June 23, 2011

DENMARK: Christiania free at last

COPENHAGEN / Presseurop / Society / June 22, 2011

Only Alice

On 21 June, Freetown Christiania and the Danish government concluded an agreement that will enable inhabitants of Europe’s most famous alternative neighbourhood to buy most of the land on which they live from the state.

After eight years of difficult negotiations, the liberal-conservative administration and the residents of the “freetown” have finally agreed on procedures for the purchase of the disused Copenhagen naval base, which has been squatted since the 1970s.

As the Danish press explains, the Christianites have created a foundation that will buy the land in their name.

A perfect solution, according to Politiken, which amounts to "pure Buddhism: a synthesis of peace, harmony and emancipation." The deal marks "the capitulation of conservative Denmark," adds the social-liberal daily, which pays homage to the “pragmatism" of the Minister for Finance, liberal Claus Hjort Frederiksen, who put an end to an eight-year ideological battle. Continue reading the Presseurop report...

Ravi Chawla of Seniors World Chronicle comments:
If you were witness to the emergence and heydays of the hippie movement in the Sixties and early Seventies, and per chance, lived through the flower people days worldwide - from Kathmandu to Copenhagen - you would have followed the trends of the last five decades.   


BACKGROUND: On March 7, 2011, Jacek Pawlicki reported in the Warsaw newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza about Freetown Christiania’s flower children:

"Founded in 1971 by a group of hippies who squatted a deserted naval base in Copenhagen, Christiania is a global phenomenon. For experts, it is a legend of alternative culture, Europe’s most famous and sole functioning hippie enclave. After the Little Mermaid and the Tivoli amusement park, it is also the Danish capital’s third most popular tourist attraction. A million visitors come every year to wander among the psychedelic mural-adorned barracks and buy illegal cannabis in Pusher Street.


Christiania, a self-proclaimed free town, has its own anthem (I kan ikke slå os ihjel, meaning “You cannot kill us,” a protest song by the rock group Bifrost), its flag of freedom (three yellow spheres against red background), its own currency, and its own set of rules and customs. There is a ban on car traffic (residents park their cars outside), running (if you run, you’re taken for a thief), photography, and bulletproof vests.

Recently, after forty years of existence and twenty-two of legally sanctioned independence, Christiania has lost its free-town status. On 18 February, the Danish Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the enclave’s residents against a 2009 court ruling that re-established state control over the 35-hectare former naval base. Thus a long legal battle over a status secured by hippies and squatters in 1989 has come to an end."
(Presseurop)

Tanja Dückers reported in Die Zeit of Hamburg, Germany (July 16, 2010), on
Society/Cities "Artists – the vanguard of gentrification"


Dans le Schanzenviertel, l'un des quartiers "bobos" de Hambourg, avril 2010.
Retinafunk
The flower folks of Freetown Chrisiania did not give up.

Writes Tanja Dückers in Die Zeit:
"For decades now, the subculture has been moving into unsightly, dilapidated sections of many big cities, breathing new life into neighbourhoods. Artists and other creative professionals often form the vanguard of urban renewal. Ever on the lookout for cheap housing, studios and offices, they seize on rentals in areas that others are eager to flee as soon as they can.


For a long time it looked as though a close nexus had been forged between the sociocritical left-wing zeitgeist and the flowering of contemporary art. In cities like Frankfurt, Hamburg or Berlin, artists and otherwise creatively-involved occupants would defend their turf – often with plenty of wit and conviction – against frustrated town planners and unscrupulous developers. Many a neighbourhood in those cities has now become quite livable – thanks mostly to them. Since German reunification, however, the traditional politico-ideologically motivated squatter has, in many cases, been supplanted by artists and creative professionals of a personally ambitious caste.

Then the same metamorphosis almost invariably ensues – in Berlin, Hamburg or Cologne as in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Barcelona, London, Warsaw or Prague: once artists and creators rent digs in a given neighbourhood, trendy cafés and restaurants follow in their wake. Before you know it, young men with five-day beards and young post-neo-something-or-other girlies in cool second-hand vintage clothes fiddle about on their laptops, planning new "projects". The neighbourhood they have occupied is suddenly deemed “interesting”, small unconventional shops sprout up, then galleries and architects’ offices bring up the rear. Presently, the rents start rising..."

Presseurop has these words of sagesse (June 22, 2011):
"The Freetown Christianites should set aside the obsessive protection of their privacy so that tourists can take pictures freely — in accordance with the law — and without being attacked."


"The times they are achanging," concludes Ravi Chawla.
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