance.

Despite the disastrous impact on takings, Ulli Haussmann, who co-founded the private theatre, says they will survive for now.

“We had a lot of support from our audiences – donations and emails telling us to stay strong. That made us feel we matter as artists in the city,” he says.

 

The national government intervened relatively early in the crisis and that appears to have secured the country’s cultural institutions for now. But there are concerns about the future.

‘Cultural landscape will change’

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As she slowly turns on bare feet, and swipes a thin-bowed piece of wood through the air, dancer Shiao Ing Oei looks as though she’s battling an invisible enemy.

She, like other freelancers in Lübeck, also had help from a local arts foundation. Even so, she says, some are struggling.

“I think this is going to be a long fight. The cultural landscape will change. I personally will try to find an alternative source of income, so I’m not dependent on the arts.”

Thrifty Germany Takes On Debt To Rescue Arts

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