How a rare bird drove Ed Sheeran out of a west German town

Ed Sheeran wanted to perform at an airport near Essen, but a certain animal had other ideas: the rare Skylark. The rare bird lives nearby and would have had to be resettled. Then there was a protest. Ultimately, the birds were victorious.

How a rare bird drove Ed Sheeran out of a west German town
Ed Sheeran. Photo: DPA

It is something pop stars already know: When they visit a city for a big performance, there will be a lot of inconveniences for the local residents – traffic congestion, noise, chaos. This was exactly the case for the city of Essen, where Ed Sheeran wanted to hold a concert this summer.

However, in this case the noise-sensitive locals were not Essen’s human population, but rather its birds. Resident at the Essen/Mülheim airport is the rare Skylark, a brown/beige bird that is protected by the German government. According to the Nature Conservation Union of Germany (NABU) estimates, the airport is home to about eight to nine breeding pairs of Skylarks. NABU notes that in the face of unrestrained destruction of the breeding habitats, airports are still one of the safe spaces for the endangered species. It is this bird that has expelled Ed Sheeran from Germany’s Ruhr region.

Sheeran concert organizers announced Monday that due to the “uncertainties and concerns about the local bird population” in Essen, the pop star’s concert will be held instead at Düsseldorf’s Exhibition Centre on July 22nd. In other words, the birds have won.

The Skylark is an endangered bird species, with a few eight or nine breeding pairs currently living in an airport near Essen. Photo: DPA

The concert, which was to be held in a wing of the airport, has caused a great deal of controversy for Sheeran: the Species Protection Agency for Essen initially decided that the grass-breeding Skylark should not be allowed to nest at the airport until the summer, and thus make room for Sheeran’s concert. This decision incited fierce criticism among many in the conservation community. An endangered bird species should never be scared away for “purely economic reasons”, stated the NABU.

Before the decision to move the concert to Düsseldorf, a resettlement of the birds into temporary retreats off-site was expected to begin in March, with Sheeran’s team footing the bill. However, there were additional problems: the analysis of aerial photos revealed 103 suspected cases of wartime bombs left over from WWII. These photos should have been checked before the selection of Essen as the concert venue, and led to further complications for the red-headed pop icon.

To Ed Sheeran fans who care less about the birds than about their idol's performance, there is no need to worry about missing out: The more than 80,000 tickets already sold for the Essen concert will be valid at the new Düsseldorf location.

For those who haven’t reserved a seat yet, be warned: The tickets are not cheap. On the online portal “Viagogo”, the tickets still available cost more than €210. In addition to the Düsseldorf venue, Sheeran has planned concerts in Munich, Berlin, and Hamburg.

READ MORE: How rare lizards are holding up Stuttgart's fancy new rail system, at a cost of millions


What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.