Austerity measures in Bonn’s cultural scene: City of Bonn plans cuts for Beethoven Festival

Austerity measures in Bonn’s cultural scene : City of Bonn plans cuts for Beethoven Festival

Treasurer Margarete Heidler is making cuts in culture. She is not planning for any funds in the next budget for the higher subsidies requested by Bonn’s independent culture professionals.

The independent culture scene is in for a financial shock. Almost all, including the Junges Theater, Springmaus and the Jazzfest, have urged the city to increase their subsidies because of rising costs. However, treasurer Margarete Heidler is not planning any money for this in the dual 2019/2020 budget. The total budget for independent sponsors is even to decrease from 2.5 million to 2.2 million Euros per year by 2023. And from 2021, the treasurer wants to make cuts to the Beethoven Festival. Now it is over to the city council.

The confidential paper from the cultural administration of outgoing department head Martin Schumacher reads like a cry for help to parliamentary groups. The additional demands from the independent scene not covered in the budget amount to around 377,000 Euros from 2019. According to the council’s budget discussions, the culture professionals are justifying their requests on the grounds that the city has not increased funding for years despite mounting operational, personnel and material costs. The applicants say their own existence and the cultural diversity of the city is at risk. And further: “The administration cannot comply with the requests, which it considers to be essentially justified, because of a lack of budget funds.”

Will the subsidies remain stable?

Treasurer Heidler is also planning cuts to the support for Beethoven. This budget is to be reduced in the next two years from 2.3 million Euros to 1.5 million Euros in 2021 – immediately after the 250th anniversary year of the birth of the composer. However, the Beethovenhaus in Bonngasse has applied for a subsidy increase of around 60,000 Euros to Euro 365,000 from 2019, to enable it to finance the running costs after the forthcoming expansion of the museum. The additional funds already agreed to will only flow from the federal government and from the NRW state if the city gives more.

The draft budget provides for a reduction in the annual subsidy to the Internationale Beethovenfeste Bonn GmbH from 1.6 million to 1.2 million Euros from 2021– this would be the same amount as was available to the Beethoven Festival before an increase a few years ago. For artistic director Nike Wagner and commercial director Dettloff Schwerdtfeger, this seems unthinkable. “We firmly believe that the municipal subsidies will remain stable from 2020, if not increase,” they wrote in a response to a GA query. “Anything else would compromise the huge commitment to the celebrations for the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven in 2020 and the intended revitalisation of Bonn as Beethoven’s city and the Beethoven Festival.”

Coalition criticises the city

It remains to be seen what the council actually decides when the budget is adopted. The press office is not commenting on the current situation and has made reference to the culture committee, which is to discuss the subsidies behind closed doors on Thursday. The CDU, Greens and FDP coalition is still deliberating and therefore does not want to comment on individual cultural institutions.

The situation is similar for the SPD. However, the coalition criticises the city in a joint statement: “It is an unusual situation when the administration tells us that it considers the additional funds requested to be justified, but has nevertheless not included the money in the draft budget.”

Original text: Andreas Baumann. Translation: kc