"It’s important not to be afraid of failing, to see obstacles not as a hindrance but as a challenge. And when you fail, you’ll get up and continue."

Klunkerkranich ©Julian Nelken Romy IJzerman is a student at the University of Amsterdam. She is currently studying at Freie Universität Berlin for a semester and one of our Local City Reporters. Read her interview with Julian Reetz of Klunkerkranich below. 

Julian Reetz is one of the founders of the Cultural Rooftop Garden Klunkerkranich. The goal was to create an immersive scene with a cultural aspect, the possibility for urban gardening and a musical program with live music and DJ’s.

What started out as a search for a bigger apartment, turned out to be a multiform project which started 7 years ago. Julian, Dorle and Robin needed a place to live. They found an apartment which also had two big basements and a front shop. They wanted to rent out the extra space, but they couldn’t find someone quickly enough and decided to do something with it themselves. With no experience and totally different backgrounds, they opened up the first club in Neukölln, Fuchs & Elster. That went amazingly well, together with some side projects like a theatre and small-scale festivals. At this point, with a settled name, they got in contact with someone who found the rooftop place. They saw an opportunity and with the manpower and knowledge they had, they immediately started the project of Klunkerkranich.

Klunkerkranich ©Julian Nelken

The plan was not to create a new music scene. They had enough of club business. This new project was daytime and that was a good change. They always had the concept of doing cultural things, with things of beauty in mind. But that needs financing. And with a project that big, the help from the city was not enough. So they needed to finance in house. With the bar it’s possible to finance the garden and the cultural aspect of the project. One of their main goals was to create a place for everybody, not only club people, old folks or young folks. And you do find them here. You have children playing in the sandbox, old people in the afternoon enjoying a cup of coffee and in the evening you got people dancing to the music from DJ’s and other artists.

The government is positive about helping the project, but with a project that huge, their help is like a drop of water on a hot stone. They are still very helpful and the cooperation with the city and the politics is good. Julian says that the most important thing is communication. “You need them to allow you to do things and for that they need to know what is going on. So you tell them exactly what you are planning to do and that safety is also concern of us. With that kind of communication, they are willingly to help you.”

Not only the government is a good help to them, also a lot of volunteers helped out. Especially in the beginning, they had a lot of family and friends helping them out. This worked out positive for both parties. The people who volunteered secured themselves a job later on and Julian and the others didn’t need a bigger investment to start the project up. Now, almost everybody is paid and there are over a 100 people working for them. In the garden are still a lot of volunteers going around and investing their time into helping the project.

Klunkerkranich ©Julian Nelken

Also other institutions like universities and schools are working together with the Klunkerkranich project. For example, the Technische Universität worked out a construct for growing plants, which now can be seen outside on the terrace. Next to that, school classes are coming to the garden to learn about urban farming/gardening and where things come from by showing them old plants and seeds. Julian says that they are still in the beginning with the whole project, so they needed to do the basic groundwork first. But step by step, everything is getting more detail, and things such as the educational substance and the cultural program are becoming more and more prominent in the coming years.

Next to collaborations with the government, universities and schools, Klunkerkranich also work together with companies. Especially the companies from whom they buy the liquor and lemonade from. With other corporates it always depends on whether they want a partnership or not. They don’t allow anybody to use the image of Klunkerkranich just for their own things. When things are not commercial, they have a bigger chance of a collaboration, such as students who want to shoot a movie and want to use the space. Julian says: “It’s not that we don’t want to work together with the industries, but we have to be careful with what industries we work together. If we work together, then we have to put that money into the garden and other things as well, so that is not only beneficial for them but for more people.”

One of the biggest motivations which kept Julian going al these years, was the group. “Of course you can do it alone,” Julian says, “but then you go crazy after a while.” They’ve learned a lot together as a group and it’s not possible to take that away. He also says it’s important not to be afraid of failing, to see obstacles not as a hindrance but as a challenge. And when you fail, you’ll get up and continue. “Because the only thing that will stop you, is when you stop. That’s the only thing. Everything else is negotiable.”

Klunkerkranich ©Julian Nelken

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