Welcoming Refugees, One Picnic At A Time

Since it was opened to the public in 2010, Tempelhofer Feld has become host to many citizen initiatives. Community gardens, yoga classes and BBQs – all are common sight on one of the biggest open spaces in the world. Yesterday the former airport became host to another strong sign of community engagement: a welcome picnic for refugees.

Organised by the alliance Schön, dass ihr da seid (‘Nice that you’re here’) it aimed at bringing Berliners together with refugees and help them to get to know each other over a meal. For that the alliance had organised a beautiful picnic. People from all over the neighbouring districts had brought home food. There were salads, breads, snacks. Some had met up before and made food together, like the The Real Junk Food Project Berlin and Cooking for Peace Berlin. A drinks stall sold the usual ethical lemonades, the takings going to the financing of the project.

The organisers had created a nice atmosphere with some tables, including decorative oranges, and picnic blankets covering some of the ground at the Tempelhof Picnic spots. What sounds like trivial details contributed a lot to the convivial atmosphere of the event. After a slow beginning Berliners that had come from the different corners of the city quickly sat down with some of the food and were joined by refugees in conversations.

While there were no official numbers published yet, there were easily over a thousand people at the Tempelhof Picnic, some of them staying until the evening. There was a space for initiatives supporting refugees to present themselves and a small refugee law clinic. But the citizens’ alliance had even taken care of entertainment with DJs and music acts playing all day long, as well as a space for kids with different activities including Arabic storytelling and face painting. One great gimmick was a Wi-Fi that visitors could sign up to which enabled them to meet each other via an adhoc network.

Strictly speaking an online network was a nice features, but not really necessary. Those who wanted to quickly got talking anyway. A picnic does not seem to be a great achievement, nor is it going to change the lives of refugees in Berlin. However, it stands a nice symbol for the willingness of many Berliners to work together on integrating the newcomers to the city and to get to know each other. For some of the refugees it might have been a welcome change to everyday life and another gesture telling them that Berlin is willing to accept them in its middle. In any case, the welcome picnic was another moment that shows Tempelhofer Feld continues to inspire Berliners to make good use of its creative emptiness.

By Niklas Kossow
Niklas Kossow is a Cologne native who has been flirting with life in Berlin for over three years. If he’s not fighting corruption or writing a PhD, he’s likely to be found hanging around in a hammock by the Kreuzberg canal. Having had many love affairs with other cities in the world he glad to be back in Berlin. He tweets @niklaskossow

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