Petra Jane Tauscher is the producer of Home’s Berlin Now festival, featuring theatre, art, film, workshops and more and running on 2-7 November. A one-time resident Berlin, she explains the thinking behind the festival, and why the city has been a major European cultural hub.
Why has Berlin been such a magnet for artists over the years?
As the political and intellectual capital of Germany, Berlin was always a place of new thoughts and ideas. The tension between the right and left was also very strong, and this battleground of ideas produced some great artists in its many different historical periods.
Is that still the case today?
The city is now home to a very large international artistic community, even more so now than when I was there 15 years ago. There are visual artists, filmmakers, theatre makers and a flourishing digital scene. Since 1989 there has been plenty of cheap rent available in Berlin, and although that is changing rapidly, it meant artists could afford to live and work there, which is virtually impossible in London, Paris, or New York. It’s a fascinating city – almost the entire history of Europe in the 20th century is encapsulated in Berlin. For all its historical complexity, it’s a very inspiring place to work and live. It feels often that the two driving factors present in the city are politics and the arts, and that makes for a fascinating tension.
Why did you choose to bring a taste of Berlin to Manchester?
We wanted to bring a flavour of the city to Home and share a number of individual artists who have made their work and names there. Berlin and other Eastern European cities are often presented to us as dark, grey, heavy places, but we wanted to share the lightness, humour and irony which thrives in the work there.
What are your personal highlights in the festival programme?
Portraits in Motion by Volker Gerling (Thu, 3-5 Nov) was a big hit at the Edinburgh Festival which is where I saw it. It’s a witty and charming show that is hard to categorise. He takes the audience on a funny and poetic journey through these mini-films which Gerling has created by holding a video camera over a flip-book which is then projected onto the screen. It’s a unique piece, and to me it typifies the kind of individual artist who can exist and work in Berlin. This show now tours the world.
What can you tell me about acapella group Muttis Kinder?
Muttis Kinder (4-5 Nov) are actors as well as musicians so that’s very much part of what they bring to the show. One of the performers is actually a lead actor in the Berlin Ensemble. The three performers have a wonderful sense of playfulness and irony alongside extraordinary musical skill. They are loved in the cabaret scene in Berlin, and I know they will charm audiences here too.
Finally, are there any parallels, culturally speaking, between Manchester and Berlin?
There are definitely several similarities. But the most interesting connection for me is the many building projects currently in Manchester and a city council that believes that investing in the arts is an investment for the city. Manchester sometimes reminds me of the spirit in Berlin in the 1990s.