Berlin, Germany’s capital and largest city, is practically bursting at the seams with history and culture. It dates back to the thirteenth century, is home to three Unesco World Heritage sites, and is renowned for having one of the most dynamic and exciting nightlife scenes in the world.
With all that heritage, it’s no surprise that a huge announcement of funding to support and develop the city's cultural spaces has just been announced. A whopping €947 million (£813 million, $1.1 billion) has been pledged to add 500 new nightclubs, venues, museums and theatres to the 2,000 spaces already dotted around the city.
Joe Chialo, the State Minister for Culture and Social Cohesion, is continuing the pledge of encouraging youth re-engagement in culture and heritage, which was largely impacted by the pandemic.
This incredible new budget for Berlin is more than double the amount allocated to the English culture fund for the entirety of 2024. The fund goes hand-in-hand with the ‘jungendkulkarte’, a programme which offers €50 (£43, $54) to young Berliners to put towards entrance fees to clubs.
Clearly, Germany is placing its cultural heritage much higher on its list of priorities. Or is it?
Despite the enormity of this new investment, and the mahoosive number of spaces that Berlin plans to open, some clubs in the city are facing a threat to their future.
That’s because a potential extension of the A100 highway, which runs north of the Spree River through Friedrichshain – one of the city’s coolest neighbourhoods, home to many celebrated Berlin nightclubs – means the venues are threatened with closure.
Notorious nightlife spots, including Else, a riverside dance club, About Blank, an industrial techno complex, and Wild Renate, a club and exhibition space, are among those at risk.
But the city isn’t going down without a fight. In response to the proposed road extension, Berlin’s club scene has responded with protests.
Last week, 20,000 people attended a rave protest, put on in partnership with local initiatives and climate groups who oppose the road extension, which celebrated the spirit of the area and called for its cultural heritage to be protected. Plus, over 1,000 people cycled there from Berlin’s Transport Ministry in opposition to the proposal.
Other factors are set to work in their favour. Since Germany re-introduced its deutschlandticket – a super-cheap monthly travel pass – car usage has declined by 16 percent, plus the construction of the new section of road will likely cost €200,000 (£172,000, $214,000) … per meter.
A club commission study showed that in 2018, nightclubs in the German capital generated €1.5 billion (£1.28 billion, $1.6 billion) in revenue, and there is even a campaign to have Berlin’s clubs recognised in Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, which began in 2021.
‘Achieving cultural recognition is a way to observe [the nightclubs’] importance in Berlin and around the world,’ said Sophie Kahrmann, DJ and club director, to DW in 2022.
With all that in mind – plus the huge cash injection Berlin’s culture scene is set to receive – steamrolling over some historic nightlife spots in the city seems super inconsistent. Let’s hope that the support and development of Berlin’s iconic nightlife remains the top priority.
Did you see that France is the latest European country to launch a mega-cheap rail pass?
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