Once upon a time in the middle of a green, green forest in Berlin-Treptow there was a colourful amusement park full of thrilling rides, cotton candy, carnies and joyful kids. Now this abandoned treasure is gathering moss: the long lost Plänterwald Spreepark.
Founded in 1969, it was once the only permanent amusement park under the DDR. Shut down in 1991 shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall, the rides were revived the following year and it lived again until 2002 when it saw its last visitors. The original park sits in the middle of one of Berlin’s many beautiful forests (or ”wald” in German), Plânterwald, which was placed under protection by local authorities, meaning the Spreepark was cut down by an incredible 20 hectares from its original size. This loss of space led to the eventual bankruptcy of the amusement park and a dramatic escape of the park’s owners to Peru that ended in a drug bust after an alleged 181 kilos of cocaine were found in one of the rides. What a trip!
But anyway, to cut a long and intriguing story short, the park had remained somewhat orphaned until 2014, when the city of Berlin decided to take it into public hands. What has followed to this day is an ongoing debate as to how this, frankly epic, space will be used…and by whom?
Hannah and Aaron of the Circus Space Pirates Crew went along to a networking event held there on 10th September (programme here) to find out more. The Spieltrieb Collective (Kollektiv Spieltrieb), an association designed to give voice to the underground creative scene in Berlin, put together a day of talks, performances and networking games. The purpose? To figure out how to keep the Spreepark as a free and open space to host different artistic initiatives, rather than another commercialised venture for private pockets.
The day included talks on the Space of Urgency network, “a global platform and movement that aims to empower the visibility and resilience of self-organized cultural spaces and their communities, by sharing stories, knowledge and solidarity in times of crisis”. Cities like Berlin have witnessed the shrinking of public spaces for people to get together and express creatively due to rising rents, creeping gentrification and the sale of former social and cultural spaces like underground clubs and interdisciplinary collectives to private landlords.
The Circus also relies on collective public space and our crew regularly collaborates with members of this self-organised family, whether hosting political demonstrations on the waters of the River Spree, supporting Reclaim the Streets gatherings in our local Kiez or creating Spielstrasse actions (”Playstreets” in German) with neighbourhood kids. Berlin is also one of the only capital cities left in Europe with such an impressive portfolio of free and open public space. Take the famous Tempelhofer Feld for example: a disused DDR-era airport that once faced the threat of privatisation by housing companies that wanted to build apartments. The public pushed back and won through a referendum to keep public and it’s still one of Berlin’s most prized locations. One of our very own Cabuwazi tents still sits proudly on its turf, alongside community gardens, performance spaces, sports fields and picnic areas.
It’s part of our ethos here to be present and preserve and expand Freiraum (free space) as part of the vibrant fabric of Berlin. The Circus Space Pirates will be looking for more chances to support where we can, so count on us and get in touch!
Find us at @circusspacepirates or check out our latest actions at circusspacepirates.org.