East germany

What were we all doing here? My 600-mile trip to hear an organ play a D natural

In the year 2000, in a small east German town, work began on the construction of an organ that had one purpose: to perform John Cage’s ORGAN2/ASLSP (1987) for precisely 639 years. The late avant-garde composer’s only instruction for the piece was to play the piece ‘as slowly as possible’. And so in 2001 – the instrument finally ready – the world’s longest organ recital began in St Burchardi church, Halberstadt, with a rest lasting 17 months before the first chord commenced droning in 2003. It consisted of two G sharps and a B. Two weeks ago, I – along with several hundred others – made the pilgrimage to the

Levelling up: don’t copy the Germans

‘Germany has succeeded in levelling up where we have not,’ Boris Johnson claimed back in July last year, when talk of pork pie putsches lay far off in the future. But as the government unveils its levelling up plans today, the promise of a German-style investment package is unlikely to materialise. And that’s probably a good thing. Germany’s economic and social reunification is not the miracle it is claimed to be. In many ways, East Germany and the left-behind regions of Britain have similar economic problems, if for different reasons. When the Berlin wall fell in 1989, East Germany’s largely nationalised economy was sold-out to private investors at breakneck speed.

Why the far-right flourishes in East Germany

A spectre is haunting Germany — the spectre of the AfD. Having come to prominence on a wave of anti-migrant sentiment, most German commentators believed that the Alternative für Deutschland was now a spent force. The party had been able to attract centre-right voters following the 2015 migrant crisis, many of whom may not have agreed with its entire manifesto but sought a political outlet for their scepticism of Merkel’s handling of the crisis. But last year, its national polling dropped to just over half the level of support it enjoyed in late 2018. The pandemic has brought to the surface many of the AfD’s most extreme members and activists,

This crisis could be the catalyst for a golden age of British theatre

The arts are in a state of crisis. How often have you heard that before? Well, this time around it happens to be true. In the age of coronavirus, it’s clear that the old way of doing things won’t work any more. Theatres, in particular, have been quick to grasp the bleeding obvious: cramming lots of people into crowded spaces has suddenly become extremely difficult. How do you fill a theatre in an era of social distancing? Short answer: you can’t. The response from theatre practitioners has been fairly predictable. What the theatre needs, they tell us, is more public cash. West End producer Sonia Friedman says that 70 per