Just got back from a fascinating week in Berlin, courtesy of the EU's Grundtvig Programme, who funded me to do what they call "In-Service Training" with an organisation called the Comparative Research Network, looking at interculturalism and cross-community dialogue. CRN is an academic set-up, largely run by geographers, but the workshop was very practical, indeed very theatrical, in its approach, and pointed some really useful ways of making use of theoretical ideas around cultural exchange. Just the sort of thing we've been looking to develop in the community engagement side of the company.
Take the image above. The feet belong to a Turkish woman, a first-generation migrant to Berlin, who lives in the Kreuzberg area of the city. This is a hugely diverse part of the city, far from the conventional tourist trail, and it seemed strange to be led around in a tour group. But the viewpoint and ideas of a local guide from a particular community enabled us to see the area very differently. There is history everywhere you look... even in Berlin's equivalent of Tottenham. The little bronze plaques at her feet are miniature memorials to Jewish people taken to the concentration camps by the Nazis. There are many of them along Karl-Marx-strasse. She showed us her mosque, which is a converted Christian Free Church, a school where 90% of the pupils are from immigrant backgrounds, shop windows with clothes for Turkish weddings and circumcisions. The city from inside. A beautiful cultural reversal.