Let The Sun Shine – how to manage events that do not want to be managed

Some wisenheimers would probably pick me up on that one, but for me its practically summer right now. Our last lecture was three weeks ago and the last assignment has been submitted shortly after. I started my summer holidays with a short trip to Berlin where I fell in love with the city. I have to apologise for the prejudice I had. I explored the city beyond its standard tourist sights and went to the more alternative quarters of East Berlin.  I have never experienced a comparable crowd  like that. People in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s flooding the streets, parks bars and restaurants speaking German, English, French and what have you. Whereas I would describe most of the folks I saw as freaky, hip, weird or stylish, I was just feeling happy for having found such a great place, where I was pretty sure one could actually live 100% and cut out any percentage of just existing.

So, lets try to make the connection to events management. On the Sunday my friend Lars, who I was visiting in Berlin, suggested we go to the Mauerpark, which is a park that got its name from part of the Berlin Wall running through it. I already saw some pictures, which Lars has posted, of what is going on there during sunny weekends. He works as a freelancing photographer all over Europe. You should check out his website, quite amazing. However, the real life experience still blew my mind, when we actually went there. Honestly, my expectations were not too high, as we saw the park two days earlier still empty and it was rather ugly. I don’t know about you, but in Hamburg, where I am from, a nice park has to primarily look good, with lots of green, tall trees and maybe some water. The Mauerpark is nothing like that.

Mauerpark Karaoke, Berlin April 10th 2011

On sunny Sundays, however, ‘somebody’ always brings along his HiFi and a mic and starts a karaoke session. Somewhere else someone gets a hair cut and a few meters away people have a barbecue selling you a sausage for a few cents, if you ask them kindly. I even saw two guys playing live musik on a drumset and an electric guitar … in a park … on a meadow.

From an events management perspective I was most interested in the karaoke. If you wanted to sing, you would simply queue with the other candidates and if you were lucky, they would even play the song you wished for. This is an event as organic as it can get. Born without a professional or commercial purpose. Simply existing for itself and its audience. We have to carefully try to preserve events of that kind. Sadly, there are two issues about that.

Firstly, the local authorities, as it is their nature, always try to keep control of what is happening in their district. The problem is, that these events can only exist, because there are no underlying regulations, policies and other bureaucratic fun killers. Especially after the tragedy of the 2010 Loveparade in Duisburg, where more than 20 people died due to poor crowd management, regulations have become stricter and the authorities more careful.
The second big mistake a government can make, is trying to integrate these random organic events into their destination marketing strategy, as tried in Hamburg, Germany in 2009. The artists were raging and protested against being used for a commercial campaign polishing the city’s image, while the same government was cutting back on education and cultural projects.

What I leaned from the Mauerpark Karaoke is that many things can be improved involving professional events managers, but there are also events, which are better left alone. 

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