#119: SXSW Berlin? Hertha sleaze. Demos. Scholz disrupted.
Is Berlin rich now? Or still poor?
My co-writer Andrew likes to call what’s happening to Berlin — that Amazon tower, gourmet donuts, turbo-gentrification etc. — “Seattle-isation”. That’s a not a good thing, thinks Andrew: a tech and real estate-driven sameness is steamrolling the city and much of what makes it special: the nexus of independent culture and subsub-culture, openness, cutting edge, fringe ideas and relatively cheap rent that has been propelling the city since the 1990s.
To Seattle-isation, you can add Austin-isation.
The Texan capital is booming, driven by the likes of Tesla setting up shop in its vicinity. But an early factor in the city’s revival was South by Southwest aka SXSW, which began as a music and film fest in 1987 and mushroomed into what it is today: an extravaganza which includes a huge “emerging tech” programme.
The Tagesspiegel wrote Monday morning that the Senat has earmarked €3.5 million in subsidies in 2023 for Berlin’s Axel Springer Verlag and Penske Media, SXSW’s majority stakeholder, to develop “a multi-day creative festival in Berlin”. So far the plan foresees 170 concerts and club events, four conferences on “music, media, technology and start-ups.”
I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, it sounds like a massive opportunity to forge deeper connections with artists and tech people from the US and the world. What’s not to love? On the other hand, such a giant fest could trigger even more Seattle- or Austin-isation: more tech towers, an even worse housing shortage, and an even greater strain on the city’s resources and infrastructure. Can our city bureaucracy (digital and otherwise) handle an even faster growth rate?
One more thing: Axel Springer putting this on is a red flag. What business does the publisher of the tabloid BILD and owner of a bunch of property and job listings sites have foraying into culture festivals? The publisher doesn’t exactly stand for what makes Berlin interesting.
This tweet from @cherryberries is another way of putting it which nicely sums up my ambivalence: “Umm, what? But if it improves the city's BBQ game, I may slightly support it.”
More news below!
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Berlin corona and other stats for Tuesday, October 18
New cases in one day: 3,304 (3,893 Friday)
Total deaths: 4,886 (+19 over Friday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 415.6 (457.6 Friday)
🔴7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 21.1 (13.9 Friday)
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 5.1% (5.4% Friday)
🟢Days FC Union Berlin has led the Männer-Bundesliga: 34
Source: Berlin’s corona page
Protesters gathered spontaneously Saturday evening to express outrage about the fire in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran where political dissidents are jailed, reports RBB. Berlin police said small groups of people gathered peacefully in front of the Foreign Ministry and the Iranian Embassy. The demonstrators called for solidarity with political prisoners in Iran and an end to the Iranian regime, with chants of “Away, away, the Mullah must go!”
Climate activists troll Scholz
Members of international climate protest group Scientist Rebellion reportedly set off a fire alarm and glued themselves to entrances at the World Health Summit in Berlin on Sunday. The alarm went off as Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) took to the stage during the opening ceremony. Speaking over the noise, Scholz quipped, in English: “So, we are discussing pressing issues — someone pressed the fire alarm,” reaping riotous applause.
Deutsche Bank ditches Hertha
Anonymous sources told the Financial Times (paywall) that Deutsche Bank, which is trying to clean up its act after a series of scandals (money-laundering; Jeffrey Eppstein banked there, etc), has ditched local Bundesliga team Hertha BSC as a client. All of Hertha’s accounts at the bank have been closed. Sources said the move was prompted by ongoing investigations into Hertha owner Lars Windhorst’s alleged “illegal banking activities”. One more embarrassment for the team as crosstown rival 1. FC Union continues to lead the Bundesliga table while Hertha lanquishes in 15th place.
Tesla not exactly killing it
Berliners aren’t rushing to buy locally made Teslas. January to August 2022, 1,003 new Teslas were registered in the city, reports Tagesspiegel — a market share of 2.8%, up from 2.2% last year. Nationwide, Tesla commands 1.5% of new sales. It appears that Germans’ angst about Elon Musk annihilating the homegrown auto industry was premature.
Since Monday, the U9 U-Bahn line has been closed between Zoologischer Garten and Berliner Straße, thanks to construction. Workers are installing new sidings that are supposed to make the line quieter and safer. BVG says the closure should last through November 7. Til then, Schienenersatzverkehr (replacement buses) will be serving affected stations.
Art: The Woven Child
Running through October 23, The Woven Child at Gropius Bau showcases French-American artist Louise Bourgeois’ (1911-2010) fabric-based works, charting the artist’s lifelong connection to textiles, and the memories they conjure, through a vast collection of sculptures, installations, drawings, collages, books and prints - many of which she made while in her 80s, including that creepy spider. The info.
Poor Berlin? Not according to official income statistics, at least. The gross average monthly income in the capital was €4,662 in 2021, putting it in fifth place in the table of 16 German states, just behind Bavaria. Hamburg occupies the top spot at €5,209. People working in finance and IT earned the most. Of course, “average income” doesn’t tell the full story. Another official ranking places Berlin in second place, behind Bremen: in 2021, 19.6% of Berliners were classified “at-risk-of-poverty”.
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