Johannes Ebert am 9. Dezember 2018
Eröffnung des „Freiraum“-Projekts „Speak Easy“ in Carlise

Grußwort von Johannes Ebert anlässlich der Eröffnung des „Freiraum“-Projekts „Speak Easy“ in Carlise

Dear Chair of the Cumbria County Council, Councillor Elizabeth Mallinson, dear Mr Khan, Mr Savvidis, dear Mr Hewitson, dear authors, dear artists, dear members of the audience!
It is an absolute honour for me to welcome you on this Sunday afternoon on behalf of the Goethe-Institute to this special speak easy event here on the Brampton Road Campus. This event has a long, vibrant tradition in Carlisle even if it normally takes place in a pub, not the university. The good citizens of Carlisle came together once a month to share their poems and stories. What a wonderful, open, participative undertaking!  The event is a little more ambitious now as the number of participants and the reach have both grown. There will be a live feed to the Greek city of Thessalonica, and artists who have only known the name Carlisle for a very short time will contribute, as will poets and authors, who have been doing this for years.
What’s behind this Freiraum Project, in whose name this event is taking place today? A European collaboration between over 40 Goethe-Institutes and their partner organisations. In each case, two cities - for example Rome and Nicosia, Tallinn and Dresden, Skopje and Copenhagen, and of course, Carlisle and Thessalonica – created a pairing and jointly examined the question: what does freedom mean in today’s Europe? Where is it coming under pressure? What can we do to create and protect free spaces? In their search for partners, the Goethe-Institutes in London and Glasgow looked well beyond the borders of their cities, and found their partner in Carlisle.
This partner, Awaz Cumbria is a civic societal initiative which concentrates on local, neighbourly engagement. They, in turn, engaged with a Greek partner, with roots in the art scene: Artbox - Creative Arts Management from Thessalonica. Even though they spoke different languages and took different approaches, the two organisations engaged in a highly-productive working process. Several questions kept coming to the fore: What is isolation? How can we overcome it? What does European identity mean? What does it mean to identify as a citizen of Europe? These and other questions are being debated in Europe every single day.

Since the catastrophe of the World War II, the European Union has guaranteed peace between its member states. This is something we can be very proud of. Furthermore, “Europe is also a cultural project.” This quotation from the Coalition Agreement of the German government is a lived reality for the Goethe-Institute. Europe is our creative basis, we are advocating for a joint responsibility for the European cultural area. We want Europe to be a continent of appreciation, respect and solidarity. In times of fake news, political disinformation campaigns and increasing pressure on civil society in many parts of our continent, we take a stand against the instrumentalisation of culture. Freedom is a value for all. That is why we believe the future cooperation between our countries to be of the utmost importance.
The Goethe-Institute’s reliability is based on our empathy for international dialogue and an exchange at eye level, and on the capacity for self-critical reflection on the conditions for this dialogue. We are committed to an open, liberal society. Indeed, I’m very much looking forward to the artistic and literary approaches to these questions and themes which we will hear about and see over the next few hours.
Although I don’t want to test your patience, I don’t want to finish my words of welcome without remembering Nick Pemberton. His services to the cultural scene in Carlisle were so varied that I can only touch on them in the following list: Nick Pemberton was the driving force behind the Speak Easy Nights, he was a poet and writer, he taught Creative Writing at the Cumbria Institute of Arts, he drove the film festival Film Fling and produced a documentary film himself. He contributed to the success of the Patchwork Opera Festival, published the Speak Easy Newspaper, and tirelessly sought contact with all social groups in Carlisle. And – he was a crucial participant in the development of the local Freiraum project. In short, he played a major role in the civic and cultural life of the city. He was taken from us too early back in September, and it’s a big loss that he can’t be with us this afternoon. If there is such a thing as a heartfelt posthumous thank you, I’d like to extend one to Nick Pemberton at this point.
My thanks also go to Aftab Khan from Awaz Cumbria as well as Philip Hewitson, who has taken over Nick Pemberton’s inheritance, and who has organised today’s Speak Easy Afternoon. I would also like to thank the many fellow campaigners in Carlisle, without whom none of the Freiraum projects would have possible here in Carlisle. I’d also like to say a very big “Thank You” to the Freiraum partners from Thessalonica, Artbox –  Creative Arts Management, represented by Christos Savvidis, as well as the Greek Freiraum artists, three of whom are here today. And, of course, all the speakers, authors, artists who are contributing to today’s Speak Easy Event.
So without any further ado, I would like to hand over to the next speaker. Thank you.

Es gilt das gesprochene Wort.