Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am so glad to see you all in person after such a long time. Year after year, Reeperbahnfestival is a sign of strength for music. But today it is so much more than this. It is a symbol of what is possible.
In these Corona times we need to step up and take responsibility for our creative industries, our culture, our fine arts. For our cultural infrastructure: the clubs, the record companies, the concert promoters, backliners, publishers – and of course musicians!
Usually, you enrich our everyday life. But right now, it is our job as a society to help you survive these dire times. And this also means to work on the help and perspective that is necessary. In Hamburg as well as in entire Germany.
This year, the Reeperbahnfestival is a sign of survival. It is a beacon of hope that live culture will be able to return – even under the restriction the virus imposes on us.
In the midst of the lockdown one of my favorites, the wonderful Jason Isbell published a record on which he sang: “Be afraid, be very afraid, do it anyway”.
He wrote “Be afraid” before Covid-19 hit our societies. It is about artists telling the truth in times of heated social and political discussions. “Tell the truth enough / You find it rhymes with everything”, the song continues.
And these rhymes ring true. We need them because we had to discover that we are much more vulnerable than we were able to admit in the past. We need them because we have to grasp the task of organising solidarity in our societies and across borders. We need them because we have to preserve a public culture in which we can be different without fear – no matter your place of birth, your colour of skin, your creed, your sex or gender, your political beliefs or personal preferences.
Diversity matters. It’s the basis of our free and open society. It’s a necessary precondition to shape our future life differently – learning from the shock of Covid-19 in the aftermath.
Today, getting up on a stage is a demonstration of will and determination itself.
I cannot express how grateful I am, that the festival organisers shared our belief that this great adventure could be possible and that we could organise a corona-safe club festival in September 2020. But you made it. This is the merit of an incredibly committed and flexible festival team, headed by Alex Schulz as managing director. Thank you for consistently thinking things through and adapting the programme repeatedly. Always with the goal in mind, that people can finally enjoy music on site again, which was previously streamed almost exclusively virtually into living rooms, that finally the places where music always took place can be used again, that musicians can finally resume their work - provided they can travel to Hamburg.
A lot is going to be different this year. But my hope is that we all learn to appreciate much more what we have and what we can achieve together.
We all crave those mind-shattering, nerve-wrecking and bone-cracking concert experiences that weren’t possible since March. And by now we know that we can’t take them for granted!
No doubt! The Festival will be a tough time for all artists: Bob Dylan explained why in 2017:
„As a performer I’ve played for 50.000 people and I’ve played for 50 people and I can tell you that it is harder to play for 50 people. 50.000 people have a singular persona, not so with 50. Each person has an individual, separate identity, a world unto themselves. They can perceive things more clearly.“
We all should promise that we perceive things more clearly. That we will feel more sharply. And that we will enjoy more responsibly.
This festival is an incredible treasure. It reminds us what is possible if we keep the faith. Also as an audience. I’d like to encourage everybody: Please, go to your clubs, your theatres, your concert halls. Pay tribute to artists and musicians. And enrich your life!
We need music, arts and culture to tackle all those grand tasks of humanity and responsibility, of liberty and solidarity in the future.
I am convinced: If we can make this festival happen, we can make free and open, diverse, and democratic societies happen. All around the world. Everywhere music is heard!
Again: “Tell the truth enough / You find it rhymes with everything”. And “Do it anyway”!
Have a blast!
The plan was, that I now introduce the Vice-Chancellor and Finance Minister, Olaf Scholz, who wanted to open this year’s festival. Unfortunately, he cannot participate due to a hefty cold.
I was looking forward to hear him praise the importance of music, of live music for our lives. And to hear him promise assistance for music and the arts. But you won’t have to miss these words. Because he sent a last minute stand in. My dear friend, the marvellous Wolfgang Schmidt, State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Finance.
Wolfgang, the floor is yours.