Preserving the future of culture
There was a lot to discuss – from possible assistance to access to unemployment benefit for freelancers, short-time work allowance and interim assistance for artists as well as reliable shop opening for booksellers. Chancellor Angela Merkel was able to directly answer many of the questions of the 14 people who took part in the citizens’ dialogue with representatives of the creative economy. She also, however, promised to bring up some concerns within the German government.
The people attending this seventh online dialogue in the series The Chancellor in Discussion were selected in advance by industry-specific cooperation partners: in the music branch by the German Orchestra Union, the German Music Council and Initiative Musik and in acting by the Bundesverband Schauspiel, German Theatre and Orchestra Association, German Association of Independent Performing Arts and the leading organisations in the film industry. In the field of the book trade, museums and galleries the pre-selection was the responsibility of the Börsenverein des deutschen Buchhandels, Deutscher Museumsbund and the Bundesverband deutscher Galerien und Kunsthändler.
The creative economy consists of about 260,000 companies and more than 1.8 million workers. In 2019 the sector generated turnover of 173.4 billion euros. In 2020 turnover plummeted by 13 per cent.
Support after the pandemic
One thing became clear. There was agreement in the industry about the need for restrictions, but there was also frustration. The Chancellor showed great understanding for this. It is not difficult to understand that the state safety net has not been able to make good all the losses of artists and others working in the creative economy. With a view to the current difficult situation in the pandemic, however, she said, the goal must be “to retain our rich federal tapestry of culture”. The Chancellor assured participants that support would continue even after autumn. “We cannot simply cut off pandemic assistance the second the pandemic is over.” Investment will also be needed for the time after the pandemic.
With a view to the vaccination strategy, the Chancellor was optimistic. “I hope that over the summer you will have more than the interim assistance III, and that you will be able to stage events.”
Virtual dialogue to be continued
This series of dialogues builds on a long tradition of citizens’ dialogues with the Chancellor. For many years she has sought to engage directly with citizens in every part of Germany. To uphold this dialogue in spite of the pandemic, the Chancellor decided to move to a virtual format.
So far there have been six online dialogues in the series. The Chancellor has already spoken to the staff of helplines and crisis hotlines, parents of nursery and school-age children, trainees and trainers, police officers and students. There has also been an online discussion of situation in nursing. After the dialogue with representatives of the art and culture sector, Chancellor Angela Merkel still intends to meet with people working for voluntary aid organisations.