Mauerpark is not just a park. As a small reminder: it means “Wall Park” and is where THE Wall used to be – with its barbed wire, watchtowers and armed guards with orders to shoot.
But now, every Sunday, it is full of people from all over the world, including Berliners who have lived here all their lives and the newcomers who are proud to call it home. Mauerpark is unparalleled as a place that brings together people of all different kinds. We hear a lot these days – especially from the mouths of politicians – about the need for us all to live peaceably with one another. But what happens on a Sunday in Mauerpark is not just talk. It is a living, breathing example of the fact that this is actually possible – unscripted and spontaneous without any intervention from politicians.
The Sunday karaoke sessions are the very heart of Mauerpark. Gareth, who started the whole thing 10 years ago and remains upbeat and cheerful in the face of obstacles, is eager to carry on. He encourages everyone to have a go. Making anyone feel excluded is simply out of the question. People of all ethnicities and backgrounds, young and old, with great musical talent or none at all – it doesn’t matter: everyone gets a chance to be heard here. And the hordes of spectators are always generous and encouraging, willing people to do well. That creates a positive and uplifting atmosphere that restores your faith in humankind. An article in the New York Times calls karaoke in Mauerpark “one of Berlin’s most unforgettable experiences.”
It goes without saying that living peaceably with one another includes having consideration for the park’s neighbours and complying with safety regulations. That is part of the job of the city’s public agencies. But with all respect for their work, we mustn’t forget that Berlin has become a world-class city. Once infamous for the Wall that divided it, it is now famous for its openness, unconventionality and creativity. And Mauerpark makes a unique contribution to that reputation. We must not allow ourselves to be bogged down in petty feuds. Let us make sure we continue to shine as an example of how people power can overcome anything – even the mother of all walls.