From the ground up: Bau Mich Auf is ‘rebuilding’ the idea of what a festival should be
As the music and events industry started powering up again last year after a two-year long forced hiatus, it was apparent that things couldn’t and shouldn’t go back to “normal”.
A lot had changed over that period; lessons had been learned and there was a distinct shift in the way people were thinking.
Whether this was reducing their carbon footprint, making a more conscientious choice to book local, or simply helping to foster discussion around these subjects, promoters and festival organisers now had an obligation to start making fundamental changes to the way they were doing things.
As restrictions lifted across Europe, long-standing festivals and newer kids on the block announced their return, while many first time events took a leap of faith in what felt, at the time, like a climate reignited by fresh interest and soaring demand.
Festivals of all shapes and sizes popped up around the world, promising something for everyone, but in an already over-saturated market, what events were choosing to shun conventions and, in the rapidly changing times we find ourselves in, offering a sustainable and mindful alternative to your bog-standard festival?
Born out of the ashes of a gruelling lockdown, Bau Mich Auf began life last summer. Set some two hours drive north of Berlin, the organisers behind the three day event are on a quest to “rebuild” the idea of what a festival should look like.
Eric Schönemeier and Jacob Bauernfeind are the brains behind the concept – Eric is the former booker for Monticule festival and Jacob is a core member of label and artist collective Life From Earth. With Bau Mich Auf the pair saw an opportunity to build something from the ground up, in more ways than one.
The second edition of the festival, capped at 1500 people, takes place between August 18th – 21st and will continue to build on the cultural and community-minded foundations that were laid last year. The music programme is carefully curated with a focus on local artists, labels and music platforms — Berlin mainstay Malka Tuti hosts another closing showcase, while online livestream platform HOR returns to broadcast two days from the Castle stage.
It’s this locally-indebted approach that was a catalyst for Eric and Jacob to start Bau Mich Auf in the first place.
“For quite a long time we had the feeling that our Berlin environment has the need for a new festival that offers space to the talented people around us, and also programmatically reflects the fundamental shift we’ve seen in the scene in the past few years,” Eric says.
This idea of rebuilding and regenerating extends to the festival’s location. Through one of their partners at Live From Earth, Jacob and Eric found the perfect venue; one that mirrored their creative, community-led and sustainable ideals.
Schloss Broock castle sits in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. A rehabilitation project, the site is currently undergoing a bold regeneration, not just in its architecture but also its cultural stature.
Stefan Klinkenberg is the architect behind the renovation and development of the castle, which dates back to the 18th century.
“Broock is the ancient place of an old castle, which guarded the ford and later the bridge across the Tollense river. In the second half of the 18th century a rich nobleman owned the castle and used it as a manor house for a large farm. He felt that he needed a larger and more comfortable manor and erected the still existing buildings nearby the already existing stables and barns. It was an unusually large building in baroque style,” he explains.
“In the mid 19th century his descendants wanted it even bigger and in a more striking look to promote the famous Broock horse breed. Baron von Seckendorf commissioned the architect Stüler and the landscape architect Lennè to plan the refurbishment of buildings and park. Both were the head architects of the king of Prussia and still very famous today. The building was redesigned in English Castle Gothic and the area was turned into a landscape park. It remained through the centuries, but was abandoned and left ruined in 1975. Luckily the ruins survived as a whole and are now a historic landmark of national importance.”
This unique location and the opportunity to be part of more than just one evolving cultural project drew Eric and Jacob in.
“When they showed us the location for the first time, we knew that it was the perfect place to build a festival with a quality and long-term focus,” Eric explains. “Founded in the middle of heavy global transformation and accompanying the reconstruction process of Schloss Broock, the name Bau Mich Auf is a slightly ironic reference to the reconstruction process of communal structures.”
The name translates in English to Build Me Up, an ethos that drives everything Eric and Jacob do, as Jacob attests “the whole idea of rebuilding something is very ingrained in our identity.”
This philosophy is the same for Stefan and his wife Monika; since the pair secured the contract at an auction back in 2017, they’ve been finding different ways to forge new connections and build communities, whilst restoring Broock as a cultural landmark.
“We are specialists for development in mixed situations – preservation, cooperative, participation, culture, sustainability and social issues. We follow a holistic approach to integrate all these issues in one project. When we began, nobody assumed that Broock would rise again.”
“The whole idea of rebuilding something is very ingrained in our identity.”
Involving Bau Mich Auf in Broock’s development was a no-brainer for Stefan. The festival’s ethos is very similar to their own. “We were looking for partners who would grow with the project and promise a long and successful cooperation. Bau Mich Auf is very close to the vivid, diverse, developing and integrated cultural concept we follow in Broock and the makers are close to our family. Together we’ve established a sustainable festival culture in Broock.”
Bau Mich Auf isn’t the only event taking place at the site. Alongside inhouse shows and exhibitions, Schloss Broock have partnered with Junge Norddeutsche Philharmonie (Young North German Philharmonic) and classical music festival Festspiele MV which, like BMA, attracts visitors from across Germany and in nearby countries like Poland and Denmark, but as a way to ensure that the focus stays local, Stefan and Monika have created the ‘Schloss Broock Culture Association’ to involve local artists, activists and non profit projects in its cultural redevelopment.
“With the existing partners and new partners we will develop more cultural events for different audiences and sizes. The further we get with building and infrastructure, the more potential we have for cultural activities.”
There’s already a lot happening at Schloss Broock, and as Stefan explains, the more the project progresses the more the interest and activity around the site, and the region as a whole, will increase. It’s already attracted attention since it started, and with the restoration of the nearby railway station, Sternfeld, underway, it’s going to be even easier for people from neighbouring cities to visit.
It’s all about letting things grow organically and with 2022 the first year that the event’s industry has returned to some sense of “normality”, Broock’s reputation is only set to grow. Bau Mich Auf’s inaugural event last year was a more intimate family affair due to Covid restrictions, but this year Eric tells us they’ll ‘dip into a proper rave for the first time’.
“When we began, nobody assumed that Broock would rise again.”
They’ve added another full day of programming and rather than just using the grounds, they’ll be entering the castle’s basement to host a stage.
Developments in Schloss Broock’s regeneration will provide more opportunities in future for new, interesting spaces to use, Stefan explains. “This year Bau Mich Auf can use the historic vaulted cellar for the first time after being ruined for more than 45 years. Next year we can offer more spaces in the building for temporary use. We hope Bau Mich Auf develops into a festival institution and grows with Broock. There is still much to discover and to experiment with.”
This idea of experimentation and discovery translates to the way BMA programmes its line up. They want to “combine the unexpected” as Jacob puts it.
Eric concurs, “our first goal is to create an experience for our audience that is fun and full of surprises with artists from different genres and social contexts. Therefore we pick music that has the artistic ability to reflect the ambiguity of our presence.”
Emphasis is placed on local artists which ensures that Bau Mich Auf are not only adopting a sustainable booking model but are honouring their commitment to supporting the underground music scene within Berlin and the rest of Germany.
Their goal is to build a new community that brings together crews, collectives and artists from different musical realms in Berlin and neighbouring cities, in the hope that it will help foster new connections and collaborations.
“Berlin is one of the epicentres of electronic music,” Eric says. “For every genre you can think of you can find enough fellows to throw a proper party or build a scene. Combining musical spheres that were not in touch with each other before and carving out similarities in their artistic perception is not only fun, it also sets free a lot of energy among all participants.”
Flying the flag for Berlin’s musical underground are artists like Golden Medusa, Stella Zekri, Eva Geist and TV.OUT, while independent radio stations and collectives such as Cashmere Radio and After School Radio will be in attendance. There’s a host of bigger artists on the bill too. The likes of Red Axes, DJ Stingray 313, Kampire and Yung Singh make the trip over to Schloss Broock, alongside a wealth of Berlin-based DJs including Jennifer Cardini, Nene H and DJ Gigola.
The festival isn’t just about the music though, there’s a non-music programme across the weekend helmed by HeartQore, a queer-focused cultural project that connects artists and event organisers within the dance music industry. Just like Bau Mich Auf, their work focuses on reshaping some of the fundamental conventions that many others haven’t yet.
“Our goal is to host workshops, multidisciplinary events, club nights, exhibitions, to develop creative concepts and curate transdisciplinary projects,” Co-founder Ace of Demons says. “One important aspect we focus on is collaboration. We collaborate across the disciplines as well as across the club and art scene with different artists and collectives for specific projects.”
Ace of Demons and fellow project member, Lea Würtenberger, first connected with BMA through Live From Earth. Together they’d been organising a series of workshops for queer people which didn’t receive funding in the end, but off the back of this Live From Earth asked if HeartQore wanted to curate the activities and workshops at Bau Mich Auf this year.
“This first non-music programme is a general introduction to and development hub for what this could mean in practice. We offer site-specific activities and are trying to incorporate the neighbourhood and local organisations – but aim to give space to collectives from Berlin, Hamburg and their surroundings to showcase their work and transfer their spirit as to show not only what can be done but also who does it and where it happens. With all of this we mean to draw audiences to BMA which are also keen on putting into their community, its sustainability and defining its potential.”
There’s a host of different workshops spread across the grounds from stuffed toy making and creative writing to literary readings and LARPs, as well as socio-political groundwork for structural vacancies, a daily programme for people who want to stay sober during the festival and a self-care pop-up, amongst many other activities.
Lea and Ace of Demons hope that attendees will leave these sessions feeling inspired or having learnt something new, or maybe they’ll simply have stepped outside of their comfort zone.
“Even if it’s spontaneous and little, say: identifying with a reading they didn’t expect, experiencing the castle grounds in a different context once on their first LARP, or stepping on our open mic stage when they had never dared to present their singing/writing before. If we can create the playground for some unexpected special moments, this sets in motion a community process independent from us as curators. We’re just catalysing.”
With HeartQore’s help Bau Mich Auf are putting forward their idea of what a festival should look like, one that lets ‘people experiment, wonder and have genuine, exciting and respectful kinds of fun in tact with the natural surroundings.’
Taking into account their surroundings is of utmost importance for BMA. Eric and Jacob are aware of the impact putting on a festival can have on the environment, it’s a privilege to organise and attend events like these so they place emphasis on humans being mindful of the natural environment around them.
Jacob suggests that Covid may have been something of ‘a blessing in disguise’ when it comes to decelerating festival culture as we currently know it. A change has to take place and that change starts with the organisers, which is why sustainability is put front and centre at Bau Mich Auf.
“Every step we do in our lives has an impact on the planet and beings, and often the impact is negative” Eric says. “Festivals are fun and create human connections, but they can quickly turn into a mess. It is therefore natural to us to do our best to keep the ecological impact as low as possible and steadily improve the positive social impact we can create.”
For Jacob, with sustainability already playing a central role in Live From Earth’s work, it was a natural thing to implement greener initiatives.
“This issue has always been part of our identity at Live From Earth,” he says, “but after seeing how much literal energy goes into creating a festival we knew we had to really put our focus on reducing it as much as we can with the little resources we have.”
Bau Mich Auf has put several actions in place already, the biggest being a commitment from 90% of the artists to not travel by plane. They’ve ensured that the grounds of Schloss Broock are easily accessible by public transport and at the festival proper, they’ve implemented a reusable cup scheme, will serve solely vegetarian food and have installed dry toilets. They’ll continue to build on these commitments each year and invite feedback and ideas from attendees on what they should introduce in the future.
Slowly but surely Bau Mich Auf will continue to grow in a sustainable and natural way, listening to the needs of their community and the environment.
Whether its Eric and Jacob’s fresh and mindful approach to programming, the ongoing development of Broock – which in the next five years could grow to include a new venue, a hotel, restaurant and a wellness area – or the conversations and connections stimulated by HeartQore’s work, the festival is already adopting this idea of transformation, and are helping build a culture that could shape how people exist together in the future.
Buy tickets to Bau Mich Auf.