Berlin’s clubs — with their avant-garde parties, unconventional spaces and twisted ethos — have long been hated by the traditionalist elite. But as Germany’s government’s latest financial reform comes into effect, they are also being set up for confrontation with one of the country’s most beloved institutions, the opera house.
Berlin has a selection of clubs, such as the Church on the Side or Nastra, and opera houses across the city proudly brandish the glamor of their establishments: Villa Amadeus, opera houses in Neukölln, Neuenkirchen and Spandau are in white marble with blue sittings. Berlin’s Institute for Theater Research estimates there are over 100 legitimate German opera houses.
However, the Leipzig-based Foreign Office, one of the capital’s main cultural institutions, still hosts home-grown bands such as Leopoldine, Ustinovies and Motorstudio with club hop — rather than opera — at the heart of their local events.
“Not only do we have a great cast of international artists, but the venue is big and concrete and has a live orchestra!” reads the organisation’s website. “Which then makes the Berliner Prensa a hugely important city music festival.”
For the rowdy nightlife scene in Berlin, clubs are – like porno cinemas, porn studios and gyms – nominally places where German culture is served, not consumed.
In two cities – Cologne and Stuttgart – the city’s authorities have been keen to try and crack down on club scene crime, revoking licences in some cases.
In London, Ladyboys of Bangkok — a transgender cabaret set inside a Victorian gas-garden – recently found itself in trouble for sexting, after the club’s licence was revoked.
In Berlin, club owners have little sympathy for the long-standing tension between “clubs and opera houses” — as the Foreign Office’s motto puts it — particularly on days like Carnival.
“There is no reason for us to be against anyone else,” says Bastian Kuhn, the secretary of the Berlin Club Association. “As long as everybody takes responsibility for their own business then everybody can have a good life. It doesn’t hurt anyone.”
Bündner Den, the cultural calendar in Berlin, offers a constantly changing array of events from concerts to reading festivals. Around 10,000 people attend each event, the Foreign Office estimates, mainly via the Facebook event page.
It also offers a unique introduction to Berlin’s club scene. For the first time this year, Bündner Den will be holding a section on that particular style of travel. Hosted by the Culture Agency Berlin, it will feature an article on train stations — described as the city’s “six hotspots for nightlife.”
“My sister lives in Berlin and I often saw a kind of street-life on TV, but rarely on the internet,” says Nora Charlery, the editor in charge of the Culture Agency Berlin. “The idea was to open up the discussion in a proper way.”
The Bündner Den will host the first edition of the “6 hotspots for nightlife” column, this Sunday.
Including the platforms at the Schroffe railway station, the toilets and newspaper kiosks in Goetheinstalin and the Royal sawmill at the Pressstraße main station, Charlery, the Berlin Bureau Chief for the Stern Newspaper, said the article wanted to break down the idea that nightlife existed only in specific areas.
“We want to highlight the variety of the nightlife,” she said. “One of the things you can’t see on Facebook or Twitter is just how much the whole city is involved.”
Charlery — originally from Stuttgart — admits that going online is the only way to document Berlin in real time. The German newspaper Die Zeit, for example, regularly posts on the nightlife scene, which feeds into the company’s publications.
“It is good to be able to see the whole scene,” says Charlery. “We want this topic to be generalizable.”