Step Across The Border - First Transnational Partnership "Kick Off" Meeting Berlin 20-25 September 2017

Berlin Organisation

Czentrifuga and the Unter Druck Cafe are separate locations in Berlin, both of which are  organised by parent socio-cultural association Unter Druck – Kultur von der Strasse e.V. (since 1992)

Czentrifuga, in the Friedrichshain area, specialises in workshops for screenprinting, music and animation as well as homebase for performance group Gogo Trash who recycle found materials to create costumes, transforming environments for public spectacles.

Unter Druck Cafe in the Wedding area, is open six days a week , providing free food and drinks for the homeless, and other socially marginalised people, as well as offering professional pedagogic help for guests. The Cafe also serves as a space for creative activities including workshops for theater, graphic, music and discussion.

Activities

As well as being the first opportunity for all the partner organisations to all meet and greet, this SATB “kick off” meeting, was planned to include visits and exchanges with socio cultural institutions, organisations and workshops that relate to the partner organisations' ongoing work with marginalised groups, as well as special attention to the needs of women and LGBTQ+ migrants and refugees. The partnership seeks to integrate with a wider network of individuals and organisations by highlighting and promoting its work at public events, with guest speakers, public discussion, music, exhibition and performance.

 

Wednesday 20.09 19Uhr:  Step Across the Border @ aquarium

Infotainment Evening with Introduction to the Project, Discussion, Music & Performance

Originally planned for 21.09, we were fortunate to be able to switch the date to the previous day, after the original date had been booked by another organisation during the waiting period  for application approval. The aquarium, together with its neighbour and sister location Südblock, are situated directly in the colourfull and culturally diverse Kottbusser Tor area. These locations run many socio cultural activities together with local communities and are also meeting points for various LGBTQ+ and refugee supporting organisations, making it the perfect environment in which to make this event.

Step Across

The evening began with a ceremonial opening performance by Gogo Trash and members from the partner organisations, whereby, we installed a wall made from cardboard and covered in gold (found coffee wrapping material) which blocked the entrance to the venue. The wall itself was printed with unfriendly looking cartoon border security guards  which were only revealed as we tore away the gold paper, whereupon we gently pushed the wall flat to the ground, clearing the way for the waiting guests to go inside. This action was a reflection  on Donald Trumps wall plans in Mexico, as well as a symbolic reference to the name of our project. Special thanks to Vasja and Louis for live musical accompaniament!

Podium Discussion

The discussion began with a mission statement and representatives from the three project partners explained something about the work of their respective organisations. The subject of sensitization to working with traumatised and descriminated people was a main topic amongst podium and audience, as was the theme of “burn out” and the importance of “caring for the carers” in recognition of the psychological stress and fatigue that often comes with this kind of work. Other topics we touched on were the necessity and implementation of safe spaces for women/LGBTQ+ in the the context of migrants and refugees. and also the sensitive, conflicting issues and problematic of how these groups intersect.

We  made it clear  that this was an open for all project and that we were actively looking for new allies, collecting names and addresses from the guests, amongst them doctors, therapists and artists.

A positive surprise of the five day Berlin programme was our unplanned cooperation with the Marseille based performance group La Fêlure. (http://lafelure.eklablog.com/) We were already expecting the attendance of group member Blandine Voineau as she is a key member of both SATB and l`Embobineuse, but did not recognise, until shortly before the event, that La Fêlure would be also be in Berlin on a parallel EU funded course "Mobility kit learning from vocational education and training LINK . La Fêlure were highly motivated to join in the aquarium event and Czentrifuga reciprocated by helping them produce screenprinted buisness cards and flyers for their upcoming event  at Villa Kuriosum which was curiously and coincidently,  a location SATB had also planned into its schedule of activities.

The thirty minute performance "Prosexus" questions sexuality and freedom through a feminine prism. Between poetry and performance, the group attempt to destabilise preconceptions and social conditioning, creating a space for change and improvistion. The performance was warmly received by the audience, striking a sympathetic note with the evenings programme.

Dj Lyon (Reboot FM) played vinyl records in between the activities and we are now working on creating a talk radioshow for Reboot in advance of the next main meeting in Marseille.

Approximately 100 people attended the free event which was perfect for the size of the location. We also made a big collective effort in preparing a delicious free buffet using organic food from the OLIB farm collective, next to Berlin. The same place where we would be making our next public event on the coming weekend. (http://www.suedblock.org/wp/)

 

Thursday 21.09 11:00 “15 Years Raw-Culture Manufacture”

SATB Partner Meeting at Czentrifuga, Ostkreuz

In my role as project coordinator and Czentrifuga/ Unter Druck public relations worker, I talked with the French and British partner organisations about our organisational set up. We tried to be as open and non dogmatic as possible during this first kick off meeting, in an effort to encourage new inputs and ideas and, with this in mind, we accepted Raggi Koteks (TNH) offer to facilitate a “Process Work” session which she is currently studying in London.

My aim was to run a session based on the facilitation technique of Process Work. This is a technique aimed at facilitating issues between people and following the natural process that occurs.

We looked at some of the issues that were concerning us as a group. And started by examining some of the different experiences impacting migrants and refugees and those around them. The session was intense and stirred up feelings of racism, injustice and lack of recognition of those that do provide support.

The group shifted focus to personal sharing between the members and a deep conversation took place where experiences of marginalisation and privilege were apparent and members were able to get more of a sense of what the group was bringing - individually and collectively. Overall, it felt like we reached  somewhere . We lifted the lid of some of the difficult issues we are dealing with on a macro level and highlighted how those issues were also reflected within us personally. A good start.

Unknowingly, this intense and emotional two hour meeting was to be the first test of the groups resilience. A lot of issues were raised  both on personal and professional levels. Indeed, the mood was sometimes angry, as many of us felt quite exposed within the process . This  unplanned "in at the deep end" first partnership  meeting was generally helpfull in the difficult  process of sensitisation to the the SATB thematic. Now we need to create  a structure and  methodology for future meetings in an effort to safeguard personal boundaries, and ensure an  efficient and friendly group dynamic.

Somewhat exhausted, and full of food for thought, we left the Czentrifuga to visit cultural location Villa Kuriosum  - a free, self-organised cultural space combining visual and performing arts linking local with international cultures. The location name refers to a dedicated museum room known as a Curiosity Cabinet or “Wunderkammer” encyclopedic collections of objects whose categorical boundaries were, inRenaissance< Europe, yet to be defined. Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history (sometimes faked), geology,ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art (including cabinet paintings), and antiques. "The Kunstkammer was regarded as a microcosm  or theater of the world, and a memory theater. (Wikipedia)

Perhaps the greatest attraction of the Villa is its impressive orchard and a garden filled with a bewildering assortment of flora and fauna through which run discreet public walkways and hidden sitting areas. We particularly wanted to show this urban garden to True North Health and their plant and herb specialist Rasheeqa, and, coincidently, La Felure would be performing here on the following Friday.  Here, we were able to take in the sunset ,reflect chat and relax. This location is a must for anyone interested in Berlin subculture, there's a video clip showing the garden here http://villakuriosum.net/index.php/about-us/garten

 

Friday 08.09 11:00 Visit to Unter Druck Cafe Wedding, Berlin.

Women from the SATB group visited the weekly “Frauen Cafe” at our cafe for homeless (and those in danger of becoming homeless) in the Wedding district, whereby they met main organiser Ulla Benz , district council prize winner 2017 for recognition of her long standing voluntary work. The intended activity plan had to be modified due to two cases of sickness amongst the group, however, once again, La Fêlure were eager to participate and contribute, which was a huge success with the cafe guests. More infos/fotos here: http://stepacrosstheborder.eu/article/friday-2209-2017-unter-druck-cafe-frauentag-special

Magdi, theater producer from Compagnie Peanuts and representing SATB partner, l`Embobineuse, attended the Unter Druck evening theater probe which is run by our association founder Jan Markowsky (perhaps comment here by Magdi?

Support

Its important to mention the support from Czentrifugs two new "praktikantin" Renate Rey and Minnie Griffiths. Renate studies at  Academy of Art in Arnhem (NL) and is making a practicum at the Czentrifuga and Unter Druck locations as part of her studies. (https://www.artez.nl).  Renate has proved to be resourcefull, dynamic , occupied with photography, video filming / editing , printing, organisation, website and PR. SATB benefits greatly from her enthusiasm and inputs, in much the same way as the work of Minnie Griffiths, another new student amongst us, this time coming from Marseille. Minnie is sponsored by the European Voluntary Service or EVS and works under the guidance of Unter Druck team member Margita Weiler who has a long standing experience with this programme aimed at youth and young adult training.

Minnie and Renate took it upon themselves to share the Berlin SATB audio, video and foto documentation,  LINKS TO FOTO ARCHIVES There's also a PDF document created by Minnie which is attached at the end of this article, that details her SATB experience. Meanwhile video clips and audio bytes from the 5 days of activities, are currently being edited for online presentation...

 

O.L.I.B. Hoffest 23-25.09 2017

Organischer Landbau in Bienenwerder e.V. (O.L.I.B.) is an organic arm in Bienenwerder in the Brandenburg Oderland near Müncheberg, 50 kilometers east of Berlin. The farm manages 50 hectares of land and is operated collectively by approximately 15 people, including individuals, families, apprentices and trainees who live and work together there. For over 10 years they have been producing organic vegetables, as well as dairy goats, horses, cows, ducks, chickens and bees. The farm products supply collectively operated health food stores in Berlin including Bio Kraft Keller which is coordinated  by people from the farm. OLIB also delivers to Berlin food sharing initiatives as well as supporting actions for socio cultural activities including migrant and refugee support.
 

Sa.23.09 10Uhr "Cake, Bake n' Talk" Bring your special ingredients and favourite cake recipes!

Paula Gioia is a member of the OLIB collective as well as activist with the German organisation A.b.l. (Association of Rural Agriculture: http://www.abl-ev.de/start/) and also spokesperson for the international peasant farmers movement, La Via Campesina (https://viacampesina.org/en/).  Variety is the spice of life and, together with SATB members and festival guests, Paula organised a collective early morning cake baking action during which she informally discussed one aspect of her work which promoting gender diversity and tolerance in rural areas.

Kräuter und Planzen Identifikationstour mit Rasheeqa Ahmad (True North Health)

Rasheeqa made the countryside  tour together with support from Gabba (O.L.I.B. /Czentrifuga). As the video (coming soon!) will show, the two women established a good rapport  and  it was an educational  and entertaining mixture of insights from both academic and  folkloric perspectives, together with  helpfull translations back and forth between English and  German and of course Latin!  Approximately 35 people took part in the tour.

Movement Medicine: Introduction with Caroline Smart and Movement Medicine Course with Raggi Kotek (2 x True North Health)

We create a space in which everyone is welcome. We teach a procedure called "Movement Medicine". It's a fun way to dance and follow instructions if you wish. For many, life is just a big challenge. Our goal is to create a place where you can take some time off from yourself, shake off a few things that pull you down, re-connect to  yourself and  give you strength.We ask you to be there from the beginning. We will close the doors after 15 minutes warm up. It is allowed to enter and leave the room if you wish, we only want to lock the doors for newcomers who may interrupt the flow. Wear clothes where you can move easily, layers are good. We dance barefoot, unless you want to wear slippers. Raggi x

For reasons i discuss later, we were unsuccessfull in attracting refugee women to the workshop , as was our initial plan, so we opened up the workshop to everyone and, approximately 25 people, including SATB members, joined in the one and a half hour workshop. For us, it was a chance to see Raggi presenting her skills and look to see how we could use this kind of technique in our own respective organisational work. Stine (Czentrifuga) was very interested by the technique and immediately afterwards  had the idea to create  a similiar action in the context of her work. Since then we have established some relevant  contacts as well as gaining new experiences and inputs. Subsequently , we look in and around Berlin about  how best  to organise  ourselves and find ways for offering  effective and relevant support that can be integrated  into our everyday work.

Film Presentation from Oliver Speiser about the  North Borneo Kollektiv – "Pangrok Sulap in Berlin"

Exhibition of large format wood cut prints and Woodcut Workshop. http://youtube.com/watch?v=Jf2C8t0CPjk&feature=youtu.be

Czentrifuga met Oliver earlier in the year in Berlin,  helping him to promote an upcoming visit from the Borneo collective.  We were all "flashed" how sympathetic these people  were and, together we worked on woodcut designs , some which  refllected Pangroks Sulaps homeland, its incredible  nature (famous for Orangutangs amongst others) as well as the danger  posed to the environment  by pharmaceutical and agrocultural corporations. As part of a solidarity action, which also included a a music and info event, we also worked on creating designs for "Turkeys first LGBTQ+  football team" Sportif Lezbon. Our thoughts are with them , as we learn that Turkey has since  forbidden public actions with LGBTQ+ .http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/sportif-lezbon-turkey-s-first-lgbt-football-team-687044868

Olivers film about this Berlin experience  was shown to a packed  room and the subsequent  woodcut workshop attracted  approximately  30 people.  Approximately 300 people attended the farm festival. Special thanks to the  live bands Racket Alert, Lottaleben, Dirty Feetz and Option Weg as well as Dj Team Acid Burrito for there part in producing  this festival!

Sunday 24.09 informal meeting.

On a cold morning, sitting around a warm campfire, the SATB group talked informally about their recent experiences,brainstorming new inputs for the next main meeting in Marseille, as well as solving  logistical and financial issues before the return to Berlin, and eventually flights, cars and buses back to UK and France for our SATB guests.

 

Problematic and Conclusions

We recognised that organising our kick off event so soon after  receiving the official go ahead was too soon, or rather, the scope and aims were set too high. There was insufficient  time to  mobilise, make efficient promotion, to establish rapport and win trust from related peer organisations and initiatives as well as women and LGBTQ+ from migrant and refugee diasporas. Some of the related peer groups and initiatives related to us that they did not  know about our public events until after the fact. Generally, in these early stages, we found it difficult to reach "client groups", not least because of the conflicts that often exist amongst these groups but also because of overworked support organisations. We also recognised that some organisations are unsure  to imagine creative workshops as a form of support and are fixed exclusively on traditional academic formats.

The nature of this project does not allow for aggressive  marketing but rather, attending meetings and visiting places and institutions in order to win mutual trust. We learnt that most of the identified sympathetic organisations, who we wanted to invite as expert speakers to the aquarium kick off meeting, were already booked or could not come after the relatively last minute change of event date. However, we felt that the prescence of our own in-house SATB/Czentrifuga specialists Dr Tanja Ehmann and Jakob Kirchheimer helped to set a professional tone and discipline to what turned out to be a worthwhile and sensitive first major discussion, which has helped place us on the map.

Unlike the TNH staff who all have experience with working with migrant women and migrant LGBTQ+ migrants (and from whom the other SATB partners look to learn), this is a relatively new area for Czentrifuga. The issues that TNH have encountered in massively multicultural London, present themselves only recently here in Berlin, in the light of of ca. 1.5 million recent refugees in Germany (and not to forget the rising migrational flow from East Europe). There were also some technical issues with our new email account as we made a rudimenatary mistake of sending email invites  together with  attachments which subsequently ended up in many recipients' spam folders. (tip: send links and no attachments, however many  organisations are shielded from unusual emails that dont come from Google, Hotmail or any of the big commercial providers so its still possible your mails will be redirected to spam = phone and check!).

The general atmosphere and communication amongst the participants, together with the warm  public reaction was very encouraging and a positive start for the partnership. Special thanks fro the advice and help to  Julia Kapelle who is developing learning software Trickmisch to help refugees and migrants, and, in the run up to our SATB  first  meeting, invited Czentrifuga team member Stine and myself to a women refugees  printing  workshop  https://hausderstatistik.org/unser-modellprojekt-die-zusammenkunft-in-der-stresemannstr-95  Also thanks to Claud from aquarium for her thoughtfull insights into our new project and help with orientation amongst the various migrant/refugee support groups in Berlin as well as  the  good day out promoting SATB at the  Berlin anti descrimination rally in September ! 

 

Next Steps

Focus on next meeting in Marseille.

Consolidate Berlin contacts - Initiate new activities.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - 11:45

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