Copyright Francesco Malavolta

Summer has finally arrived! Let’s connect, meet new neighbors and celebrate the summer in the city at the 2nd BonnLab opening party this Saturday from 2 to 10 p.m. Come and immerse in a Mediterranean atmosphere and enjoy a feeling of being on vacation.

Throughout the day, there will be activities for all ages, food, dance and music. Bonnections will turn the city lab into a makeshift Mediterranean tavern to give you a taste of Southern Europe and the Middle East. We are also planning a travel literature reading, a Dabke dance introduction and a screening of short films. Later there will be live and DJ music. You are welcome to bring your own music or instrument, travel story or poem to share. (See full program below.)

There’s no better way to connect with people and engage in intercultural dialogue than through food. The Mediterranean potluck buffet will open at 4 pm. A potluck is a communal meal where everyone brings a course or dish. The original meaning in English was “food provided for an unexpected guest, the luck of the pot”. Please bring a dish that brings back travel memories or share a family recipe that connects you to a special place and puts a smile on your face.

Starting at 5 pm, we will screen a selection of video shorts produced by Sterka Roj Ava and international artists. Sterka Roj Ava, which means “Star of Kurdish Syria”, is a collective of 20 young amateur filmmakers from Syria, Iraq and Lebanon who live in various refugee camps in Bonn. The group is planning to shoot a feature length film that follows the journey of refugees from war-torn Syria to Germany, partly using video footage from their mobile phones.

Bon­nec­tions was ini­ti­ated by a group of refugees and vol­un­teers who met through the local refugee work in Bonn’s Altstadt. When we embarked this spring on the journey of launching a cross-cultural media project and collaborative 3.0 book club, we didn’t know where this would lead us. The idea was to connect new and old Bonners and the analog and digital world, to embrace our cultural diversity and common humanity and to open our horizons by discovering together good reads from around the world.

As in most creative endeavors, the project developed a life of its own, becoming more than we originally imagined. Our group now meets regularly at the new City Lab in Beuel to brainstorm and develop creative storytelling and other project ideas.

BonnLab is the brain child of Johanna Schäfer, a young city planner and recent college graduate, who believes that cities need a bottom-up approach to sustainable urban development. She opened the lab in early May aiming to raise the quality of life in Bonn by fostering citizen-driven innovation, dialogue and cooperation. It offers grassroots initiatives and volunteer groups, like Bonnections or CodeForBonn, a space to meet, work and network.

Following an interactive and participatory approach, Bonnections is experimenting with multi-media story telling techniques. The multilingual monthly book club meetings at the Central Library are usually topic-based, presenting a variety of writers and literary styles rather than a single book or author. In this crowd-sourcing process we have discovered amazing tales and unknown creative talent.

The topic of the upcoming reading in August is travel writing, starting with Homer’s Odyssey which is considered the world’s oldest travel narrative. Thanks to our international members we’ve learned, for example, about famous 14th century Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta, called the Marco Polo of the Orient, and British travel writer Laurie Lee and his 20th century journey through a Spain on the edge of civil war.

The overall theme of tomorrow’s neigborhood party is thankfulness. There are so many things in life to be grateful for. Many of our new neighbors arrived in Bonn last year as refugees, fleeing from Syria and other danger zones.

They are incredibly thankful to have made it to Germany and for the warm welcome after an exhausting, often harrowing trek across Europe. We are thankful that they are alive and safe. Although Syria’s brutal civil war no longer threatens them directly, most of them still have family and friends there. They worry about them every day,  are exchanging messages on WhatsApp and talk on the phone when they can.

According to the EU agency Frontex, around 880.000 migrants and refugees arrived in Greece in 2015. Among these almost 530.000 reached Lesbos, a small island in the Aegean Sea, after a perilous crossing on rubber or fishing boats from Turkey. They faced long walks on unpaved streets along the Western Balkan route.  It is estimated that around 765.000 people crossed the Balkan last year, mainly by Syrians.

Francesco balkan-02 Route
Photo: Francesco Malavolta

Maria Grazia, who joined the Bonnections group after vis­it­ing the first book club meet­ing in April, is from Sicily. As it turned out, she co-founded a sim­i­lar story telling project, called Collettivo Antigone, with friends in Italy to give a voice to refugees and migrants who landed on Sicily’s shores by boat.

Europe’s refugee crisis is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions, she says. Maria just returned from Italy and will share what she witnessed there with us.

The International Organisation for Migration estimates that 20 people a day are being killed as they try to cross the Mediterranean Sea. So far 2,977 deaths have been recorded this year, compared with 1,906 through 30 July last year.

‪#‎DankBar: BonnLab Summer in the City Fest and Neighborhood Party on July 23

(Zingsheimstr.2, 53225 Bonn)

14h: #‎WünschBar: Bonn becomes shareable, Café Fuchsbau meets ‪#‎BNwirdteilbar 

15h: #‎DenkBar: Prof. Christoph Zacharias talking with us about social responsibility

16h: #‎MachBar: Bonnections shares Mediterranean food and travel tales

17h: ‪#‎SichtBar: Visual story telling of refugee journeys, featuring Sterka Roj Ava and other artists

Living room concerts with three singer-songwriters from Bonn

18h: Tilman Ringer

19h: Ijaz Ali

20h: Luis Schwamm



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