Thoughts on Culture – Basel is in Need for Action

With Village Sauvage successfully put through, it’s time for a brush-up on the movements in local independent culture scene in Basel. The situation is, frankly speaking, quite poor. Basel profits from an international reputation of being an art capital, certainly due to the annual ArtBasel. However, in terms of acting towards fostering this reputation, the city’s government lacks understanding. Or so it seems.

A short roundup of what happened in recent history:

  • NT-Areal, open space for independent culture projects such as open-air bars, nightclubs, a dirt track, a skater park and more, is coming to an end. As a new housing estate is being built, located between two main highways, the last large open area will vanish shortly. NT-Areal used to be a one-of-a-kind project in Switzerland, and even in the whole of Europe, you will have to look closely to find something similar. Literally thousands of people gathered on NT-Areal in summer nights to cherish the atmosphere. There is no alternative yet to this kind of area, and it seems as if Basel’s government is rather happy to get rid of it.
  • Schällemätteli, Basel’s old prison has been standing empty for a number of years now. Surrounded by construction sites and university buildings, the former prison building would have made for a perfect cultural center for all kinds of usage. Instead of the city understanding this opportunity and trying to set up an interim use, the doors were kept locked and the building – the last of its kind in Europe, is being demolished. The works have already begun.

What happened on the other side:

Millions of Swiss Francs have been invested in the construction and planning of several shopping malls. One of them is going to be built at Voltaplatz, another one where NT-Areal used to be, a third in Markthalle Basel near the train station and a fourth one has opened its doors where more than a decade ago, Stückfärberei was closed, to most people merely a shadow of a memory by now, but during its time a very much frequented alternative clubbing space.

With all these new shopping facilities, one needs to wonder where independent culture will go? It seems quite clear that this kind of culture is not on the government’s agenda. But this is a mistake. Because the need for spaces where culture and subculture can grow on its own and on a grassroots democratic level exists. And it will not be ruled out.

It’s time to take action. And it’s high time that the deciders in Basel realized that there is a great number of citizens who are not willing to accept this kind of policy. They will continue to stand up.

And most of all: it’s time that the government realized that with an existing culture and subculture, Basel will truly move into the spotlight of being a cultural capital. Not only during ArtBasel. But all year round. And this, in turn, will attract creatives from all over Europe and beyond. Let’s move!

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