A €2.5bn (£2.15bn) package has been agreed by the German government to help the culture industry get back on its feet as the country slowly emerges from a third wave of the Covid pandemic.
The finance minister, Olaf Scholz, has called the package “the biggest cultural subsidy programme” since the end of the second world war.
The coronavirus cultural fund is intended to give organisers of events assurances that they will be compensated if performances and concerts are not able to go ahead as planned, as well as making up for the loss of ticket sales due to reduced seating as a result of social distancing regulations.
Initially the measures will protect events of up to 500 participants, so that if from 1 July an event has to be cancelled, the organiser will be fully compensated. From the end of August, in anticipation of events being able to increase in size, that will go up to 2,000 participants.
For events that have had to restrict the number of participants by at least 20% the government will also match every ticket sale made, by effectively buying another ticket, for up to 100,000 tickets per event.
For larger events, this year and next, there will also be an insurance policy to cover events that may have to be cancelled in case the virus gets out of control, for which €600m – out of the total €2.5bn – is reserved. The limit is set at €8m per event.
The measures, coming as Germany starts to open up after months of tight restrictions, are on top of a multimillion-euro neustart kultur (new start culture) programme announced last year to cover events across the country.
“Life is starting again after a long coronavirus winter,” Scholz said. Monika Grütters, the culture minister, said the fund sent a signal to the cultural industry that its “resuscitation deserves the same amount of effort which is being given to other branches”.
She said: “Many people have felt during this crisis the extent to which we miss culture as a common experience, as a bridge builder, as a mirror of our identity, as an invitation to doubt, reflect and discuss. The desire to enjoy culture is massive, with regards to the audience, but even more amongst artists and creative people who finally want to be able to get back to work.”
Olaf Zimmermann, of the German Cultural Council, an umbrella organisation for cultural bodies, which helped campaign for the fund, welcomed the government decision but said it had been a long time coming.
“After months of toing and froing, a decision has finally been made,” he said. “The cultural audience and the entire cultural branch are agreed, that the doors of culture must open again as soon as possible. We are preparing ourselves with great intensity for this ‘day X’ and these funds will help us very much in this endeavour.”
Frustration in the cultural arena has been building over what has been perceived as a lack of clarity or perspective from the government as to when cinemas and theatres can reopen. A recent social media campaign by leading stage and screen actors, which in large part made fun of the government’s restrictions, drew both a ferocious backlash as well as support for the actors’ demands for clarity.
The German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter delivered an impassioned plea on German television on Wednesday night calling on politicians to trust artists to stage a safe and responsible comeback.
“For 14 months artists have been successfully silenced,” she said. “We would like politicians to trust us to put on responsible concerts. The public is starving. We are ready to go.”