A jubilee must be prepared well. Oliver Behnecke is responsible for exactly that task. As the project leader, he is preparing a program for the year 2021. In this interview, the culture manager and theater studies scholar explains what is already planned – and what he is still looking for.
The University of Bremen is turning 50. Are you reflecting on the past or are you also looking to the future?
Naturally, a jubilee means looking at the past but we also want to tell the stories of the present in order to develop ideas for the future. It is a reason and a chance to look into the past together with all university members, Bremen citizens, and regional, national, and international partners – so that we can reflect and create visions for the future of the university together. The jubilee is a comprehensible determination of where we currently stand: where do we come from; where are we now; where do we want to go?
What stories have you already found?
The exciting thing about a 50th birthday is that we can still talk to people who experienced the beginning and helped to create the university. I was able to talk to the first press officer and he told me of the chaotic founding phase. I come from the world of theater, where telling each other stories is what it is all about. At the university, different people can and should come together and tell their stories. After all, the university is made up of people and is part of this city.
Will there also be an official ceremony?
Of course there will be an official ceremony. There are two important dates: The university was officially opened on October 14, 1971, and the semester began on October 19. We want to show the university and all its facets. That is why there will be several events spread out throughout the year alongside the central ceremonies.
“We can still talk to people who experienced the beginning and helped to create the university.”
What is specifically planned for the jubilee year?
We are still collecting ideas and planning the specifics. Two periods, during which a great deal will take place, are important: Firstly, the summer semester in 2021. OPEN CAMPUS will take place once again then. The basic idea is revealed in the name – the university will open its doors for the city and visitors and will show how work, research, and teaching are carried out here. The second period is October 2021 – the beginning of the winter semester. Under the heading of Campus City, we, as the university, want to go into the town with classic university courses, lectures, and seminars. We especially hope that the performances in the city are carried out together with students. We want to be more visible in the city than we have been to date.
Will there be more events over the course of the year?
Yes, we intend to take courses from the university and from the faculties and transport them elsewhere. For example, if there is a seminar on the history of the university, students could work on individual topics and have a forum to present their ideas. This can also include seminars that are created especially for the jubilee. Thus, in a course dealing with media, a film could be created, which may then be presented by the students. It could also be lecture series, for which several faculties join forces and then scientifically think about the past, present, and future of the University of Bremen in an interdisciplinary manner.
Who are the events aimed at?
At the public, the people of this city, but also people who have not yet had a great deal to do with the university. Want hope that many interested people participate. For example, I imagine an introductory course or topic-specific courses that could take place in special locations, even stores. It is important that the Bremen citizens can get involved, as it is also their university that is presenting itself. It is always interesting to see how the university members use a jubilee as a chance to visit and show interest in each other. In 2021, there will also be conferences with international guests. Thus, the 50th birthday is a great opportunity for the university to present itself internationally.
On the basis of which criteria are you putting the jubilee events together?
The jubilee is a nice opportunity for the university to show that it is anchored in the community. Topics that are related to the people of this city and this state will be covered and taught. For example, the available expertise of the students and teaching staff in the field of climate research will be made visible. This is part of the scientific foundation for a field of politics that is becoming increasingly important. The University of Bremen is in a leading position in comparative social research, for example, and can contribute enlightening knowledge to the topic of populism – here, a science is being pursued that goes far beyond academia and is extremely interesting.
Are you still looking for suitable courses?
Yes, we are still looking for participants who would like to contribute to Campus City. We are searching for teaching staff that are prepared to utilize unconventional locations which are suitable in terms of the topic and are open to the public. And we are, as always, looking for OPEN CAMPUS participants. In the summer semester, I will speak to students and teaching staff and ask them if they would like to be a part of certain projects. We also want to work with external partners for the jubilee. I could imagine that our university program could be performed at places such as the Chambers of Commerce or museums.
How do you go about creating a plan?
We invited university members to collect ideas, develop formats, and create a program with us. Moreover, I am going to each faculty and meeting with various people at this university who can contribute their ideas. The 2021 program will display all of the facets of the university in a diverse way. In order to create a great inspiring program, one needs different perspectives and ideas. Anyone who has ideas or would like to find out more can contact me. I am there to provide support to those who have the seed of an idea, so that we can create a real jubilee project out of it. We need everybody’s support.
In October 2019, Oliver Behnecke took on the project leadership for the 50th birthday of the University of Bremen. The 48-year-old has a great deal of experience with large events and urban space performances. He has supervised numerous projects across the country as a culture planner, director, producer, and graduate of applied theater studies at the University Giessen. One of the highlights was the 400-year jubilee of the Justus Liebig University Giessen in 2007, for which he developed the concept and was responsible for content and organization. In the past years, he has realized cultural education projects in Bremen and was a co-initiator of “Klub Dialog”. He also hosted participation procedures in the frame of school construction and city development projects. Oliver Behnecke lives in Bremen and has two children.
Website 50 Years of the University of Bremen
Contact Oliver Behnecke