Berlin Love Parade - out of step, out of money
Could it be that Europe's ravers are all finally danced out? Out of money and facing falling attendances, Berlin's Love Parade is again facing a very uncertain future. Ernest Gill asks: is this finally the end for the world's biggest party?
Television images of hordes of scantily-clad ravers dancing to a throbbing techno beat through the heart of Berlin came to symbolise this post-unification German capital in the 1990s.
The end of the road for the world's biggest party?
Billed as the world's biggest party, the Love Parade drew over a million participants at its height in the years up to the turn of the Millennium when Berlin was a forest of construction cranes.
Pulsing music from scores of sound trucks reverberated on a Saturday each summer as the parade of writhing bodies made its way along the broad boulevard through the Tiergarten park between two Berlin landmarks - Brandenburg Gate in the east, and the 1870 Victory Column in the west.
But times and musical tastes have changed. And the German economy has soured. Ravers who gyrated to techno music at the first parade are now approaching middle age.
After four years of falling attendance numbers and rising costs, organisers say there is no chance they will be able to come up with funds for the Love Parade this summer.
Berliners received the announcement with mixed feelings. While the ravers brought revenues to the city, they also brought drugs and rubbish and a weekend of impossible conditions on roads and at rail stations.
*quote1*In the final equation of love versus money, the money situation won out. Last year, the city's convention association put up nearly a million dollars to subsidise the parade, in hopes that proceeds from food and beverage vendors would cover the costs.
But with the techno music trend waning in western Europe, last year's 15th Love Parade attracted only 500,000 ravers. And, for the first time, there were fewer German ravers at the event and larger numbers of Eastern Europeans - who had come to Berlin mostly to ogle the topless dancers and get drunk on booze they had brought from home.
That meant proceeds from food and beverage vendors were a lousy EUR 300,000 last year. That left the Berlin convention association EUR 700,000 in the red.
"We were willing to put up the money last year in order to attract a couple of major conventions to Berlin," says association spokesman Wolfgang Wagner. "But there is no way we can justify this sort of loss. And anyway, we never said we would put up the money every year, indefinitely."
The Love Parade peaked in 2001 when attendance topped a million at the height of techno music popularity in Europe.
Fewer ravers means more room for the rest of us
Putting a brave face on the downturn, organisers adopted a "less is more" attitude last year.
"The fewer ravers who show up, the more room there is for the rest of us," said Love Parade business manager Fabian Lenz. Even so, the organisers have always needed a large turnout to cover costs.
To help keep litter and environmental damage at adjacent Tiergarten park to a minimum last year, 4,600 metres of razor-wire fencing was put up around the perimeter of the parade route. Parade participants were able to enter and exit only at 50 specified gates.
The perimeter fence was also aimed at keeping out unlicensed vendors. Organisers hoped that would increase revenues at parade-sanctioned vendors within the perimeter.
They also hoped it would cut down on drug use. Although hundreds of police officers patrol the parade each year, use of ecstasy and other drugs along with rampant public sexual activities have marred earlier years.
At least two hard-core pornographic films were shot during Love Parades in the late 1990s, despite police vigilance.
Lured by the prospect of acres of semi-naked flesh, four national television networks last year aired four straight hours of live coverage of the parade.
"That was a dangerous sign," Fabian said in reflection. "We had more old couch potatoes sitting and staring at naked breasts on TV than we had ravers actually taking part in the Love Parade."
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Life in Germany, What's on, Berlin, Love Parade