When we hosted the first concert in our newly built Stadtgarten Concert Hall more than 30 years ago, we only had a vague idea of what was to come. We wanted to do something that had never been done before in our home country. We wanted an individual and independent concert programme for current improvised music with a focus on interesting and quality content. We did not care for audience numbers nor public subsidies, but nevertheless offered guaranteed minimum pay for musicians as well as a professional setting. We aimed for a pleasant experience for both musicians and audiences when presenting music in our concert hall which therefore needed to have the best acoustic quality as well as accessibility at ground level. As a source of financing, we paired our concert hall with the Stadtgarten restaurant and associated beer garden to generate the necessary revenue.
This unique concept certainly attracted a lot of attention far and wide.
Today, 31 years later, the Cologne Stadtgarten is one of Europe's internationally recognized venues for contemporary and improvised music, regularly mentioned in the American Down Beat Magazine and has won many awards since the creation of the ‘APPLAUS Award for Venue Programming’ by the German government – in 2016 it was even awarded ‘Venue of the Year’. Each year, the Cologne Stadtgarten now hosts more than 400 events with a great variety of current music. We primarily owe today’s international reputation to the large proportion of demanding, experimental music in our programming.
In the long-term, we had to realize that a concert venue with this type of programming can only survive with reliable, public support. And since we kept our options open for the past 30 years, we now look forward to transforming the Stadtgarten into one of Europe's leading centres for music. This is what we hoped for on our anniversary five years ago, and there we are. On our 30th anniversary in September 2016 we were presented with exactly this opportunity: In cooperation between the city of Cologne and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, we can now significantly improve our programming, and since 2017, the Cologne Stadtgarten is gradually being developed into a European Centre for Jazz and Contemporary Music.