London is the place, I thought. A gigantic hub of creativity, attracting talent, not only from Europe, but from all over the world. An old town, full of novelty. Home of nostalgic traditionalists and rebellious iconoclasts. Exile and refuge for many. Shelter and greenhouse for the arts. A metropolis of learning, research an innovation. The perfect place for a small cultural lab, for debates and experiments.
My expectations were not disappointed. Perhaps the Austrian Cultural Forum in Rutland Gate looked a bit unassuming from the outside (and from the inside as well, at the time), but it turned out to be the exciting, inspiring experimental station and meeting place I had imagined. As a tradition, a sense of openness, freedom and curiosity governed its activity. It was an ideal vantage point for explorations into the vast domains of cultural exchange with the UK. On the way, perspectives could be changed and stereotypes be challenged. At the same time, the ACF stayed grounded. Cutting edge and continuity did not exclude each other.
When the ACF turned 50 in 2006, we solemnized this occasion with an Austrian-British gala concert in Wigmore Hall. That evening was in a way exemplary: The musicians formed a cheerfully varied ensemble of old hands and young talents, and the programme featured a fine mix of classical and contemporary compositions, including a world premiere.
15 years later, at 65, the ACF London is still going strong, open-minded and curious as ever, Brexit, and COVID, or not. I sincerely wish that it will stay in such good shape for a long time. Many happy returns!