Berlin is Cool

I wouldn’t argue with that statement. It was cool 35 years ago and it was cool and nervous after the Berlin Wall fell, and then it became Poor but Sexy according to the then Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit.

Today, I’d say it’s a cool city to live in because it’s full of people bringing great ideas here and trying them out. Berlin was always a creative place, artists flocked to Berlin during the 20th Century, in spite of Paris being the in location to be an artist.

Berlin was always “in”.

I was always hanging out with artists simply because I am an artist. Berlin brought the art out in me.

You can’t walk through the streets of Berlin and not feel the vibe of history. The mind starts to buzz with questions about the past. The 1920s, a time of legendary parties and decadence in Berlin. World War II , old buildings that were once Gestapo offices — Columbia Halle was once a Gestapo interrogation Centre, today it’s an entertainment venue -time passes and people find new uses for old things regardless of its history.

I came here in 1983. I was young and energetic and a British soldier. I remember landing in Gatow Airport which was the RAF base. We flew over Spandau and I thought that represented Berlin. It didn’t look too exciting, so I thought I’m glad that I’ll be out of here within 18 months. As the plane touched down a thought appeared in my mind. “This is going to be your story, your life — Berlin.” I mumbled to myself, ” no bloody way!”.

33 years later, I’m still here and glad of it. Berlin is cool and always will be.

I know, the artist in me finds the coolness in the streets of Berlin. Artists create, numbskulls walk on past and never see what’s really happening — they’re too busy getting things done, ticking things off their list for the day. Artists stop and look.

Young people get good ideas and bring them to Berlin. Start a business, make a few bucks, get some more start-up money and try and make the idea grow. It’s working, Berlin is thriving on ideas and start-ups, the streets are buzzing with coffee-shops and designer outlets. The latter is good combat against corporate T-shirt companies trying to dress us in logos and over-priced footwear.

We just need an army of innovative Designers to rule the streets and leave no room for corporate crap. Everybody needs clothes, but when the choice seems to be between a red and white T-shirt with a famous drinks logo on it or cheaply made but high priced pair of jeans that we have been told are totally in, then give me a neat little side-street where I can explore a few designer shops and find what I want; a well cut shirt, solid primary colour or a bright candy-stripe with a pin-down collar. Something like that to make me feel good. I can’t relate to fizzy drink T-shirts.

Style. That’s what Berlin always had. It has been in danger of losing it sometimes, but I’ve never seen or felt it totally lose the plot. The early 90s was a nervous time. People kept asking each other, “What’s going to happen?” — “Where’s Berlin going, are we losing our identity?”.

Style and plot. They’re two different things. Berlin can only follow its own plot, but each chapter might have a different vibe and rhythm to it. You can summarise a plot, but when you attempt to talk about plot in detail you tell a story. Tell a story and the plot is an underlying structure — it’s in there somewhere.

I do a lot of walking around Berlin. I love it. Just looking at stuff, like buildings and streets. I can walk down a street and tell you about house number 24 in so-and-so strasse. Today, we see a coffee-shop with the self-acclaimed ‘Barister of baristers’ standing behind the counter, dishing out her perfectly brewed cup of Java. I’ll tell you that I remember the place when it was a bar, back in the day, when people were drinking themselves to death after work. The place was full of hard men, blaggards and little criminals. The perfect hang-out for an artist on the look-out for a story or wild painting. Back then, you would walk where angels feared to tread. That was night life in Berlin. Hard drinking, and careless unions of lonely souls looking for the next line in their stories.