newleaf is the English language lit mag of the University of Bremen. I’ve been involved with the mag for a long time now and used to be the sales manager. In fact, I suppose I still am the sales manager, though I’m largely inactive now I am no longer at the uni. I still go to the staff meetings and readings, but that’s the extent of my involvement these days.
The Wilhelm Wagenfeld Haus is located in a part of the city with lots of cultural institutions (theater, three museums, library, cultural center) concentrated in a very small area. It also happens to be almost impossible to park there, but gladly my Dad offered to drive me and pick me up again afterwards.
I had to walk across Goetheplatz, the open space in front of the theatre, to get to the Wagenfeld Haus and noticed that it was uncommonly busy, even for a fairly pleasant summer evening. And everybody was staring towards the far end of the square, so of course I looked to and spotted a flickering open air screen. It took me a few seconds to make the connection. Ah yes, the women’s football world cup is on. Which means public viewing screens in every city, though not quite as many and as prominent as during the 2006 and 2010 men’s football world cups. And oh yes, the German team is playing tonight*. Crap, that will reduce the audience turnout – why does this happen every time?
The Wilhelm Wagenfeld Haus is an early 19th century guardhouse (Bremen was an independent state at the time and had border controls. The respective guardhouses can still be seen on the former edges of the old town) and prison. The prison was still used up to the late 1990s to house illegal immigrants before deportation. The prison was finally closed following protests and scandals and turned into a design museum named after the Bremen born industrial designer and Bauhaus fellow Wilhelm Wagenfeld. Wagenfeld’s name is not as well known as that of some of his Bauhaus colleagues, but I guarantee that you have seen or used some of his designs, particularly if you’re German. We had his famous butterdish at home, my grandma has the salt and pepper shakers, my aunt had the egg cups.
Even the cellar of the museum, where the reading took place, was illuminated by Wagenfeld designed lamps. Not the famous Bauhaus lamp, though, but the far less glamourous wall lamps found in every second garage or cellar. The ground floor, meanwhile, was hosting an interesting looking exhibition on plastic design. I walked through a room was some very neat bakelite radios and had to restrain myself from taking a closer look. Some other time, I’ve got holidays after all.
The reading was surprisingly well attended, considering it was up against a football world cup game involving the German team and the Breminale cultural festival. I came late into the actual reading room, because I had been chatting with some old pals and acquaintances in the bar and bookstall room and only got a seat, because I grabbed a chair (another design classic, though not by Wagenfeld) from a stack myself. The crowd was different from the usual newleaf crowd (which is mainly students and uni people with a few ex-students and teachers mixed in). It was older, for starters, and probably more for wine (which we didn’t have) than Becks straight from the bottle. I did drink my Becks straight from the bottle and was immediately reminded why I don’t drink beer very often, because it tends to upset my stomach. And of course we only had classic Becks, which my stomach doesn’t like at all, rather than the milder Becks Gold variety.
The reading itself was good, but then newleaf readings usually are. I’ll do a formal write-up of the event including who read what by whom for the newleaf website later on. Unfortunately I forgot my camera, so there won’t be any photos, at least not by me.
I printed up a couple of Pegasus Pulp flyers last night and put them on the newleaf bookstall. The bookstall used to be my baby, though I’m content to let other people do the actually selling these days. So if anybody has got a right to put their flyers on that table (and we have sold and distributed anything from third party books via CDs to buttons over the years), it’s me. A few flyers were picked up, the rest went into the bookstall box with all the magazines, posters, flyers, bookmarks and other promo stuff.
I don’t think that I will sell many books that way, but I think it’s important to have something physical such as a flyer to hand to people. Never mind that it makes it easier to be taken seriously.
*Germany beat France 4:2, by the way, and entered the quarter finals as the winners in their respective group.