Frankfurt is the Newcomers Festival - Here is why
Arriving in Frankfurt newcomers may wonder where to meet friends from home and new friends, how to build business-relations, where to find dancing classes in English, where and how to learn German with the most friendly teachers. These and many more questions are very common.
This year on September 20, 2020 is the 20th edition of Newcomers Festival. It started when the city government in the 1990s realized, that the European Central Bank (ECB) was to be created and established in Frankfurt. Helmut Kohl, then the German chancellor and a strong European who knew there was no future for Germany without EU, lobbied personally for Frankfurt as seat of the ECB. „Something“ had to be done „about Europe” by the city. A member of the city government, Udo Corts, deputy Mayer for economy and security and later to serve many years in the state government of Hessen, was put in charge. He was informed about a guy with some experience in managing European projects and asked this guy to come up with some ideas. I happened to be that guy.
Trying to get a better understanding how to link European matters with the busy city of Frankfurt, I met Adèle Hodgsen, at that time marketing manager of Frankfurt International School and very well connected. In September she phoned me and suggested I join her the next Sunday afternoon to have a look at a type of a fair in a hotel conference-room at the Maritime hotel near the Messe. We met exhibitors offering services to expats who recently arrived in Frankfurt. Expat families were wondering around this conference room looking at the offers of driving schools, tax consultants, language schools, insurance people, church communities and social clubs. The organizer of this was David Hart.
Leaving the event, I had an epiphany that such an event needed to happen in Römer, Frankfurt’s City Hall. The halls downstairs in Römer (Schwanenhalle and Römerhalle) hundreds of years ago had served commercial purposes, linked to Frankfurt Messe. People from all over Europe came to Frankfurt to trade (exchange) money and goods. Later the building became became part of city hall and served again and again in ceremonies at the occasions when the Emperor of the Roman Empire of German Nation was chosen by the sovereigns of the territories of this empire. If Frankfurt wanted to welcome new arrivals this would be the place to go for.
Soon after it was agreed with everybody, that the next year in September we wanted newcomers to meet in Römer to learn about what Frankfurt was about. I think we even created some enthusiasm in a sober administration. In a concentrated effort and with the help of David Hart, supported by Adele Hodgsen and others in the expat community exhibitors were organized and also the distribution channels to reach the expat community. Across the city large posters invited to the event on September XX 19XX, called Welcome2Frankfurt Festival.
During this time when FIS, Frankfurt International School had been the first international school in Frankfurt, ISF International School Frankfurt just started business, and no other international Schools existed, no European Schools, not in Frankfurt and not in Bad Vilbel. However well over 100 exhibitors found a space in Römer, on three floors.
Due to an accident I was on crutches, and in the moments just before opening, I started sweating a bit. I was curious to know what the outcome would be like. When the doors opened I chatted with the security at the entrance, and wondered where everybody was, still after half an hour only few people…
In the end, security guards at Römer entrance told me they stopped counting after the 10,000th visitor. I knew we had a success when those guys with years of experience at Römer were very impressed, proud to receive such a huge, colorful and diverse crowd of visitors. Visibly coming from everywhere. The mayor, Petra Roth, enjoyed touring the exhibitors and talking with newcomers. Late in the afternoon, the General Manager and Artistic Director of Frankfurt Opera & Ballet enthusiastically told me how he enjoyed many discussions, and very well informed and interested visitors. He excitedly said there were so many visitors, that he decided to spend the whole afternoon at the exhibition stand of the Opera. When I made it upstairs to Kaisersaal a South Korean women’s choir, in beautiful traditional dresses, performed in front of the portraits of all the emperor’s of the Roman Empire. I will never forget this moment. Marks&Spencer, the British retailer had just had opened on Zeil, and entertained a whole corner in Römerhalle. The editor of BILD Frankfurt had promised to send someone, and indeed the paper next day dedicated almost a whole page to the event. In the evening everybody was overwhelmed and exhausted, more important, the sovereign of our time, the citizens of Frankfurt, had taken over Römer and were pleasantly satisfied.
A few years later, the event was taken over and managed completely thanks to David Hart, under the name of Newcomers Festival. This year marks the 20th anniversary on September 20, 2020. Many years later, even more newcomers arrive in Frankfurt every year with the same questions and want to pick up information and contacts at the Festival. Now Europa Union Frankfurt, which I chair today, has a stand at the fair and want to get to know the newcomers.
Klaus Klipp, an attorney by education, has a background in the private and public sectors with 25+ years in European affairs. He served two terms as Secretary General of Assembly of European Regions. Today he chairs Europa Union Frankfurt, a civil society organization, to build a strong European Union of citizens from all over EU.