Rescue angels wanted

After a not entirely voluntary move, the Archive of Youth Cultures has to cope with rising rents. So far this has been possible with donations, but they actually need a patron.

Gabriele Rohmann runs the archive on a voluntary basis; Love Parade banners and party flyers are stored in the boxes Photo: Stefanie Loos

Last July, the Berlin Archive of Youth Cultures had to move. It was not a move that had been desired. But now they are in their new premises on the former site of the Bock Brewery on Fidicinstrabe in Kreuzberg. Gabriele Rohmann, co-founder and head of the archive, is pleased. She leads us through the rooms, where countless youth magazines and pop magazines are stored. And she shows the opulent reference library with specialized books on youth cultures, which has to be closed at the moment for corona reasons. Above all, there is more space than before, because the stock continues to grow. There is just one small problem: for the foreseeable future, the rent will no longer be affordable.

The Archive of Youth Cultures conducts research on right-wing extremism, conspiracy theories and everything to do with youth cultures from punk to K-pop. The archive collects what can be found on these topics and makes it available for research purposes. They are proud of one of the largest collections of fanzines in Europe and keep a total of over 100,000 artifacts ranging from old Love Parade banners to party flyers.

From the archive, they advise educators and teachers, work with schools, educate about homophobia in hip-hop or the latest developments in the neo-Nazi scene – it’s an institution with nationwide appeal.

The archive was founded in 1997, among others by the temporary taz editor Eberhard Seidel and the publicist Klaus Farin, who now runs his own publishing house. The latter was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit two years ago for his work on youth cultures. An honorable gesture. And yet the archive’s existence is threatened. Once again. Constantly, actually.

The matter is complicated, a "typical gentrification cluster situation," as Gabriele Rohmann calls it. The site on which the Archive of Youth Cultures, founded in 1997, is located has belonged to an investor, Bauwert AG, for a while now. He wants to demolish almost all the buildings here in order to build apartments and offices. Most of the tenants who lived there and made the area a socio-cultural biotope in Kreuzberg have already disappeared. "The piano store, the wine shops, the locksmith, all gone," says Rohmann.

The investor, on the other hand, offered to allow the archive to stay on the site and even helped finance the move: to one of the few buildings that will not be demolished, just a few meters away from the previous location. The deal was also accepted due to a lack of financially viable alternatives. The building into which they have now moved is to be managed by a cooperative in the future, "actually not a bad thing," says Rohmann, and: "The move means a clear improvement for us."

If only it weren’t for the increased costs. We now have a graduated lease. The rent will gradually increase and level off at a certain amount in 2022. It is not yet clear how they will be able to raise the money for the rent, which is now due for 660 instead of 460 square meters of commercial space, in the longer term.

Already more than a year ago, when it was still open how much more rental costs they would have in the future, a fundraising campaign was launched. 45,000 euros would not be bad to be able to continue safely after the move, the appeal for donations said. Now another, supplementary campaign has just been launched – 5,000 euros would be appreciated with a view to 2022, but not in addition to the targeted 45,000 euros, says Rohmann about the somewhat confusing double campaign. One wants to make with the Nachschlag simply again on the own situation attentive. So far, only a fraction of the money has come in.

With all understanding for the fact that they did not want to be gentrified away, alternatives were difficult to find and larger premises are certainly also nice: Didn’t the Archive of Youth Cultures get itself into the predicament it is in now by moving?

"We have always been precariously positioned," explains Gabriele Rohmann, "even when we were founded, we didn’t know how we were actually going to finance the archive. There has never been any long-term, comprehensive security." The situation is difficult, but it always has been. Incidentally, as with most independent archives in Germany, as Rohmann points out. And this, the archive director makes clear, is what they would like to point out once again with the donation campaign, with emphasis and publicity.

The archive is an institution with nationwide appeal

She says she has 13 colleagues, all of whom are financed on a project basis; there is no regular position. Her own job as head of the archive is ultimately a voluntary activity. The archive receives funding, yes, from the Federal Agency for Civic Education, from the city of Berlin, from the federal government, but always only for a certain period of time and only for specific projects. And the association also receives a little small change from the annual contributions of its members. But Rohmann says that constantly having to apply for project funding and muddle along somehow is pretty exhausting in the long run.

The archive receives prizes for its own work and enough warm words from politicians, but no long-term institutional support. "It’s grueling to keep doing this at the current level," Rohmann says. And, "We’ve been referred from federal to state and state to federal for over 20 years. No one really seems to feel responsible for us." That has to end now, he says.

Rohmann’s call for support is directed at potential donors, but actually toward the public sector. She herself knows that in the future it will not be possible to collect tens of thousands of euros in private donations every year in order to maintain operations. So either something happens now and they get permanent financial support – or they will be eaten up sooner or later by the rents that can no longer be financed with their own funds.

Gabriele Rohmann would also be happy with a foundation or some kind of patron as an angel in need. "Maybe there are also some great pop artists who would be interested in co-financing us," she says. So: Campino, arzte, Herbert Gronemeyer, Nena, please get in touch!

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