City Culture: A Transatlantic Dialogue on the Future of Urban Culture(s)


Photo: Westpark at Gleisdreieck, Berlin, Germany, cc

A Berlin-Toronto Instagram Live Exchange

Developed & presented by the Goethe-Institut Toronto
with Prof. Ahmed Allahwala, University of Toronto

Cities are vibrant spaces for a broad and diverse range of cultural expression and practices. Culture is what attracts people to a city and many cities are known for their unique culture(s) that shape the livablility of our urban centres. This three-part Instagram Live series invites you into a transatlantic conversation on the current state and future opportunities of Parks Culture, Club Culture, and Main Street Culture in Toronto and Berlin. Participants from the two cities —from grass-roots activists to policy-makers— engage in a reflection and exchange about what makes the culture of their city unique, the pressures and tensions cultural spaces in the two cities are facing, as well as innovative practices and initiatives to protect, nourish and sustain city culture(s) on both sides of the Atlantic. Email us your questions until 1 November or post them live during the events.

2 Nov 2021, noon EST, live on Instagram
The Toronto-Berlin exchange on Parks Culture explores the role of city parks as essential public spaces and cultural community infrastructure. The pandemic and multiple rounds of lockdowns have amplified the vital role of green spaces in cities but have also brought to light ongoing tensions about access to and use of parks. Speakers will share their stories and insights on the challenges as well as innovative arts & culture parks initiatives.

Community activist Jutta Mason is the soul behind the revitalization of Toronto’s Dufferin Grove Park and has a profound belief in public space as ‘the commons’ and its value in making neighbourhoods work. She is the recipient of the 2001 Jane Jacobs Prize.
Carolin Mees is a New York and Berlin-based architect and researcher. She currently leads the development of the new Community Gardens (Gemeinschaftsgärten) Program for Berlin for the Senate of Environment, Traffic and Climate Protection in collaboration with the Berlin community gardeners.

9 Nov 2021, noon EST, live on Instagram
The Toronto-Berlin exchange on Club Culture is dedicated to bars, music venues and clubs as vital cultural and social spaces in cities. Speakers will share their insights into the club and bar scene in both cities, reflect on the impact of the pandemic on these spaces, as well as engage in a dialogue about advocacy for the recognition and protection of clubs and bars as culturally relevant, diverse and safe spaces.

DJ, writer and researcher Denise Benson has long mixed beats, words and ideas. A party-rocker with an ear for the underground, Denise has created notable queer events including Dyke Nite, Bent and Cherry Bomb. She also engaged audiences as a radio host – having produced Mental Chatter on CKLN 88.1FM for 21 years (1987-2008) – and as a music journalist and columnist largely focused on emergent electronic music artists and trends. The author of Then & Now: Toronto Nightlife History (Three O’Clock Press), Denise is currently at work on two documentary film projects.
Ulrich Simontowitz is an actor, community activist and co-owner of the legendary queer bar HAFEN in the Schöneberg district of Berlin. Uli has been actively involved in the initiative “Bars of Berlin,” an association advocating for the protection and the resilience of Berlin bars as culturally relevant spaces in the city.

16 Nov 2021, noon EST, live on Instagram
The Toronto-Berlin exchange on Main Street Culture focuses on the role of neighbourhood commercial strips as uniquely urban cultural spaces and the growing threat they face in the context of the suburbanization of retail, rising property values, the growing dominance of chain stores and the increased competition of online retail. Participants will share their experience and innovative practices to protect a vibrant, physical and engaged main street culture as part of the urban cultural fabric.

Policy-maker Elke Plate is responsible for strategic urban planning at the Senate Department for Urban Development in Berlin, among others the strategy for “Berlin 2030” and the project “Post-Corona City – Curated Main Street Ground Floor Management.”
Nick Milum is the co-founder of Bag of Toronto, a curated assortment of specialty products from local vendors in seven Toronto neighbourhoods to support small business.

Moderated by Prof. Ahmed Allahwala, a German-born and Toronto-based professor of Human Geography at the University of Toronto. He received his MA at the Free University Berlin, followed by his PhD from York University Toronto. His research and teaching focuses on community development and urban social change, city politics and urban planning, as well as migration and multiculturalism.


Program & Media Contact:
Jutta Brendemühl
Program Curator
Goethe-Institut Toronto

German Film @ Canada

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