How a famous Berlin club is changing to survive COVID

The techno superclub Berghain has something new up its sleeve

Almost 9 months into 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic remains ever-present in many parts of life and is still resulting in all of us having to adjust in one way or another. For many businesses including the entertainment industry, the pandemic is having a devastating effect, with clubs and live music spaces suffering massive hits to revenue. A significant number of these venues now face permanent closure with an unpredictable future ahead.

However, when we hit a wall, it’s human nature to find creative solutions. Now is the time to think outside the box and break down the barriers in front of us. One venue in Berlin has done just that and it may be a wise time for others to lead by their example and repurpose/adjust their spaces. 

Ravers hoping to get into Berghain

Famous for being one of the hardest clubs to get into, Berlin’s coveted venue Berghain have recently repurposed their industrial playground. The space has become known for being the epitome of hedonistic techno parties which last for days on end. The space welcomes some of the finest selectors in underground music, whilst offering an environment without prejudice on creed, colour, or sexuality. These aspects have helped cement it in mythical status at the top of the underground dance pyramid for some time now.

However, amidst these challenging times which have forced them to stop the party, the Berlin based venue has found a new use for its space and thankfully this one has an easier entry policy (Phew!). On September 9th, Berghain is set to temporarily transform into an arts gallery, curating an exhibition space featuring 80 artists across the site.

Wolfgang Tillmans at his exhibition in Manhattan

Aptly named Studio Berlin, the soon to open gallery is ushering in some of the most successful artists in their field, with Turner Prize winning artist/photographer Wolfgang Tillmans being a huge draw for the masses. Wolfgang also has a strong passion for raving, and is a proud role model for the LGBT community, both of which have influenced his work for decades. 

Art by Olafur Eliasson – Unilever Series 2003

Artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Tacita Dean and Isa Genzken will have a variety of differed modes and mediums littering the gallery, with sculpture, paint, video, sound and other installations traversing the 3500 sq.m nightclub. This previously unlikely pairing will act as the perfect bridge between two formats of art and nightlife, hopefully enlightening those more polarised in each subcategory and allowing them to appreciate something they usually wouldn’t. 

This idea of repurposing or making adjustments during an on-going spell where venues cannot operate in their normal capacities could be a beneficial avenue for many clubs and live music spaces. With lockdowns forcing nightclub closures in many countries, opening up these venues for use of the arts or education may be a way to garner a wider appeal, whilst diversifying their revenue streams until the party can continue.

Even for those venues which have been able to open, all have done so at a reduced capacity meaning an impact on income. It’s more than possible for these adaptations to take flight in the UK, with the likes of Fabric London holding events pre COVID such as London Music Conference. This example used technology demos, networking opportunity and an area for education.

A London Music Conference event in action at Fabric London

Other live examples of spaces adjusting to fit the strict regulations can be found in London with the likes of The Brixton Courtyard, E1’s Site 5 and Costa Del Tottenham, along with Manchester’s Social Avenue among others. These venues have been built or re-designed to craft a more chilled atmosphere. Seating arrangements, food outlets and other fun activities keep their socially distanced crowd entertained, but on the most part, they still focus their space around music performance.

Not all venues can use this option depending on the area they have available, and many are finding that it still isn’t enough to keep afloat during this unprecedented time. So, can the arts, education or another creative solution be the answer to keeping your club alive? 

The Brixton Courtyard in London

Words: Neil Ritchie
Editor : Ben Lovejoy

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