Bonn/Region Following the cancellation of carnival sessions and processions, performers, officials and organisers in the region are looking forwards. They want to develop smaller carnival formats that are compatible with the coronavirus rules. Many things remain unclear, however, including how things will continue with "Bonn steht Kopp".
Carnival revellers from Bonn and the region are already sad, but not devastated, because they had expected the decision. In view of the rising numbers of coronavirus infections, no carnival processions will be parading through cities and villages in the 2020/21 carnival season, and the fools will have to do without grand pomp and proclamations. This was agreed upon by the presidents of the festivities committees from Bonn, Cologne, Aachen and Düsseldorf on Friday at the carnival summit in Cologne. But carnival revellers are also realists. They no longer want to dwell on the cancelled major events, but would rather look ahead and develop smaller carnival formats that are compatible with coronavirus rules.
"Back to the roots" of Rheinish fastelovend, is for Marlies Stockhorst a way out of the misery. The president of the Bonn Carnival festivities committee, which includes 80 carnival organisations, suggests a return to "more spoken word", i.e. a greater emphasis on carnival orators. She says about the meeting on Friday that there had been clear signals in which direction things were going and added: "We will discuss the contents of the working discussions and potential concrete effects on the decisions for the Bonn Carnival, first in the executive committee, and then with the member associations in the festival committee and then also with venue operators and artists and their agencies.
The meeting with representatives of the member associations is to take place on Monday in the Haus der Springmaus. Stockhorst continued: "We are already in a close contact and are trying to find constructive and creative solutions together. For all of us, the health of all visitors and contributors is our top priority. New ways of thinking are also needed in carnival".
Her colleague Christoph Kuckelkorn, head of the Cologne Carnival Festival Committee, expressed his relief at the press conference of the Rhenish carnivalists in Cologne on Saturday that legal certainty and ability to plan had now been achieved, paving the way for creativity and smaller, more secure formats. Large balls, meetings and processions were now cancelled, but not carnival itself. Kuckelkorn tried to make a comparison: "Christmas is not cancelled just because there are no Christmas markets.
Organiser Wolfgang Pütz doesn’t want to cancel "Bonn steht Kopp" yet
Wolfgang Pütz is the owner and managing director of the Troisdorf-based Pütz Group. The company is a partner of the Bonn Festival Committee and also supports the work of the affiliated associations financially. Pütz developed the format "Bonn steht Kopp" 15 years ago. It was initially in the Beueler Brückenforum for 1,500 visitors; however, demand increased steadily and the show and all its stars in the Cologne-Bonn Carnival 2016 moved to the Telekom Dome. Since then, the 6,000-guest venue has been sold out for three consecutive days in each session. This is how it was planned to be in February 2021: Bläck Fööss, Höhner, Kasalla, Cat Ballou, Brings and many others, in front of a full house.
However, Pütz fears that nothing will come of it now. "I'll do it all or not at all," he says. Such an event with only 1,200 guests is not only financially unfeasible, but also in terms of atmosphere. But he does not want to officially cancel "Bonn steht Kopp" yet, five months in advance, because he still sees a small chance that it could go ahead, if the coronavirus infection numbers sink or a vaccine becomes available.
Just how quickly a situation can change has been seen in football. Initially, it was said that the Bundesliga stadiums could be filled up to 20 per cent capacity, and football fan Pütz was looking forward to finally seeing his team play Hoffenheim live in the stadium again, but then the game was cancelled because the infection figures in Cologne had risen. For Pütz, German professional foorball has "shown in an exemplary and responsible manner how things can be done".
More like a little morning pint with orator performers instead of a big gala session
The manager regrets the cancellation of the big events, but also understands that "the health of visitors and artists comes first". Now Pütz is toying with the idea of smaller formats, such as using the Brückenforum in collaboration with Jürgen Harder. One such format could be an orators’ breakfast pint. In his opinion, the artists are willing to compromise on their fees, according to the motto "Better little than nothing at all".
The Cologne decision does not threaten the existence of the Pütz-Group: The company is broad-based enough in other business areas, has a reliable partner in the Telekom Dome, and is also in a lively exchange with artists and agencies. Pütz said "I'm not ready to give up yet. I am betting on 2022, but it is a bitter pill for the artists.
Erik Meyer does not want to complain either. The keyboarder of the band Köbesse (the songs "Kölsche Mädche", "Nix zo verliere"), who lives in Alfter-Impekoven, says: "We've been expecting this decision for a long time and have come to terms with the fact that carnival as we know it cannot take place. Keeping distance is no problem on stage, but it is for the audience.
The band Köbesse passes the hat around
At the concert in the park of the Villa von Sayn in Rheinbreitbach at the beginning of September, the band discovered that there can be a great atmosphere even with a small audience. Meyer stands behind the political decision, "because it would be irresponsible to let everything go on as before". He knows from his own experience how quickly you can get infected with the normal flu virus in a full venue. For the band, which plays about 100 gigs per session, the cancellation is a pity, but it does not threaten the musicians’ livelihoods, because all of them are still working besides their music. "It is very hard for artists who live from carnival alone, and for the stage technicians and roadies. Superstars such as Brings, Bläck Fööss or Höhner, on the other hand, could compensate for lost fees through GEMA fees.
According to Meyer, a small format with 100 to 150 spectators could happen, where the organiser doesn’t pay any fees, but the artists pass a hat around after the performance. Meyer says "We did that once, and that will bring in quite a sum. And that's how it will be when Köbesse perform on October 9 and 10 in the Einkehrhäuschen in the Siebengebirge.
(Original text, Hans-Peter Fuß; translation John Chandler)