Fall of Berlin Wall spurs creative industries

BERLIN, Germany – The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, almost killed Die Tageszeitung or Taz, a newspaper founded by activists in Berlin.

Taz used to get its funding from “state handouts,” The Guardian recalled, and “with the fall of the Wall in 1989 came a drop in subsidy.” By 1992, it said, “the paper faced bankruptcy.”

The impact of the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, also helped save Taz.

Experts said this historic event – which led to the reunification of Germany and whose 25th anniversary was marked last November 9 – spurred the “spirit of Berlin” and resulted in booming creative industries.

In the case of Taz, concerned readers “who valued the paper's independence” invested in the newspaper, the Guardian said. Considered part of the creative industries, Taz is now “the only newspaper owned by the staff and its readers,” said Sven Hansen, editor of Taz's Asia-Pacific desk.

In an interview in Berlin, Hansen said Taz sold itself to its staff and 13,500 readers, and organized the readers in a cooperative. Saying this guarantees independence, he said, “We need a different type of newspaper.”

“The strength of our paper is that we offer a lot of space and freedom, so we can experiment a lot. We can do very unconventional things. It can be very esoteric, it can be very entertaining, it can be very daring,” Hansen told a group of journalists.

Like Taz, thousands of other companies thrive in Germany's culture and creative industries.

Recent data from the German government show that as of 2011, up to 244,000 companies belong to the culture and creative industries in Germany. Now among the country's top employers, the culture and creative industries employ nearly 740,000 people.

Berlin 'a melting pot'

Jurgen Schepers, a coordinator at the Berlin Chamber of Industry and Commerce, said he sees booming creative industries especially in Berlin.

He traced this trend to the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989, when Berlin was “starting anew” and residents there felt free to experiment.

“Berlin developed itself to a melting pot for the creative industries for people around the world. Young people are coming to Berlin to see, wow, I can live here for less money. I can do whatever I want here,” Schepers said in an interview.

“So it's like magnetism,” he said. “The young people are coming here to Berlin and starting, looking, what they can do.”

Prominent Berlin club owner Dimitri Hegemann also recounted the “euphoria” and “positive atmosphere” after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“The authorities were so busy with other problems that they had no time to control or prevent subcultural activity. This was the unique historical moment for everybody in Berlin (East and West) to realize his or her visions for alternative life styles. This moment extended almost 4 years. There was basically no control,” Hegemann said in an interview with the online outlet Model D.

“Today, the results of this period are still felt,” he added. “Berlin is probably the most loved city in the world. The resulting subculture of West Berlin is now called the 'creative industries.'”

Schepers said developing countries like the Philippines can take their cue from German's creative industries, which have not only boosted entrepreneurship but have also increased job opportunities.

Schepers said, “You have to open yourself for the creative industry”. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.