“Pandemic-adapted” version of Reeperbahn Festival planning to go ahead in September

"We believe that we are on a slow, cautious and regulated path towards a new era of cultural presentation and culture industries, both during and also post-corona"

Reeperbahn Festival have announced that they plan to go ahead in September – but with a “pandemic-adapted” version of the event.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, a great many of 2020’s gigs, festivals and tours have been cancelled – with Reading & Leeds among the latest high profile events to to announce that they won’t be going ahead this summer.

Now, Hamburg’s world-renowned multi-venue Reeperbahn Festival have said that they’re  currently working on “a plan that will enable the event to be held in September in compliance with all social distancing and hygiene regulations”. Organisers say that the safety of performers, staff and attendees a priority, but that travel restrictions mean that they will have to “mainly focus on national as well as European acts”.


“The experiences, existential concerns and perspectives gained since the imposition of measures to combat the spread of the new coronavirus will shape the content of Reeperbahn Festival 2020,” said Reeperbahn Festival CEO Alexander Schulz. “We expect fundamental changes in the focus of our activities.

“The key issues to be addressed range from the importance of culture in the canon of values in society as a whole, to economic livelihoods, to practical measures for the gradual return to operations. We want to be able to devote our efforts once again to these topics in the form of direct personal interaction, and to experience music in a live setting and to do so together!”

Reeperbahn Festival. Credit: Daniel Reinhardt/dpa

Reeperbahn Festival is due to take place from September. 16-19, 2020. The line-up currently includes performances from the likes of Anna Calvi, Ghostpoet and Refused alongside showcases of rising talent from across the globe and a schedule of music industry talks and events. Schulz said that while the festival would see a “forced significant reduction in the number of visitors”, their original programming will not change significantly.

“Due to the special circumstances, we are completely bypassing all economic considerations for this year’s Reeperbahn Festival,” he said. “The absolute priority must be to collaborate with our partners, venues, organisers, and others, to establish the new practical procedures required to hold the event in line with pandemic-related measures.”

He added: “Based on everything we currently know from the authorities responsible for us, we believe that we are on a slow, cautious and regulated path towards a new era of cultural presentation and culture industries, both during and also post-corona. With Reeperbahn Festival 2020, we want to support and shape this process and experience it together with our visitors.”


After Culture play at the Reeperbahn Festival 2019 on the sidewalk. Credit: Axel Heimken/dpa/Alamy Live News

This comes after fellow European showcase festival Tallinn Music Week confirmed that they were planning on going ahead this summer too, but with a cap on attendees and with various restrictions in place. Meanwhile, Denmark and Germany seen the introduction of drive-in gigs, with similar events announced in the US.

A number of figures from the UK Festival scene have spoken to NME about their doubts of large outdoor events being able to return this year – as well as shooting down the idea of festivals with social distancing.

“Personally, I think it’s extremely unlikely that festivals will take place this side of Christmas,” General Secretary of The Association of Festival Organisers Steve Heap told NME. “Even at a two or three stage event – can you imagine an audience of 10,000 people standing six feet apart? It’s just not going to happen.

“Security guards, catering staff, bar staff – they’ll all need protective clothing. The economics of an event are more than just a few tickets. We need traders and you just can’t do that with everyone two metres apart.”

Last month,  a number of UK venues also spoke to NME about their concerns and requirements if socially-distanced indoor gigs were to be allowed, with the Music Venue Trust detailing that a number of safe and financially viable solutions were being discussed.

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