A new documentary on BBC Radio 4 explores the current state of Berlin’s underground club culture, and the work of those dedicated to its future.
Curated and presented by DJ Emily Dust, the documentary, part of BBC’s Art of Now series, features interviews with figures including Dimitri Hegemann, owner of legendary techno club Tresor, Room 4 Resistance co-founder Luz Diaz, and Green Party representative for club culture in Berlin's Parliament, Georg Kössler. Topics covered include the battle against gentrification, club closures and rising rents, the importance of experimentation, and the sense of solidarity and determination witnessed in the scene in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The balancing of the counterculture at the scene’s heart with its worldwide, and lucrative, status is explored, as well as the importance of unity and collaboration in the face of mounting economic and political pressure.
“I've also lost count of the number of conversations I've had about [Berlin’s] famed club culture - the freedom, the photo bans, the right to escape for a few hours,” says Emily Dust. “But in recent years the types of conversations have changed: they were not only about freedom but about threats - in a way, the city has become a victim of its own success. As more people move there, the pressures on its spaces are greater.”
“Underpinning it is a sense of solidarity that has proved essential during COVID-19”, she adds. “The clubs have already raised €1.5 million in donations and are eligible to apply for €30 million of state funding. The respect and support seemingly afforded by the state is enviable from here in the UK. This is the product of over two decades' work - but is it enough? And will closer ties with the state also put counter-culture at risk?”
Listen to Art Of Now: Berlin’s Nightlife here.
Toward the beginning of the city’s coronavirus lockdown, Berlin promoters launched United We Stream, a virtual club and fundraiser for struggling clubs and DJs during the pandemic. As lockdown was eased toward the end of April, several Berlin clubs re-opened, albeit with strict social distancing measures.