Rote Flora in 2017
|Former names||Tivoli Theatre|
|Known for||social centre|
The Rote Flora is a former theatre in the Sternschanze quarter in Hamburg. It has been squatted since November 1989 as an autonomous cultural centre in opposition to a decision to turn it into a musical theatre. The collective said in 2001 "We are the 'UFO in the neighbourhood.' The black hole in public space. The City won't get rid of us because we are a part of what life is."
History of the building
The theatre was built in 1888 and named Tivoli-Theater. Soon thereafter, it was renamed Concerthaus Flora, and eventually became the Flora-Theater. It was used for concerts, operettas, revues and boxing matches. Being one of the few theatres in Hamburg not damaged during World War II, it continued to host performances until 1943. During the last few years of the war, the theatre was closed and used for storage, but soon reopened after a renovation in 1949. From 1953 to 1964, the building was used as a cinema with around 800 seats; the department store 1000 Töpfe then moved in and remained until 1987.
After the department store closed, musical producer Friedrich Kurz came forward with plans to turn the empty building into a musical theatre. However, residents, shopkeepers and autonomous groups responded negatively and, within months, the protest grew. Nevertheless, the historic building was partly torn down in April 1988. The protests continued and culminated in violent assaults by militant groups. The need for police protection and the negative response in the media eventually caused the investors to abandon the plan.
Until the following summer, what remained of the building stood vacant, although several groups that had been involved in the protests had ambitions to renovate and reuse the theatre. In August 1989, the city unexpectedly offered a six-month lease to these groups. After the lease was official, the Rote Flora opened on September 23, 1989. However, the lease was soon declared obsolete and the Rote Flora was declared as squatted on November 1, 1989. Since then, the Rote Flora has functioned as a cultural centre, offering space for cultural and political events. The project is financed by donations and fundraising events and administrated independently.
The occupiers stated it was a “free space for realizing an autonomous life.” They gave the building the address Achidi John Platz 1 to commemorate a man who died when forced by police to snort a substance. When a well-known neo-Nazi was given a social housing apartment in a block behind the project in the 1990s, Rote Flora organised demonstrations against his presence.
Between 1990 and 1991, the project turned the deserted rear of the building which had been the construction site into a park. However, the city planned to build flats on the site, and eventually an eviction order was executed by a large force of police.
In August 1992, the Senator for Urban Development urged the organisers of the Rote Flora to sign a valid lease within six weeks. If not, another eviction order would be deployed. Negotiations lasted for months; the eviction was not ordered and the Rote Flora remained squatted.
A fire in November 1995 destroyed a large part of the building, but it was soon renovated and restored. The Rote Flora remained a cultural and left-wing political meeting point. In autumn 2000, the Senate of Hamburg once more started negotiations about a new lease. After 11 years of occupation, the Rote Flora was a political issue and a point of discussion in the 2001 elections.
After controversial discussions, the occupiers refused any further negotiations with the Senate. In response, the Senate sold the building in March 2001 to the entrepreneur Klausmartin Kretschmer. In the following weeks, Kretschmer made clear that no changes would be made; the Rote Flora would remain autonomous. For the squatters, it was equally clear that having a new owner (even one that was happy with their activities) changed nothing.
We neither asked Kretschmer to buy the Flora almost nine years ago, nor are we in the slightest interested in his opinions about the political ideologies and the work of the Rote Flora. Kretschmer lacks any political legitimacy in connection of the existence of the Rote Flora and our future. Kretschmer is no dialog partner for us.— Rote Flora 2001
The Rote Flora had its 15th anniversary in November 2004.
The contract with the owner and the city expired in its original form at the end of March 2011. The contract specified the conditions under which Kretschmer could sell it and that it must be a social centre. These conditions expired with the contract, permitting Kretschmer to sell to any buyer for whatever price he wishes. The people using the Rote Flora started a campaign of resistance called 'Flora remains incompatible' (German: 'Flora bleibt unverträglich') to campaign against possible eviction.
The city offered the owner 1.1 million euros for the building which he had bought in 2001 for around 190,000 euros, but he demanded 5 million euros. In December 2013, the city's decision to redevelop the Rote Flora site became the focus of large and sometimes violent demonstrations. Ultimately, in mid-January 2014, the borough of Altona announced a change in plans for the site that would ensure the building would not be demolished and could remain a cultural centre.
In July 2017, during the G20 protests the Rote Flora was a major hotspot. Almost 100,000 people participated in at least 25 protests, one of which was organised by Rote Flora. The project disassociated itself from the violence which occurred, with a spokesperson saying that a "form of militancy had poured out on to the streets which was intoxicated with itself ... and we find that politically ... wrong."
The Rote Flora hosts exhibitions by artists from all over the world, parties and cultural events regularly and also serves as a meeting point for left-wing movements. It was used as a convergence center during the protests against the 2007 G8 summit and has been the site of several congresses and political meetings. Political issues include immigration, nationalism in Germany and privatisation of public space. The front part of the building still serves as a space for political, often very subjective and propagandistic, messages. The Rote Flora is mainly financed through donations and parties, and offers a wide range of alternative music such as punk, reggae, ska, dub, drum 'n' bass, techno and goa trance.
Rules posted at the door of the centre state: "We will not tolerate any kind of sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, lookism or any kind of boundary-crossing behaviour here."
- Naegler, Laura (2012). Gentrification and Resistance: Cultural Criminology, Control, and the Commodification of Urban Protest in Hamburg. Lit Verlag. ISBN 978-3643901149.
- "The Rote Flora: the iconic Hamburg squat right-wingers call a danger to the nation". The Local. 11 July 2007. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
- Jones, A (2018). "'MILITANZ' AND MORALISED VIOLENCE: HAMBURG'S ROTEFLORA AND THE 2017 G20 RIOT". German Life and Letters. 71 (4): 529–558. doi:10.1111/glal.12212. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
- "English". Flora Bleibt. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
- "Rote Flora bleibt Kulturzentrum", Der Spiegel, 18 January 2014 (in German)
- Khandekar, Omkar (11 October 2018). "To the Barricades". Caravan Magazine. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
- Martin, David (8 July 2017). "Rote Flora: the center of Hamburg's protest movement". DW. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rote Flora.|
- Official website (German)
- Pictures of the Schanzen-Quarter and the Rote Flora
- Rote Flora: the center of Hamburg's protest movement