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Berlin Wall: ‘Germany was first re-united on the dancefloor’



Ravers at Konfettinacht in 2007Image copyright
Carolin Saage

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Ravers are still taking to the Berlin dance floors, as pictured at the Konfettinacht club in 2007

Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, some of the city’s clubbers and DJs recall how illegal raves helped bring a once divided nation back together.

Berlin today is a temple for dance music fans from all corners of the globe, ready to leave their prejudices at the nightclub door and collectively surrender to the beat.

There was a time not so long ago though when scenes of this nature were a physical and ideological impossibility.

While baggy ravers in the UK were coming together for an extended Second Summer of Love, people in the German capital remained divided by a 27-mile wall.

After it came down on 9 November 1989, as well as rubble and dust, there was a sudden explosion of underground parties in vacant buildings, train stations and power plants.

Unlike the discos of old, these ecstasy-fuelled nights took their lead from the new sounds of Detroit techno and Chicago acid house, while emulating the free-spirited experience of parties in Ibiza and at Manchester’s Hacienda club.


Heiko Hoffmann, who was a teenager at the time, said the “massive shift” to rave culture instantly “changed my life”.

Previously, West Berliners like him were only able to visit the east with a day pass. Generally speaking, people in the east could not cross the border.

“Just a couple of weeks after the fall of the wall I was dancing in industrial ruins next to people from the east, who just a couple of months earlier I wouldn’t have been able to meet,” says Hoffmann, the co-curator of the new No Photos on the Dance Floor! exhibition.

“All of this was happening to mostly very raw techno music,” he adds, explaining that the name of the collection refers to the prevailing culture of protecting revellers from the judgement of the all-seeing camera.

“If someone would tell you today that next week North and South Korea would be reunited, and a radical new form of music that you didn’t know existed before would be coming, and people would be dancing together in spaces that were new and unused for both of them, you would think that’s completely utopian.

“That’s what happened 30 years ago.”

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Martin Eberle

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Outside Tresor nightclub, which was built in the vaults of a former department store next to Potsdammer Platz – a literal no-man’s land during the partition.

Wild nights in often temporary and industrial spaces near where the wall had stood – from Potsdamer Platz to Fredreichshain – fitted the primitive music and light/sound systems perfectly.

Hoffmann believes the conditions were ripe for this unique scene to grow, because there was “a social change happening, as well as a musical one.”

“Germany was first reunited on the dancefloor of these parties. You didn’t really have to make a distinction any longer between east and west.

“I think it’s crucial that it was not people from East Berlin dancing to music that was already around, or going to spaces that were West Berlin spaces, but it was really that people from the west and east could discover something radically new together.”

‘A friendly revolution’

It took almost a year for Germany to be officially re-unified in October 1990, and even then there were still plenty of legal grey areas.

East Berliner Sebastian Szary, of electronic music duo Modeselektor, recalls how budding young DJs and party people like himself at the time took full advantage.

“Anything was possible because there was no rule, the government was still in a grey zone – in a no-man’s land – and the law was not written,” he says.

“The re-unification was done but there were a lot of things which were unclear. Like the police knew there were illegal parties but [they said] ‘We don’t know what do – let them do the party!'”

People from the UK and across western Europe soon “found the playground to make dreams happen”, forming collectives, while enjoying East Berlin’s cheap rent and “positive energy”.

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Birgit Kaulfuss

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Sebastian Szary (right) and east Berlin schoolmate Gernot Bronsert formed Berlin electronic duo Modeselektor

“I’m 100% sure that is was the result of a friendly revolution,” he adds.

“There was a chance the revolution was going to go in another direction with riots and war – it was really close.

“For the next four years there were an uncountable amount of illegal parties, some in forests for hundreds and thousands, and also the Love Parade was growing.”

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Matthias Roeingh

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An aerial shot of Love Parade 2003, from the Nineties Berlin exhibition, shows how popular it was

The appetite for a re-unified Germany and the collapse of the Berlin Wall – itself a symbol of the Cold War between Soviet-led communism and the democracies of the West – was already evident at the staging of the first Love Parade festival in July 1989.

It saw 150 people – led by Matthias Roeingh, aka Dr Motte – take to the streets for a demonstration of peace, love and music.

It would become an important part of the rave calendar, in Berlin and beyond, for decades.

Work permit issues forced the parade out of the city from 2007, and ultimately the tragic death of 21 people in a crowd crush in Duisburg in 2010 brought it to an end.

‘The re-start of a life’

Quirin Graf Adelmann, whose Nineties Berlin exhibition chronicles the history of the event, stresses mass unemployment in the previously Soviet-run east side of the city made the DIY dance movement an attractive proposition for many.

“Imagine 3.2 million people in Berlin lost their sense of life and the feeling to be useful to society, as there were no jobs,” he says.

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Mike Trobridge

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Festival-goers partied in the streets of Berlin and on top of a truck at Love Parade 1992

“All the education of the past 40, 50 years was blown away. People from the age of 16 to 22, starting their professional lives, had seen everything they’d learned about had disappeared.”

“So that was the start of of the ’90s. And what are you doing when you are free of the old stories and free of education?” he asks.

“You to try to invent yourself, again. It means you have to experience everything, you have to start something new, and that’s what many people tried in Berlin.

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Tilman Brembs

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More party people: Dancing at Marco, Insel der Jugend in 1991, from the No Photos on the Dancefloor! exhibition

“On the one hand there was a 20% unemployment rate, and on the other – 50 different nations from everywhere around the world came into Berlin to feel the re-start of a life.”

‘Queer culture was crucial’

As the scene progressed – and original basement nights like Tekknozid and UFO gave birth to clubs like the legendary Tresor and E-Werk – two things were vitally important in ensuring it could prosper.

Firstly, unlike in the UK and other European nations, Berlin’s clubs and bars did not have to close at a particular time, due to the abolition of the curfew in 1949. So parties could go on literally all weekend.

“There are places that have never closed for the last 17 years – they will open 24 hours, seven days,” notes Hoffmann.

And secondly, the driving influence of the gay community at venues like Metropol – which had previously been “a Berlin equivalent to Studio 54”, he adds, referring to the famous New York nightclub.

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Wolfgang Tillmans

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Clubbers queue for a “sex positive” gay party at Snax Club in east Berlin in 2001, which still hosts nights at the super-club Berghain

“It was basically the biggest queer discotheque that we had in Berlin. When when the wall came down and the techno scene started, what was great is that the initial parties, they weren’t really gay nights or queer nights – but people from all sorts of backgrounds came together,” he reminisces.

“So you had football hooligans, and queer [people] and it didn’t really matter.”


Not everybody was a fan of this newly open party city, but over the next three decades more and more “Easy Jet ravers” – as they became known – flooded in.

Radio anthems by the likes of Scorpions, David Bowie and David Hasselhoff may have initially “put the message out in the world,” that “freedom” had arrived in Berlin, but it was this experimental new DJ-led “machine music” that truly soundtracked the era.

As Hoffmann notes in his exhibition, a whole generation of Berlin clubbers “haven’t stopped dancing yet”, some alongside their own sons and daughters now, at venues like the world-famous Berghain.

Szary, who will perform in London next weekend, is certain you can still hear the influence of techno, breakbeat and ’90s Berlin in electronic dance music (EDM) and the pop charts today.

“It’s a fundamental part of commercial music now.”

“It’s a copy of a copy of a copy,” he laughs. “But the influence is always there.”

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Justin Timberlake says sorry to Jessica Biel for ‘lapse in judgement’




Jessica Biel and Justin TimberlakeImage copyright
Getty Images

Justin Timberlake has apologised to wife Jessica Biel after he was pictured holding hands with a co-star.

“A few weeks ago I displayed a strong lapse in judgement,” he wrote in an emotional Instagram post.

“I drank way too much that night and regret my behaviour. I should have known better.”

The 38-year-old said he wanted to make it clear that “nothing happened” between him and actor Alisha Wainwright.

He was snapped hand-in-hand with Alisha in November – they were part of a group pictured drinking on a balcony in New Orleans.

The pair were in the US city filming the upcoming movie Palmer – in which they play lovers.

“I stay away from gossip as much as I can, but for my family I feel it is important to address recent rumours that are hurting the people I love,” the singer and actor wrote.

“I drank way too much that night and regret my behaviour. I should have known better. This is not the example I want to set for my son.”

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Getty Images

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Alisha Wainwright and Justin Timberlake are co-stars in the movie Palmer

Justin Timberlake has been married to actress Jessica Biel, 37, since 2012, and they have a son Silas, four.

“I apologise to my amazing wife and family for putting them through such an embarrassing situation, and I am focused on being the best husband and father I can be,” he added.

‘Promoting the film will be awkward’

Analysis from Sarah Packer senior showbiz reporter at MailOnline

“Well, the pictures didn’t look great, did they? It’s not how you might expect to see a married man with a family behaving.

“I imagine he spoke to his people before putting out the Instagram post. Otherwise, it would have been too much of a shock for them.

“I also don’t feel it’s a move to prevent damage to his image – it feels like a sincere apology.

“You do have to credit somebody for stepping forward and saying, ‘Look, I hold my hands up, I made a mistake’. He’s just looking for forgiveness now, and if Jessica has forgiven him then there’s no reason why we shouldn’t as well.

“Going forward, it’ll be massively awkward when it comes to him and his co-star going on the promotional tour for the film. There’s likely to be nervousness between them, especially on her part.

“And because Justin Timberlake has commented on the situation it means journalists can now ask them questions they thought were off the cards before.”

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Getty Images

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Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears split in 2002

Justin Timberlake has spent most of his life in the public eye – first appearing on Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club as a child.

He later went on to join the group NSYNC – and has dated Britney Spears and Cameron Diaz.

In interviews after splitting up with Britney he revealed the song Cry Me a River was written two hours after they broke up.

The singer and actor has released five studio albums and starred in more than 20 feature films including Alpha Dogs, In Time and The Social Network.

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Matt Baker to stand down as One Show presenter




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Media captionMatt Baker fights back tears in One Show exit speech

Matt Baker has announced that he is leaving The One Show after nine years.

Baker, 41, who will step down in spring, shared the news on Wednesday’s episode of the BBC One show.

In a statement, he said the programme had been “brilliant” at showcasing the “eclectic mix of Britain”.

He said he was excited about new opportunities – “but most of all I’m looking forward to having dinner with my family and being able to put my kids to bed”.

Baker, who has presented The One Show alongside Alex Jones, will continue to present the BBC’s Countryfile and sports coverage.

He said: “I’ve loved that The One Show has been such a big part of my life for the last nine years.

“It’s been brilliant to showcase the eclectic mix of Britain, meet incredible people along the way and witness so many lives changed with the annual Rickshaw Challenge for Children In Need.

“I’d like to thank all those I’ve worked with over the years and especially you, the viewer, for showing me so much support during my time on the green sofa.”

The former Blue Peter presenter joined The One Show on a permanent basis in February 2011, months after coming second in 2010’s Strictly Come Dancing series. He replaced comedian Jason Manford.

Charlotte Moore, director of BBC Content, said Baker’s “warmth and wit have helped to create many magical moments on the sofa”.

“He has a great connection with BBC One viewers and will continue to play an important role on the channel on Sunday nights in Countryfile and with BBC Sport on our gymnastics coverage,” she added.

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Spassky vs Fischer: How the chess battle became a theatre event




Boris Spassky and Bobby FischerImage copyright

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Boris Spassky (left) and Bobby Fischer duke it out in 1972

When the American Bobby Fischer challenged the Russian Boris Spassky for the World Chess Championship in 1972 the media looked on in fascination. It seemed the Cold War was being played out in Iceland on a chessboard. Now a new play reconstructs the historic match.

It was pre-internet, pre-mobile phone, pre-online comment, pre-news channels, pre-streaming. The match was happening in a place inconvenient for the world’s media. TV satellite space was at a premium: on US networks the updates were sometimes just talking to a reporter in Reykjavik on the phone.

No one had seriously considered chess as prime-time material. But then along came the unique and deeply troubled Bobby Fischer.

Fischer was born in 1943 and grew up in New York. From his early teens the game of chess obsessed him. At 14 he was the youngest ever US chess champion.

But since World War II world championships had been almost entirely dominated by the USSR. Could Fischer be the man to bring the prize back to Brooklyn?

Ravens: Spassky vs Fischer is an attempt to delve into the psychologies of two remarkable men. Spassky, who’s now 82, was usually regarded as the more stable of the two. Fischer died in 2008 after years of bizarre behaviour and extreme statements – he praised the 9/11 attacks for instance.

Image copyright
Manuel Harlan

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Robert Emms (left) who plays Fischer and Ronan Raftery as his rival Spassky

Robert Emms has made his name as an actor in TV series, including Atlantis and Chernobyl. Now he has to make sense of playing Fischer.

“Bobby is packed full of contradictions. He was Jewish but he could be anti-Semitic. He was American but he seems to have felt no real patriotism. He was undoubtedly unstable and I think you need to go back to questions of paternity and the family he grew up in. His relationship with his mother was tense.

“However all that came about, he ended up with a vulnerability which shaped him. Bobby Fischer was a brilliant but self-destructive character and – though this is mainly after the period of the play – eventually he spiralled out of control. There’s real tragedy there.

“As an actor that gives a huge amount to play with but you’re always dealing with what’s in the text: Tom Morton-Smith (the playwright) is always pointing the audience in a certain direction. Bobby probably was never happy and I’m not sure he had real friends. But he was larger than life, which is a gift to play.”

Irish actor Ronan Raftery, currently appearing in the TV mini-series The Rook, plays Spassky. “He always came over on the surface as a much calmer and more focused player. But I think we now know more about how thrown and upset he was by Fischer’s behaviour and we use that.

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Manuel Harlan

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Director Annabelle Comyn has the job of making a chess match exciting to theatre goers

“Boris genuinely hated the fact that this game he loved so much had somehow taken on an aspect of superpower politics. As the reigning world champion he just wanted to play the match and win.”

Emms thinks that in 1972 Fischer too was essentially apolitical. “It’s interesting that neither man felt a strong affiliation to his country – what they were passionate about was playing chess and we communicate that on stage.”

Which raises the question of how exactly do you stage chess for the theatre? Two people leaning over a small table holding their foreheads in silent contemplation doesn’t promise great drama.

Director Annabelle Comyn says when she met with Morton-Smith the question of staging the games was high on the agenda. “In the text Tom reproduces them in standard form so chess fans can digest the moves if they want to. But deliberately there was no guidance as to how and to what extent we’d represent that on stage.

“The games soon take on a meaning which goes beyond the game itself. The match is being used both by the Soviets and the Americans for certain ends. So we start with a literal meaning for the moves but then we grow into a language of paranoia and politics and the language of control. That’s a large part of what the play is about.

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Manuel Harlan

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Ronan Raftery rehearsing his role as Boris Spassky

“So whether it’s with music or with something more physical, we’re staging the games to dramatise what was happening underneath. They’re very choreographed pieces – you don’t need to understand every single move in detail to see what the story is.”

Comyn says the play is also character driven. “One of the fantastic scenes is when we see Bobby with his mother. That relationship was maybe controlling, volatile and insecure. We see the lack of trust that Bobby has in the world about him and I think the play helps us understand how that translated to his fear of Soviet mind games during the time in Iceland.

“Bobby’s essential mindset was that everything he’d ever achieved in life had been on his own and without assistance. He definitely felt he was fighting against the Soviets – but I think inside he was fighting against the whole world.”

As challenger, Fischer did poorly in the early stages and only later pulled ahead. His complaints against the organisers included that TV cameras were giving off noises which put him off his game (but which no one else could hear).

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Getty Images

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Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer had an unofficial rematch in 1992

Comyn says one of the themes is how the relationship between Fischer and Spassky grew. “It would be wrong to say they became great pals. They did not. And maybe that would have been beyond Bobby in any circumstance. But they are in proximity for two months and inevitably something does develop.”

After the match Fischer all but disappeared for 20 years. In Yugoslavia in 1992 he played and won an unofficial rematch against Spassky, which had a total purse of $5m (£3.8m in current money). He lived in Hungary and finally in Iceland, where he died and is buried.

Emms thinks the prospect of taking the world title was vital to Fischer.

“It was the one thing he craved though I wonder if he ever truly believed it would bring contentment. After Reykjavik Bobby virtually gave up the game for years. You could say the whole experience helped define him but also to destroy him. He was a hugely closed personality and everything he tried to achieve was through the chess board.

“Bobby felt victory was rightly his. But would that complete him as a human being? I think probably not.”

Ravens: Spassky vs Fischer is at the Hampstead Theatre in London until 18 January.

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