Germany unveils 2.5 bn euro fund to reboot cultural events

Berlin (AFP) –


Germany on Wednesday unveiled a 2.5 billion euro ($3.0 billion) fund to revive the country's pandemic-battered cultural sector and encourage organisers to start planning events again now that the coronavirus outlook is improving.

The fund will supplement ticket sales for events where venues' audience sizes must be limited because of hygiene precautions, and provide insurance in case events have to be cancelled or postponed should the pandemic worsen again.

"It's about giving people the courage to make plans," Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told a press conference, "so that we can bring our diverse cultural sector back to life".

The financial assistance will kick in from July 1 for events with up to 500 participants, followed by events for up to 2,000 attendees from August.

The cancellation insurance will cover larger events from September.

Organisers of concerts, theatre shows, comedy festivals, opera and variety performances, readings and movie screenings will all be eligible to tap the fund.

Germany recently manged to break a third Covid-19 wave and is cautiously looking forward to a more carefree summer after months of shutdowns.

The country's closely-watched seven-day incidence rate fell to 46.8 new infections per 100,000 people on Wednesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute, marking the first time since October that the figure was below 50.

As in other countries, Germany's cultural sector has been badly affected by coronavirus mitigation measures, with theatres, concert venues and cinemas the first to close down at the start of the pandemic and among the last to reopen.

Germany's coronavirus curbs vary from state to state, but some outdoor theatre and opera performances resumed in Berlin last week.

Culture Minister Monika Gruetters said the new fund, which comes on top of existing government assistance for businesses and artists hit by pandemic closures, represents Germany's biggest-ever support package for culture.

"It is recognition for the burden placed on the cultural sector during the corona crisis, but also a recognition of the sector's importance," she told reporters.

"Many of us have missed the shared experience of culture," Gruetters said, not just as entertainment but as "an invitation to doubt ourselves, think and debate".

The German Culture Council, an umbrella organisation of cultural groups, welcomed the fund as a way to "reduce the financial risks" of planning audience events.

"The doors to culture must reopen as soon as possible," Council head Olaf Zimmermann said. "This will help us do that."