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Devastating pandemic crisis for venues: Bonn theatres fear for their existence

Devastating pandemic crisis for venues : Bonn theatres fear for their existence

During the pandemic, Bonn's cultural workers are struggling with the state government's restrictive hygiene regulations. Advance booking figures have fallen drastically in some cases.

The dramatic increase in corona infections over the past week and the restrictions imposed by the federal and state governments have hit culture particularly hard. The scene, which was already one of the biggest losers of the crisis during the lockdown in spring, is now confronted with new regulations, some of which seem arbitrary and threaten the existence of many stages. In the Spiegeltent of the Malente family, representatives of numerous Bonn cultural institutions have now met to discuss the situation.

Anger and disappointment are written all over the faces of all those present. Thanks to an intervention by Bonn's city administration, the NRW state government last Saturday overturned a controversial regulation that allows theatres to use only 20 percent of their capacity, replacing it with a minimum distance of 1.50 metres between households. The damage has been done, however.

Even General Director Bernhard Helmich makes no secret of his displeasure: "Until now, I always assumed that the authorities would act with expertise, but since last Friday, this trust has been deeply shaken," he says. "The restrictions that are now being imposed on us as theatres are empirically so nonsensical that I wonder which side the tin hats are actually on." After all, he says, the theatres have made every effort in the end to make theatre operations as safe as possible and to convince the audience that a visit is once again possible without any problems. "After a very tiring September, we have succeeded in doing so. But now the audience is so unsettled again that we have to start all over again.

Advance booking figures have fallen by at least 50 percent

This problem is shared by the other organisers with the municipal theatre. "Since the press conference of Prime Minister Armin Laschet and the reminders of Angela Merkel, the advance booking figures have collapsed by at least 50 percent", explains GOP director Mark Schüler. "However, politicians do not seem to be interested in this, nor in the question of how we should now deal with tickets that have already been sold. In fact, once again, cultural operators feel left alone - at least at the state and federal level. "What is missing are positive signals from politics as a whole," criticises Pantheon boss Rainer Pause. "So far, no one in a theatre has been infected with Corona, and instead of emphasising this once more and encouraging both us and our audience, it is again being suggested that special care must be taken with us“.

Moreover, the cultural workers were downright horrified by Laschet's statement that culture is considered "leisure and private pleasure". "This hurts me almost more than the financial loss," emphasises Jürgen Becker from the Brotfabrik. "These words testify to a fundamental ignorance on the part of politicians," Elisabeth Einecke-Klövekorn is also convinced. The chairwoman of the theatre community emphasises that culture as a means of building and preserving democracy is by no means dispensable at this time - and it need not be. "Hygiene concepts are so well thought out that theatres are probably the safest places in the world right now," she says.

Original text: Thomas Kölsch

Translation: Mareike Graepel