By Mervyn Miller (Scottish advisory group member), Skye Foster (Co-Researcher) and Andrew Burns (Research Fellow)
In July, we travelled to Berlin to meet Tanja Abou who is a member of the German advisory group. Tanja is an academic working for the Institute for Social and Organisational Pedagogy at The University of Hildesheim. She is also a DJ, queer activist, and all-round cool person, who also happens to have lived experience of the care system in Germany.
Picture 1 – Tanja (Right, foreground), Skye, Andrew, and Mervyn in Berlin
We arranged to meet at 3 Schwestern (3 sisters) in Kreuzberg which, in addition to having a great café, is a centre for arts and music. Even more interesting was the history of the building, which Tanja explained to us on our arrival. Part of this grand and historic building (see picture below) was occupied by young people in the care system in Germany to protest the conditions that that they were having to live in. This was part of a campaign (“Berliner Heimkampagne”) and the larger “childrens home revolt” (“Heimrevolte”) within the far left, that were aiming to scandalize and change the conditions in the German childrens home system. The radical actions and claims of the “childrens home revolt” initiated a debate towards a more participatory children and youth welfare (which till today offers room for improvement).
This kicked off a very interesting afternoon of discussions about care experience, care systems, and how each of us had come to be involved in the ARCH project. Everything from idiosyncrasies to school experience was on the table for discussion while we enjoyed some coffee and cake together. Skye was particularly impressed by Tanja’s journey into academia.
After this, Tanja showed us some of the sights in Kreuzberg, starting with the community beehives right outside, although Mervyn stayed well back from these. The conversation continued to flow as we meandered our way toward the U-Bahn (the Subway) taking in the sights and noting places where art and activism were being produced.
Before parting ways, Mervyn was sure to get Tanja’s recommendations for night clubs, which we followed to the letter by going out partying at one of the biggest clubs in Berlin, SchwuZ, until the wee small hours! This club was fully accessible, and the staff were excellent at facilitating lots of safe and friendly fun and dancing. Naturally, we had to push back some of our sight-seeing so we could get some sleep the next day, but we did eventually get to the Brandenburg Gate.
All in all, a very interesting and productive trip.
Picture 3 – Skye and Andrew at the Brandenburg Gate