Leipzig Festival of Lights 2016 – An Emotional Highlight on the October 9th
After the Speech on Democracy in the St. Nicholas Church, the Leipzig Festival of Lights was an emotional conclusion of October 9th. Augustusplatz, which in 1989 had become a famous historic place of assembly, was the scene of a nearly hour-long program interwoven with text, music, dance, photography and video into a multi-layered performance under the artistic direction of Jürgen Meier and performed by actor Sylvester Groth, musician Mike Dietrich and the Leipzig ballet with choreography by Mario Schröder.
Sylvester Groth portrayed the visionary citizen, the cosmopolitan. Bold and confident on one hand, while critical and thoughtful on the other, he addressed the overarching topics of the evening using modern texts and historical quotes from Kant to Kennedy. In a symbolic role, Sylvester Groth became a coach, pitted against the opposition: those gathered together at Augustusplatz. The dancers of the Leipzig ballet were following along in a constantly changing act. In consent at times, dismissive at others, they were moving between breakup and consolidation, future and past.
For the dramaturge, ballet director Mario Schröder had drawn from choreographic features of Mendelssohn"s "Hymn of Praise", a hymn dedicated to enlightenment. The music events of the evening were overseen by Mike Dietrich, who had developed a sound collage with classical and contemporary elements for the Festival of Lights.
Large screens in the background which displayed historic photographs and video clips, interspersed with media depicting current events accompanied the production. Jürgen Meier"s assembly of dramatic scenes and images supported and intensified on-stage action and created additional layers of meaning.
The Leipzig Festival of Lights is designed and implemented by the Leipzig Tourismus und Marketing GmbH.
Leipzig Festival of Lights 2015
After the major anniversary celebration last year, where the festival stretched over the entire inner ring road, the Leipzig Festival of Lights 2015 explored new themes: While, in recent years, the focus was on neighbouring countries to the east and their movements for democracy, the emphasis was now on issues surrounding civil society. "Liberty - Equality - Fraternity?" has been the motto of this year - critically backlighting this statement and, thus, punctuated by a question mark. The identity of the individual in a Germany, once divided and now reunited for 25 years, was the intellectual starting point of the evening. A tension-filled panorama was created through the interaction and interplay of text, image and music.
Leipzig Festival of Lights 2014
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Peaceful Revolution about 200,000 Leipzig citizens, guests and top-ranking political representatives from all over the world gathered on Augustusplatz square and the city ring road in the evening of 9th October. During the Leipzig Festival of Lights they attended the welcome addresses starting at 7 p. m., delivered by the Lord Mayor of Leipzig Burkhard Jung, Saxon Prime Minister Stanislaw Tillich as well as, among others, by Federal President Joachim Gauck, the state presidents of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary – Bronislaw Komorowski, Milos Zeman, Andrej Kiska, János Áder. After the official opening, art projects were started at more than 20 stations along the 3.6 kilometres long city ring road.
With the Festival of Lights Leipzig commemorates the Peaceful Revolution, during which on 9th October 1989 more than 70,000 people had found the courage to demonstrate in Leipzig for freedom and democracy despite an impending order to fire. Chanting ‘We are the people’ and ‘No violence’ they gathered to march peacefully along Leipzig’s city ring road. Their non-violent protest prepared the ground for the fall of the Wall, for the unity of Germany and Europe. In 2014 Augustusplatz square, the historic meeting place of the demonstrators of 1989, again became the centre of activities. This year for the first time the tens of thousands of visitors could move around the entire city ring road. Here internationally active artists, such as !Mediengruppe Bitnik from Zurich, Jonathan Richer and the Théoriz Studio from Lyon as well as Mischa Kuball from Düsseldorf, reflected upon the autumn of 1989 and translated the events and emotions of the past into the present time. Simultaneously the Festival of Lights visitors formed a shining ‘Leipzig 89’ with about 25,000 candles on Augustusplatz.
The responsibility for planning, organising and implementing the Leipzig Festival of Lights lay with Leipzig Tourismus und Marketing (LTM) GmbH and the artistic director Jürgen Meier.
The Leipzig Festival of Lights is considered the emotional highlight of the day. It had been preceded by a number of other events on 9th October, for example a joint ceremonial act of the City of Leipzig, the Free State of Saxony and the Saxon state parliament in the Gewandhaus concert hall, where Federal President Joachim Gauck delivered the ‘Speech on Democracy’, and the traditional peace prayer meeting in St. Nicholas’s Church. All information on the Leipzig Festival of Lights as well as on other events, exhibitions and guided tours in the context of the autumn of 1989 can be found on: www.lichtfest.leipziger-freiheit.de
Statements on the Leipzig Festival of Lights
Joachim Gauck (Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany)
‘I am happy to be here. I have brought something along. Memories! My fondest memories are connected with 1989, Rostock at that time. And with a feeling of deep gratitude these memories connect me with those who had previously taken to the streets in Leipzig. We overcame our fear, we can rejoice and tell the young generation about it. We know how much we owe to our European neighbour countries – all those in the East who had the courage to rise. Therefore I am happy that the presidents of these states are with us today. Together we are building Europe. We are the people! This is something we must never forget and remember even today. This is not only a day to celebrate for Leipzig or for Saxony but for all of Europe. We have all a lot to give to each other: strength, fantasy, the ability to be there for one other. We are the people! We are the citizens! We are in charge!’
Stanislaw Tillich (Prime Minister of the Free State of Saxony)
‘This evening – just like every year – is dedicated to the memory of those who took to the streets in Prague and Hungary, in Leipzig, Dresden, Plauen and all over East Germany, with candles in their hands and hope in their hearts. A state surrendered to its people then. We commemorate the people who in the decades before had lost their lives or endured suffering in their striving for freedom. The reunification opened a gate, it closed a chapter, the chapter of the Cold War. Today we live in peace, and this is not a matter of course. Our thoughts therefore also go out to those who are struggling for peace, freedom and democracy in Afghanistan, Syria or North Africa. It is a strong signal that you are sending by being here today and demonstrating that you carry the 9th October in your hearts. Freedom and democracy have to be won again every single day.’
Burkhard Jung (Lord Mayor of the City of Leipzig)
‘This is a great, a wonderful evening. 9th October 1989 and also 9th October 2014 are so important. I am happy that our friends from the European neighbour countries are here. And also Hans-Dietrich Genscher – unforgotten! My thanks go to those who overcame their fear back then, who took to the streets and brought a violent regime down on its knees by chanting ‘No violence!’ This is today’s message. Tell each other your stories, tell them to your guests. Listen when they tell you their stories. This is the only way to keep history alive. Today we have the chance to reach out to the world, a world full of violence – with the message of peace and freedom. This is the message of Leipzig!’
Volker Bremer (managing director of Leipzig Tourismus und Marketing GmbH)
‘9th October 1989 is a date of world history. We think it important to provide a platform for joint commemorating to the citizens of Leipzig. And as tourism and marketing representatives we can also use the worldwide interest in the subject for the benefit of this city. Today, for example, about 600 journalists from 21 nations have reported with texts and pictures from Leipzig – this means priceless earned media values for Leipzig.’
Marit Schulz (marketing manager and authorised signatory of LTM GmbH/ director of the Leipzig Festival of Lights)
‘In the anniversary year of the Peaceful Revolution today’s Festival of Lights also hit a new peak: The incredibly high number of visitors, the high-ranking and international guests, the art project area around the entire city ring road – I think we have succeeded in making this a unique and duly dignified event for all participants. As the organiser I would like to thank once again all involved partners, sponsors, service providers, volunteers and our staff for having worked intensively for more than 12 months.’
Jürgen Meier (artistic director of the Leipzig Festival of Lights)
‘I am happy that in 2014 with the involvement of the entire city ring road we have been able to create a special Leipzig format of commemoration. Because: In 1989 the public space was occupied by the people – and the same is happening tonight. It is one of the strengths of our concept that there are no classical senders and recipients but that only the interlinking of both leads to a result. During the 2014 Leipzig Festival of Lights artists and citizens have jointly created an impressive picture: Participants moving along the streets.’