Moving to Leipzig is not always easy. You have to climb over language barriers, learn new habits. You must re-set your body clock (get up early, lunch at noon, NEVER be late). So the idea of a German-language magazine written by newcomers for all Leipzigers – new and old – sounds like a huge challenge.
Neu in Leipzig (New in Leipzig) is the brainchild of Stephanie von Aretin – a well-known travel writer specialising in Ethiopia.
She is born in Germany with an American passport, and has lived in Leipzig for more than 20 years. Yet she still counts herself sometimes a newcomer, with a migration background from Albania.
“We held a survey to find out what makes people feel they belong here, and we got all sorts of answers. The two I like best are both from native citizens. They agree that ‘anyone who chooses to come and stay here is a Leipziger right from the start,’” says von Aretin.
With support from the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, the new magazine (whose digital version is in the works) has started a publicity and fund-raising campaign. It takes to the stage on 4 December, in the Gallery at the Telegraph café-bar.
Introducing the new project, moderator Frank Berger will host a question and answer (Q&A) session. Frank invented the Lachmesse, the annual European comedy festival in Leipzig, and the Kunstkonzil exhibitions of new artists.
Local actors Nicola Chapman and Peter Seaton-Clark of the Offstimme agency will raise a few chuckles with readings from How to be German in 50 easy steps, the bestselling paperback in German and English by Adam Fletcher.
And the finale comes from author Ibrahim Amir, a refugee from Iraq. His play Homohalal is a satire with bite: It will pep up the evening like a dollop of harissa sauce.
The play is set in a near future when newcomers and locals are all so thoroughly well integrated that Barbara, a German woman (Stephanie von Aretin), can become an “Imamin” and officiate at a Muslim funeral! Meanwhile Ghazala, a Syrian woman who arrived in 2015, can reminisce and laugh at the horrible things that made her cry back in the day.
The latter character is played by Ola al Jari, Neu in Leipzig team member and presenter of Falafels and Krauts, an inter-cultural radio show in German, Arabic and English (every Saturday at 16:00 on Radio Blau). As a Syrian journalist active in the local cultural scene, and a refugee herself, she can offer a nuanced perspective on being a newcomer in Leipzig.
After the fun, there is a chance to find out more about Neu in Leipzig, and to get involved.
The magazine itself is not all fun and games. It will tackle head-on the many obstacles to integration, by teaming up newcomers who have experience as writers, photographers, journalists or documentary film-makers, with native German tandem partners. So the local audience will get new information first-hand.
For example, the war in Syria, the Turkish state of emergency, fake news from Russia, and the German military presence in Afghanistan all look different through the eyes, language and media contacts of journalists from those regions. Not only new people, but also new ideas and opinions are promised.
There will be eye-openers too, for people who have lived in Leipzig all their lives.
For example, what happens to the carefully-sorted, different types of rubbish we throw away? How are crime statistics compiled? And is it true, what they say about German mothers-in-law? Actually, that one brings back a little light-hearted laughter, but all in the best possible taste…
The comedy benefit night for Neu in Leipzig is on Tuesday, 4 December, 19:00-20:30, in the Gallery at the Telegraph, Dittrichring 18-20, 04109 Leipzig. It’s a free event, with the chance to make voluntary donations of money, time or skills to the Neu in Leipzig startup fund. Publishers C.H.Beck and PER H. Lauke are generously supporting the event.
By Jane Whyatt
Jane Whyatt is a British journalist who co-founded the News on Sunday newspaper, as well as the award-winning, independent production house Palace Radio Productions Ltd, and Angel Media Productions CIC, a social enterprise for discovering and developing diverse talent in media and music. Jane works part-time in the editorial department at the Leipzig-based European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.