The Rote Flora is a former theater in the neighbourhood Schanzenviertel in Hamburg. It has been squatted in November 1989 in response to the decision to turn it into a musical theatre.
History of the building
The theater was built 1888 and named Tivoli-Theater. Soon, it was renamed to Concerthaus Flora, and eventually became the Flora-Theater where concerts, operetta and revues were performed on stage. Being one of the few theaters which have not been damaged in World War II, the shows went on until 1943. During the last few years of the war, the theater was closed and used for storage, but soon opened after a renovation in 1949. From 1953 to 1964, the building was used as a cinema with around 800 seats; the department store 1000 Töpfe moved in afterwards and remained until 1987.
History of the political project
After the shutdown of the department store, musical producer Friedrich Kurz came forward with plans of turning the empty building into a musical theater. However, residents, shopkeepers and autonomous groups responded negatively and, within months, the protest grew. Nevertheless, the historical building was torn down in April 1988. Still, the protests went on and soon culminated in several violent assaults by militant groups. The need of police protection and the negative response in media eventually urged the investors to forfeit the plan. Until following summer, the ruins and remaining parts were vacant, although several groups, involved in the prior protests, had ambitions of renovating and reusing the house again. In August 1989, the city unexpectedly offered a six-months lease to these groups. After the lease was official, the Rote Flora opened on September 23, 1989. However, the lease was soon declared obsolete and the Rote Flora was declared as squatted on November 1, 1989. Since then, the Rote Flora offers space for cultural and political events. The project is financed privately and administrated independently. Between 1990 and 1991, the project turned the deserted backyard - formerly the construction site - into a park. The city, on the other hand, had plans of building apartments on the same ground, and soon the conflict ended with an eviction order carried out by massive police forces. In August 1992, the Senator for Urban Development urged the organizers of the Rote Flora to sign a valid lease within six weeks. If not, another eviction order would be deployed. The negotiations between officials and representatives of the Rote Flora lasted for months; the eviction was not ordered and the Rote Flora remained squatted. A fire in November 1995 destroyed big part of the building, but was soon renovated and restored. The Rote Flora remained as a cultural and ( left-winged) political meeting point. In autumn 2000, the Senate of Hamburg once more started negotiations about a new lease. After 11 years of occupation, the Rote Flora was a political issue and also made a subject of the elections in 2001. After controversial discussions, the occupiers refused any further negotiations with the Senate. In response, the Senate sold the building in March 2001 to the entrepreneur Klausmartin Kretschmer. In the next weeks, Kretschmer made clear that no changes are going to be made; the Rote Flora would remain autonomous.
The Rote Flora today
The Rote Flora had its 15th anniversary in November 2004. It was used while the Anti-G8 protests in Germany took place in 2007 as a convergence center and for several congresses, political meetings and cultural events.
The Rote Flora organizes flea markets, parties and cultural events regularly and further on serves as a meeting point for left-wing movements. Political issues involved are immigration, nationalism in Germany, privatisation of public space. The Rote Flora is mainly financed through donations and parties; mainstream music is not played, instead, the Rote Flora offers a wide range of alternative music such as punk, reggae, ska, dub, drum 'n' bass and goa. In the last few years, the Rote Flora manifested its importance as an alternative cultural center and is now an essential part of the Schanze-Quarter. The front part of the building still serves as a space for political, often very subjective and propagandistic, messages. Rote Flora organises art exhibitions, working with artist from all over the world and offers a unique and creative environment to work in.