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Cancellation of "Rock am Ring" & Co.: Little hope remains for the Bonn festivals

Cancellation of "Rock am Ring" & Co. : Little hope remains for the Bonn festivals

After the cancellation of big festivals like "Rock am Ring" this year, the focus is on further planning. In Bonn, cautious optimism prevails.

The news from England had a signal character: on 21 January, the organisers of the Glastonbury Festival cancelled the 2020 edition to mark the 50th anniversary of the legendary rock and pop spectacle. Between 24 and 28 June, Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift, among others, were to perform on a farm near Pilton in southwest England. Up to 200 000 spectators can gather at the festival site. Now the organisers are hoping for 2022, and ticket reservations will remain valid.

The sad news that seven open-air festivals for 2021 have now also been cancelled in Germany comes as no surprise. The Bonn concert promoter Ernst-Ludwig Hartz, who among other things makes the KunstRasen in the Rheinaue resound, classified the "difficult situation" to the GA. International artists - he names Sting, Lionel Richie, Deep Purple, Nick Mason, Patti Smith, Tom Jones and Robbie Williams - would forego concert tours this year. This affects planned dates in Bonn and Cologne. Fans have been waiting for Sting's appearance at KunstRasen for a long time: he fell ill in 2019, and the cancellations in 2020 and 2021 were due to the corona virus. Now Hartz is also hoping for 2022, when Robbie Williams, Kraftwerk and Die Fantastischen Vier will also be heard and seen on the Hofgartenwiese in May.

Hartz plans various scenarios

Hartz has sold 120,000 tickets for events this year. "We are planning and working on different scenarios," he said on Wednesday. He said he would be able to release more details about KunstRasen 2021 soon. Despite all the disappointment, he looked beyond: "The most important thing is the health of visitors, artists and everyone who works backstage." Hartz expects that there will be no more big events like before 2019. He expects "serious changes" and predicts, "We have to adjust to a new normal." By the end of May, new insights into the framework conditions for future major events could emerge. High time, says the concert organiser: "We need planning certainty."

On 8 March a year ago, he brought Mitch Ryder to the Harmonie and Lloyd Cole to the Pantheon. After that, the music fell silent in front of the audience. How things play out over the next few months remains to be seen for a while. It won't be as good as 2019 and hopefully better than 2020. "We're looking forward to another summer in Bonn," Hartz holds with defiant optimism.

Stadtgarten concerts to take place

At most of the other open-air events in Bonn, there is a defiant hustle and bustle behind the scenes. They obviously don't want to let Corona get them down. It is true that "Rhine in Flames", planned for 1 May, has already been cancelled "due to the still critical situation of the Corona pandemic" and that "Bonn Fest" is on hold - not because of Corona, but because the majority in the district council wants a different profile. But most of the other organisers are working away at the programme as if it were a normal summer.

Hans-Joachim Over, for example, who is responsible for the Stadtgarten concerts at the Alter Zoll in the cultural office, assumes that the concert series will take place on all Fridays and Saturdays in August and on the first weekend in September. "We are in the middle of planning," he said, "and want to do everything we can to make the concerts happen. We would not cancel the Stadtgarten concerts, but let them take place - within the framework that is possible then," Over said cautiously. "We haven't made any contracts yet." The opening of the Stadtgarten concerts traditionally belongs to the JazzTube Festival.

Question marks behind JazzTube

The festival, which starts at the Alter Zoll and continues underground, in Bonn's underground stations, is staged by the Stadtwerke Bonn (SWB) and jazz musician and concert organiser Thomas Kimmerle. Jürgen Winterwerp, press spokesman for SWB, was not yet able to give any details about the sponsored events, which also include the SWB Summer Festival in the Rheinaue: "Of course, Stadtwerke Bonn stands by the side of Bonn's creative artists and takes responsibility. As soon as the plans become more concrete, we will enter into the necessary detailed agreements with the organisers," he said upon request.

Kimmerle, who wants to talk to SWB in the next few days, is rather sceptical about the situation. "We don't know yet how the pandemic situation will develop," he said. At least regarding the concerts in the underground format, which are the basis for the JazzTube Festival, he cannot imagine from today's perspective.

Silent film festival with reservations

Other open-air festivals are sticking to their summer dates, at least on their homepages: Panama Open Air in the Rheinaue is to take place from 2 to 4 June, Green Juice is scheduled for 30/31 July, the Silent Film Festival in the university arcade courtyard (12 to 22 August) is marked with the warning "subject to change", Jeck im Sunnesching is to take place on 28 August. The situation is different for "Rock am Ring": The tradition-steeped rock festival at the Nürburgring, which is one of the biggest of its kind, cannot go ahead this year for the second time in a row due to the Corona pandemic. This was announced on Wednesday by the organisers of the event planned for the second weekend in June. In addition to "Rock am Ring", the sister festival "Rock im Park" in Nuremberg is also affected again. In the Eifel and in Nuremberg, the two traditional festivals, which normally take place at the same time, were planned for the second weekend in June.

But against the background of the still uncertain infection situation and the extension of the "epidemic situation within the scope of the nation" by the Bundestag until at least the end of June, festivals of this magnitude are simply not feasible in the near future.

Tickets for "Rock am Ring" can also be exchanged

In a few weeks, there will be an online platform where tickets purchased last year can be exchanged for tickets for next year. After the exchange phase, everyone who wants to return their tickets will be able to get a refund. However, the processing will take some time.

Alexander Gerhard, press spokesman for the Nürburgring GmbH, which leases the grounds to the "Rock am Ring" organiser, says that the cancellation of the festival is "a great pity". "Rock am Ring" is an "emotional affair" for Nürburgring GmbH, which has now been cancelled for understandable reasons. Economically, this means an immense loss, not only for the Nürburgring, but for the entire region. Gerhard points out that the motorsport season at the Ring will nevertheless start on 27 March. He says the calendar is fully booked until November. "We can foresee that the Nürburgring will get through the year relatively well," he says.

Pföhler expects financial losses

Jürgen Pföhler, District Administrator of the Ahrweiler district, where the Nürburgring is located, said he was not surprised by the decision to cancel. After all, there was no way of knowing whether major events would be able to take place at all this year. The cancellation of the festival not only hit the Nürburgring and the organisers hard, but also hoteliers, restaurants and campsites in the region. "They will certainly have to record high (profit) losses," said Pföhler.

(Original text: Dietmar Kanthak, Thomas Kliemann and Sven Westbrock; Translation: Mareike Graepel)