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'Love Parade' returns as 'Rave the Planet'

Torsten Landsberg
July 8, 2022

Almost 20 years after his last Love Parade, German DJ Dr. Motte is back with a new party. With Rave the Planet, the DJ wants to make the culture of clubbing part of UNESCO World Heritage.

Loveparade Geschichte 2006
The Love Parade was a renowned event before the tragedy in Duisburg 2010Image: picture alliance / dpa

History Stories: Love Parade

It was July 1, 1989, some months before the Wall fell, in the western part of divided Berlin.

Many people were understandably surprised upon seeing some 150 scantily dressed people dancing to the beats of the loud music blaring from makeshift loudspeakers atop trucks in Berlin's along dignified Kurfürstendamm boulevard.

Passers-by shrugged off the incident on that rainy day as one of those things "a couple of crazy people" did in the German capital.  

No one could have guessed what this colorful group would set off. Already, their posters declared: "This year and forever."

Masses of people march at the 1999 "Love Parade" in Berlin
Around 1.5 million people took part in the 1999 Love ParadeImage: Wolgang Kumm/picture alliance/dpa

'Don't we want to repeat that?'

The next two years of Love Parade led to techno musicians all over Germany forming a network.

Matthias Roeingh, better known by his stage name "Dr. Motte," DJ and founder of the techno party, describes his parade as nothing less than "the most important event in the reunification process." 

Beyond the organizer's self-aggrandizing assessment, the number of ravers did indeed multiply exponentially: In 1994, more than 100,000 people participated in the event; three years later, the number of visitors hit the million mark.

More than three decades later, Motte wants to revive "the spirit of the Love Parade" with the event entitled "Rave the Planet."

The event was scheduled for 2020, but the pandemic halted all plans. Last March, it was decided that the parade would start this year. "Since then, we've been having 48-hour-days," Dr. Motte told DW.

The first Rave the Planet parade is scheduled to begin on July 9 at 2 p.m. in Berlin.

DJ Dr. Motte
Matthias Roeingh, best known as 'Dr. Motte,' is the founder of Love ParadeImage: Christoph Soeder/picture alliance/dpa

The route has been mapped on the lines of the earlier stretches of the Love Parade, starting at Berlin's Kurfürstendamm, then through Schöneberg and along the Brandenburg Gate, towards the Victory Column and the Great Star square.

Some 150 DJs will participate in 18 parade floats; organizers have estimated the number of participants at 62,000 in their registration of the event as a demonstration.

For basic income and queer rights

Like in its early iterations, the parade won't be just a musical event, but also a political protest.

In the 1990s, registering the event as a demonstration was considered a facade to keep the costs in check.

Today, political issues are not to be taken lightly. The final rally speeches will address topics such as basic income, climate change and queer life.

Obviously, following the pandemic years, the threat to club culture is also a central theme at Rave the Planet. Many clubs are at risk of going out of business. The social benefits of people from different cultures getting together has also been under threat.

That is why Rave the Planet is demanding that techno and club culture be classified as cultural goods that need protection. "Berlin culture has completely fallen apart economically," Dr. Motte says, adding that 80% of employees in the culture sector have moved to other professions due to COVID-19. Politicians, he says, need to answer this question: "What value does culture have in a society?"

Dr. Motte says he felt "personally insulted" by the bureaucratic terminology used for clubs and discos in state guidelines on coronavirus-related restrictions: "Tanzlustbarkeiten," which equates to "dance-based festivities." 

The event organizer pleads for an unconditional basic income for people working in the cultural field and a legal holiday dedicated to the culture of clubbing. 

Love Parade dancers in 1992
The Love Parade ramped up in the early 90s — party-goers have fun here in 1992Image: Ben de Biel

For joy, beauty and love

The event's renewed political interests harks back to its roots.

In 1989, people poked fun at its motto, "Peace, joy, pancakes," which is inspired by the German idiom ("Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen"). 

Organizers said that "peace" stood for disarmament, "joy" for music as a tool for international understanding, and "pancakes" for fair distribution of food — but "at the time, we did not manage to communicate the political aspect," Dr. Motte says.

At Rave the Planet, it's not about being against something, but about finding positive words, "for understanding between peoples; joy, beauty, love and perspective," he adds.

Love Parade became an international event in the late 1990s. Around 1.5 million people, including many from all over the globe, danced here to welcome the 2000s.

By that time, parts of the techno scene in Germany had already turned their backs on Love Parade. They accused the organizers of not being very political, and criticized sponsorship by companies that had nothing to do with the scene and the rising costs of parade floats.

"When something becomes this big, one needs sources of income," says Dr. Motte retrospectively.

Many were not happy with the fact that Love Parade had opened up beyond its original scene. "For them, there were too many people — but you can't control that."

In 2001, the German constitutional court withdrew the event's status as a demonstration, following which the organizers had to take over the costs for removing the trash produced after each event.

In 2003, they organized the last Love Parade.

People march at the Brandenburg gate in 2003
The last 'real' Love Parade ocurred in 2003Image: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

After a break in 2004 and 2005, the parade came back to Berlin for one last time, organized by commercial event organizers. The company Lopavent, run by Rainer Schaller, then officially bought the rights to the event and moved the parade to the Ruhr area in western Germany.

In the following years, the party took place in different cities: in 2007 in Essen and in 2008 in Dortmund. According to media, which quoted internal documents, the actual number of visitors was three times higher than the officially reported by Lopavent.

In 2009, the parade was canceled again before being organized in 2010, when it ended tragically. The parade grounds in Duisburg lacked proper escape routes. Crowd turbulence at a bottleneck of a tunnel caused the death of 21 people. At least 600 more were injured.

Dr. Motte regretted having sold the Love Parade rights, he said at the time.

Back to the community

The DJ isn't fretting about who will be interested in the new edition of Love Parade. "Everyone is welcome, regardless of whether there will be 100 or 100,000 people," he says.

The demand is there: Since 2015, similar events have been organized — Parade of Love and  F**k Parade — the latter by those who once shunned the Love Parade. The parties remained manageable, attracting around a thousand people.  

Rave the Planet could unite all clubbing fans and stand true to its motto, "Together again," which is supposed to express the desire for community and freedom after times of social distancing. It is time "to overcome that which separates us and finally come together," the event's website says.

Overcoming divisions is also a timely theme amid the war in Ukraine. "We come together, dancing," Dr. Motte says. "The majority wants a peaceful future on this planet!" There will be people from Russia and Ukraine in the parade. "To exclude people because they come from a certain country is unbearable for me," he explains.

Rave the Planet wants to counter the hedonistic image of Love Parade with contemporary ideas, like concepts for a climate-friendly event. Even though authorities have classified the event as a demonstration and trash collection will be the responsibility of the city officials, organizers and volunteers will meet the Sunday after the parade at the Brandenburg Gate to clean up the area around Tiergarten park.

"We want to show how we think," Dr. Motte says. "We are not indifferent to the planet."

This article was originally written in German.

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