Imagining a new future for Berlin

The German capital has changed dramatically in the 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Julia Lipkins reports on a festival bringing together artists and urban planners this weekend hoping to share their visions for the city’s future.

Imagining a new future for Berlin
Photo: Julia Lipkins

Berlin has long an affordable cultural Petri dish, but encroaching gentrification and commercialization has rallied members of the city’s creative community for a three-day festival of art, performance and debate this weekend.

Save Berlin Fest 09 begins on Friday night in Wedding’s historic Stattbad – a 100-year-old bath house that served as a public swimming pool for decades before being turned into contemporary art space.

“Save Berlin is an ongoing project to save the soul of Berlin, the best of Berlin, which we feel is being lost slowly to commercialisation,” the event’s chief curator Dan Borden told The Local.

Click here for a photo gallery of Save Berlin Fest 09.

In contrast to the celebrations over the fall of Wall earlier this week, Borden wanted to create a forward-looking forum, one which would force Berlin’s creative communities to consider their role in the city’s future urban development.

“Many of the changes that people are rebelling against now, like O2 World (stadium) or the Alexa (shopping centre), these horrible things in the middle of the city, there were models, there were plans 10 years ago, these things are not new, but no one was paying attention until the things were half-built,” said Borden.

He teamed up with Nadja Vancauwenberghe, editor-in-chief of the English-language magazine Exberliner, to solicit the city residents for “alternative visions” of Berlin in the 21st century. They received a diverse array of submissions including a performance imagining cabaret in 2029, sexually-explicit paintings created by a former bio-chemist and a statue of Marlene Dietrich atop the city’s Teufelsberg summit made from World War II debris.

In addition to the art exhibition and performances, there will be a panel discussion on urban development policies in Berlin since 1989. Ares Kalandides, an expert on developing the creative industries, said Berlin still stands to gain economically by fostering the city’s cultural fecundity.

“Berlin’s opportunity is not so much in attracting businesses, but in enhancing the business that it already has,” said Kalandides. “Large corporations, if they move at all today, they do not move to Western Europe, they move to Eastern Europe or Asia. I think this is a very 1970s and 80s policy, trying to attract large investments.”

Borden hopes the festival will help to stave off the city’s impending “Disneyfication” and shake its creative community out of its seeming state of complacency.

“Berlin is a city, where every night thousands of great ideas are born and die in these cafes and bars,” he said, adding that the festival will seek to keep such ideas alive and propel them into the future.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Where to celebrate Diwali 2022 in Germany

The holiday of Diwali kicks off on Monday. Here's where you can celebrate all around Germany.

Where to celebrate Diwali 2022 in Germany

With over 100,000 Indians in Germany, and over 175,000 people of Indian descent, it’s little wonder that Diwali – the famous five day Hindi festival of lights starting this year on Monday October 24th – is being celebrated all around the Bundesrepublik

READ ALSO: Indians in Germany: Who are they and where do they live?

Even the House of Parliament in Frankfurt is honouring the holiday for the first time with a special reception on October 30th.

Diwali takes its name from the clay lamps or deepa (the event is sometimes called Deepawali) that many Indians light outside their home. With the days shortening in Germany, there’s all the more reason to celebrate light — especially over lively music, traditional dance and authentically spicy Indian cuisine.

We have rounded up some of the top events to celebrate around Germany, both the week of Diwali and afterwards, stretching into mid-November. If you have an additional event to suggest, email us at [email protected]

October 24th in Heidelberg

Happen to be in Heidelberg? Then it’s not too late to head to the Sweet Home Project, which will be cooking up a storm starting at 6:30pm. The menu includes an assortment of Indian sweets and savoury dishes. The collective only asks that participants bring along a candle (and a hearty appetite).

If you miss this event, and are still craving some (really) spicy traditional cuisine, the Firebowl Heidelberg is hosting a Diwali party on October 29th, replete with lots of food and drink and Bollywood beats the whole night. 

October 29th near Frankfurt

For those who fancy a Feier with a full-buffet, this celebration in Dreieich delivers through an all-you-can-eat dinner with traditional fare. Starting at 5pm and stretching into the early hours of the morning, the festive feast includes traditional Bollywood music by Derrick Linco. There’s also a dance party for kids, who receive free admission up to seven years old and €25 up to 14 years. Normal tickets go for €40 per person.

A previous Diwali celebration of traditional dance and music in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Sebastian Kahnert

November 4th near Düsseldorf

On November 4th at 6pm, the Deutsch-Indische Gesellschaft Düsseldorf will be hosting a family-friendly party in nearby Ratingen with classical Indian music and dance, a huge dinner and Bollywood music led by DJ SA-ONE. Tickets cost about €40 each, but children under six receive free entry. 

November 5th in Bonn 

The Indian Students Association of Bonn-Cologne will be hosting its biggest event of the year: for €10, event goers can try an array of Indian food, play classic games and tune into cultural performances. 

READ ALSO: Moving from India to Munich changed my life

November 12th in Essen 

Whether you like traditional bhajans or meditative ragas, this concert will capture many of the classic sounds of Indian music with artists such as Anubhab Tabla Ensemble, Debasish Bhattacharjee and Somnath Karmorak taking center stage. The performance starts at 5pm and costs €10. 

November 12th and 13th in Berlin

Indian food fans will get to enjoy 12 stands devoted to Indian cuisine and products, all coming from the local Indian community. The weekend-long festival will also include stand-up comedy from the Desi Vibes Comedy Group. Karaoke fans will also enjoy singing along with the Sounds of India group, followed by an after party on Saturday. All this only costs €2 at the door.