Berlin’s oldest squatters takea stand for their social club

Updated 04 August 2012

Berlin’s oldest squatters takea stand for their social club

SOME of Berlin’s most senior squatters are nearly a century old, but age is not stopping the scrappy bunch from fighting impending eviction from their cherished social club.
The cash-strapped authorities in the former communist eastern district of Pankow have said they need to cut around five million euros ($6 million) from their budget and plan to close public facilities to do so.
Among the sites hit is a villa on Stille Strasse, the home of despised Stasi secret police chief Erich Mielke in the 1950s and now a beloved gathering place for some 300 pensioners to play chess, learn English, dance and socialize.
The stately old place is surrounded by mature trees and, most recently, draped with banners reading “Hands off!” and “This house is occupied”.
“We always told them we were prepared to occupy the building for the cause. The politicians didn’t believe us,” club president Doris Syrbe, 72, told AFP.
The Pankow administrators say it would cost 2.5 million euros to renovate the site, which has been used as a clubhouse for nearly 15 years. Maintenance costs reach 60,000 euros annually.
The district now aims to sell it out from under the grey-haired patrons on Berlin’s buoyant real estate market. But the senior citizens say they will not take the city’s announcement lying down and since early July have hung out the banners and taken turns occupying the gracious old mansion all day and night to ensure no one locks them out.
“The house was to be closed for the summer and we were afraid of not being able to return after the holidays,” Syrbe said. Although Pankow has offered alternative meeting places, the pensioners are having none of it, saying the other options fail to offer the facilities needed for them to continue their fitness classes, for example, or to accommodate all the current members. “We were ready to move but somewhere in the neighborhood, and everybody together,” Syrbe said.
“We refuse to be split apart,” added the retired telecommunications engineer. They have also taken their campaign online to the social mobilization site Change.org and collected more than 4,900 signatures.
The seniors aim to hand a petition with 10,000 names to officials in the district administration at a council meeting later this month.
A 29-year-old representative from US-based Change.org said she wants to get the elderly activists to deploy Twitter as well and was checking to see if their mobile phones were equipped to use the microblogging site.
Officials have meanwhile cut off service to the landline telephone at the centre.
“You can’t make a claim to a telephone paid for by the district in an illegally squatted house,” town councilor Lioba Zuern-Kasztantowicz told local media, citing the acute need for budget cuts to justify clearing the space.
House-squatting has a long tradition in Berlin. During the Cold War, young activists in the West of the city demonstrated their disgust about property speculation by taking over buildings.
When the Berlin Wall fell, the practice spread into the eastern districts.
The average age of the rebels on Stille Strasse is about 70, however, with some well into their 90s. They say they are entitled to a peaceful, publicly financed place to paint, play cards and sing in a choir.
“We’re not ready for hospice care,” said a defiant Syrbe.
The group has taken inspiration from the international Occupy movements, and maintains a well-oiled media operation, neat camping beds in the rooms of the house and impeccable cleanliness.
The neighbours have been largely supportive, coming by with an encouraging word or a freshly baked cake to keep up morale. Many of the seniors say they have been touched by such signs of solidarity, particularly from young people.
Sven Schwabe, 26, who studies social movements at the University of Duesseldorf in western Germany, raced across the country when he heard about the Pankow project.

 


UAE brand’s fresh approach to skincare looking good for future

Having lived in Dubai for more than seven years, Kathryn Jones learned a lot about the Middle Eastern market and the needs of people who live within the region. (Shutterstock)
Updated 25 May 2020

UAE brand’s fresh approach to skincare looking good for future

DUBAI: Skincare products can quite often sit on shelfs or in delivery vehicles for weeks and months, stored in unsuitable conditions.

And despite brands promoting them as organic and natural, some customers might question the effectiveness of products left lying around for long periods after being produced.

However, Kathryn Jones, founder of the UAE-based brand Kathryn Jones Hand Blended Serums, or KJ Serums for short, told Arab News how her company created fresh products every month for customers.

Jones, who is originally from Wales, in the UK, launched KJ Serums in 2017 and started her brand “out of necessity.” (Supplied)

“The concept of a freshly-made skincare serum is something quite different and our customers have really embraced it. They appreciate it’s a fresh product that must be used up within a month when it’s at its most active and effective and repurchased – almost like a food stuff,” she said.

Jones, who is originally from Wales, in the UK, launched KJ Serums in 2017 and started her brand “out of necessity.”

She added: “I simply could not afford the prices of some of the top skincare brands but still wanted excellent results.”

With her background in the biopharmaceuticals industry, she started experimenting and developing her own formulas. “The core proposition is ‘hand blended’ because that’s how it all started, by hand blending and perfecting the serum formulas myself here in the UAE,” she said.

Having lived in Dubai for more than seven years, the entrepreneur learned a lot about the Middle Eastern market and the needs of people who live within the region.

“Our climate here is extreme often for eight months or more of the year, especially in the Gulf region. A lot our customers will ask for a product that reduces oiliness and sheen on the skin and are reluctant to purchase products that contain a lot of oils, or are very heavily moisturizing,” Jones added.

The businesswoman believes the Middle East market is “wonderfully diverse” with different attitudes and expectations toward skincare products.

“Of course, this is a challenge to develop effective products which can address many different skin types and issues, but the market is truly receptive to new concepts,” she said.

Jones pointed out that with the current lockdown situation due to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), people had more time to care for their skin.

“The coronavirus pandemic has obviously confined us to our homes, and, given the steady increase in the number of enquiries we are receiving, it suggests consumers currently have more time to consider their online skincare purchases and perhaps have more time to invest in an effective routine,” she said.

On whether the COVID-19 outbreak would change the future of the skincare industry, Jones added: “I think that many consumers, either through necessity or out of a desire to support local brands might have chosen to source their products from different manufacturers and therefore brand loyalties may have been affected to a certain extent.”