Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

Back to the Fatherland 2

…so I headed down to the city museum – nothing from the 20th century covered, they pointed me to the Zeitgeschichtliches Forum Leipzig (Forum of Contemporary History) – that covers from 1945 onwards focusing on the GDR. So by any standards a big gap in their city history, the 30s and 40s an official blank. But I had a break through. In the back of the museum shop I found a facsimile map of the city from 1938 – the year my grand-parents got the helloutta here and arrived in London. Promenadenstrasse wasn’t renamed after a Soviet leader but after an artist socialist by nature, Käthe Kollwitz, her inherent empathy for the less fortunate evident throughout her life’s work. As soon as I’d figured out how the old map mapped onto the new I headed over. The route took me from the old town hall past the famous Thomaskirche, last resting place of JS Bach, and then past the site of the Community Synagogue of Leipzig, burnt down on Kristallnacht in November 1938. They burnt the place down and then charged the Jews for the demolition costs. The lost 14,000 (not including never-to-be descendants) are commemorated by the empty chairs of the congregation in dull bronze set out on a flat blank concrete base. When I got to 16 Promenadenstrasse where my paternal grandparents lived from (I think) 1935 to 1938 that too was flat, blank, empty. A carpark, albeit a tranquil one shaded by trees and bathed in dappled autumnal light on my special visit. I can see from no. 14 the kind of building it probably was, a typically elegant Leipziger apartment in a tasteful neighbourhood. My grandfather was always a snappy dresser – like my youngest brother and my older son (that gene skipped me for better or worse) – so I can picture him easily in these streets.

The view from No. 1 Nordplatz

Next stop was Nordplatz, slightly further out from the centre, where he lived as a bachelor with his older sister’s family. No. 1 proved to be all present and correct, with a beautiful view over St. Michaelis church, a Gothicky affair built between 1901 and 1905, and the green beside it. Another smart apartment building where I stood on the threshold trodden by Nat Gewurtz (later Gee, 1938 was a good year for dumping German surnames) and his sister Else Wolf, peering in to the interior which has evidently been revamped in recent times. I was glad to see he’d enjoyed such a beautiful and calm home. From there to Promenadenstrasse – then next stop 5 Highbury Grove.

My next stop was the address on the Nazi birth certificate, 84 Biedermannstrasse, Sankt Elisabeth Krankenhaus, the Catholic hospital where my father was born. It was only a few blocks south of MDR (Mittel Deutsch Rundfunk), the main broadcaster in the region where I spoke yesterday on Crossmedia and Broadcaster Online Strategy to an audience primarily of factual film-makers which also included a State Minister of Saxony and the President of German/French broadcaster Arte. I spoke among other things about Surgery Live, which I reckon many of them thought had come from another planet. Seven Days was from another galaxy. From the feedback I received afterward it seems my passion for the possibilities of interactive, networked media and the boldness of our ambition at the very least landed home even if the out-thereness of Channel 4’s approach and the freedoms of British culture were somewhat alien to some of the Euros. I should have mentioned another of my projects which I also spoke about in my presentation, One Born Every Minute, because that would have given me an easier segue back to the maternity unit at Sankt Elisabeth Hospital. On arrival it was clear it has been recently refurbished so fear of disappearance returned. I found the maternity unit now in a clean modern block. A chat with the receptionist soon established that the original maternity block still stood and as I roamed the corridors of the art deco building I stumbled across the original foundation stone dated 1930. That meant when my father was born there it was an equally state of the art set-up. An irony of course was that he never got to see the place himself again after his blurry-eyed first days. He died a few years after the uprising that started in Leipzig and ended with the Fall of the Wall, never getting/taking the opportunity to come back.

I’ve enjoyed a couple of days with the presence of my grand-father and father around me. I see a tiny sticker on the wall of the hospital saying “I will wait for you” (in English). I spot a sparrow (my favourite bird, rather thin on the ground these days in England) hanging around. A warm autumn sunshine shines down from a perfect azure sky the whole weekend, contrary to the usually reliable information on my WeatherPro iPhone app, created by German-based MeteoGroup with a Teutonic regard for precision.

{2nd photo courtesy of Leipzigpost}

Back to the Fatherland

I’ve just arrived for the first time in Leipzig in Saxony in East Germany in Europe in the World in the Solar System (I remember doing those very long addresses looking up out of my bedroom window aged six or seven at 2A Selvage Lane, Mill Hill, London, England, UK, Europe, etc.) for Dok Leipzig, the 53rd of this documentary film festival making it (one of?) the oldest film fest(s) in Deutschland. I’m speaking tomorrow about multiplatform factual TV with some folk from Arte (one of the few Eurobroadcasters consistently exploring the space) and Finland’s YLE, as well as hooking up with various documentary-makers with eyes on the interactive and networked. There’s a few fellow Brits around like Andy Glynne of DFG and Mark Atkin of Documentary Campus. But that’s getting towards the point of my post. These memories of childhood, the home I shared with my father before The Big Split, reflections on Germany and especially Leipzig. Because in some ways I’m not a fellow Brit. My dad was born in this city. In 1937. His birth certificate says Biedermanstrasse 84 – thought that was his home, Google-mapped it last night, turned out to be the Catholic hospital where he was born. The certificate which I have at the back of my filing cabinet in a file called Odds & Sods has a little swastika on it. So I’m back in the Vaterland.

My plan – I’ve managed to track down the address where my grandparents lived until they hightailed it outta here in ’38. Got it from a cousin in Hamburg who was 13 at the time. Also got the address where my grandfather lived before he was married, with his older sister. The former doesn’t show up on Google maps – hoping the Commies changed the name to Leninstrasse or something, then it got changed back to a different name after the Fall of the Wall. Will investigate tomorrow at the city museum or find someone old enough to remember where Promenadenstrasse was. The latter I haven’t had a chance to check out yet online – I’m saving it up for later, delayed gratification of the old school.

So I’ll report back and continue later/tomorrow with how I’ve gotten on…

Good ol' Facebook

Quotables in Broadcast

WEB WATCH
Broadcast 1 Oct 2010

Channel 4 and Arts Council England have launched a user-generated quotes website designed to plug into the broadcaster’s shows as well as act as a standalone resource.

The Mint Digital-produced site directs visitors to upload famous quotes which can then be viewed and amended by other visitors.

It’s designed to act as a reference tool, quotes utility, barometer of recent public opinion and to create a community of quotes-lovers.

Adam Gee, new media commissioner of factual for C4 said: “We noticed that quotes were very badly served online and thought we could do a better job. It’s designed to be a useful online adjunct for us as a broadcaster to use.”

Gee added that for example it could quickly be plugged into the Film4 website if they were running a particular season to feature quotes from relevant directors and film-makers.

URL: http://www.quotabl.es
Production: Mint Digital

{reproduced courtesy of Broadcast}

Seven Days ChatNav in Broadcast

Here’s the Leader in this week’s Broadcast by Lisa Campbell

A new vision of reality TV | 7 October, 2010 | By Lisa Campbell

Seven Days isn’t rating, but its interactivity makes compelling viewing.

“People never know what is wrong with them and other people see it right away.” Just one of the many poignant lines in the current series of BBC4’s Mad Men, but one which could so easily have been written for Seven Days, which launched that same evening on Channel 4.

It sums up just what’s so compelling about the new reality show – the fact that participants see themselves through the eyes of others and are forced to challenge perceptions of the self.

So far, so Big Brother, you might say, but unlike BB, the outside world is allowed in, with members of the public giving direct feedback on actions and behaviour. What’s interesting is the immediate and discernible impact this has on the subsequent behaviour of those involved. As far as social experimentation goes, it makes Big Brother look more like Watch With Mother.

Yes, the first episode was dull, but it was about establishing the characters. The second episode was when the genius emerged. From the bizarre walk-on-part of a member of the public in the opening café scene (initially, it felt like a set-up, but anyone hanging around Notting Hill can be captured by the cameras) to the public as puppet-master, it’s a concept that messes with the mind.

The ‘chatnav’ social media element of the project makes for a fascinating, often surreal watch. So, for example, you’re on a laptop reading comments while watching the show, watching a character on the show on their laptop responding to those comments (still with me?).

It’s intriguing to see how the contestants respond to the scrutiny; how bizarre it is, for instance, to watch an obviously ‘smug’ character relay her shock at being described as such. Or how amusing to watch those facing criticism suddenly trot out the sob stories – an echo of the cynical ploys adopted by real-life celebrities.

C4 is bound to be disappointed with the ratings after marketing the hell out of the show, and while it’s far from perfect (a location outside London might have been nice), it should be applauded for having the guts to experiment, to learn lessons from it and to continue trying to push the boundaries of cross-platform content.

Lisa Campbell is editor of Broadcast

{courtesy of Broadcast}

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 149 other followers

%d bloggers like this: