A cycle tour on the Elbe island of Wilhelmsburg

On the trail of art with Marco Antonio Reyes-Loredo

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He lives in a former paint factory, rose to fame with a TV show in his kitchen, and once a month runs Hamburg's most creative flea market on the Elbe island of Wilhelmsburg. Our author Lena Frommeyer cycled around the south with artist, culture fan and film producer Marco Antonio Reyes-Loredo and his delivery bike.


Lena Frommeyer

Lena Frommeyer is a journalist by trade. She searches for topics in the niches of society and surveys the cultural landscape.

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Photos: Claudius Schulze

Marco Antonio Reyes-Loredo had been living in Hamburg for two years before he made his first trip to the south bank of the Elbe. A steel designer friend had invited him to his studio on Wilhelmsburg, the friend promised to pick him up on the other side of the river. The then 25-year-old got on his orange wheelie bike and rode through the old Elbe Tunnel by the Landungsbrücken, the near-exclusive reserve of pedestrians and cyclists for some years now.

Marco wended his way for a few minutes through the narrow tube of the tunnel, past cool tiles and mystical fish reliefs. “Then on through the evening sun, past picturesque docks, absolute visual overkill,” he says today. He ultimately found himself on the designer's 250-square-metre roof terrace at the heart of a factory site – the Television Tower to the left, the fire-belching chimney-stack of a refinery to the right. “I sipped at my organic Bionade, it was absolutely the hottest shit back then, looked around and thought: well, well, I've no idea what the rest of this Wilhelmsburg place is like, but this is really cool”.

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There is enough space in Wilhelmsburg to live out your creativity.

The next escalation level

It was another two years before Marco himself moved to the Elbe island, he's lived there for ten years now, in one of the most multi-cultural districts of Hamburg, for years also considered the most criminal. He's sitting there today with a trendy drink, second time around: “Coffee and tonic, the next escalation level for people who don't get a kick-start from coffee any more,” says Marco. He's settled down comfortably in front of the “Kaffeeklappe” bistro and ordered an omelette with organic bread. Children are playing with chalk in the street close by. A mother is breast-feeding her baby in the sun.

Marco and some friends opened the bistro in Fährstraße in 2015. Just one of many Wilhelmsburg projects that he's had a hand in. He's halted the demolition of an old factory, was nominated for the prestigious Grimme Award for a TV show in his kitchen and organised a pop-up festival to fill a gap in the district. Wilhelmsburg was long considered a backwater, but people have been sensing a change these past few years. Students and middle-class families are moving to the Elbe island. A lot of Hamburg people are taking to their bikes to explore the south – and see what people like Marco are getting up to down here.

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Marco at "Kaffeeklappe". The idea behind the café is based on the old harbour canteens.

“In St. Pauli I felt as if everywhere was full up”

Marco's CV sounds as adventurous as a film by Hamburg director Fatih-Akin. His father's from Bolivia, his mother from Poland. He grew up in the city of Weimar in the days of the GDR – East Germany. At the age of 18 he opened a fitness centre there, but then followed love to Hamburg. He took casual work as a web designer here, later becoming an assistant at the Schmidt Theater in St. Pauli, Hamburg's entertainment mile. His flatmate at the time worked as an interior designer for a number of arts centres and just took him along. “The toilet at our place was full of photos showing him with his arms around Lionel Richie or Paul McCartney. So I knew the guy had an interesting job”.

Marco lived in St. Pauli, studied cultural anthropology and met people who told him stories from the legendary '70s and '80s – back when anything still went in that district, you could just do stuff. More and more often, Marco himself started to feel stifled. “In St. Pauli I felt as if everywhere was full up. At some stage I realised I didn't just want to hear stories all the time, I wanted to have some of my own to tell one day”.

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Another stop for Marco and author Lena: the intercultural garden.

The famous Indie band Tocotronic had just left. “And in the '80s, Die Sterne front man Frank Spilker was spinning his hot discs from London in a dive on the Wilhelmsburg waterfront,” says Marco – Spilker is another Hamburg music legend and Wilhelmsburg pioneer. The area nevertheless still offered the space that Marco was missing. Together with his girlfriend, he renovated the first storey of a former paint factory in the north of the island and made his home there – on the borders between residential and industrial areas and the port.

"I thought: well, well, I've no idea what the rest of this Wilhelmsburg place is like, but this is really cool”.

Marco about his first excursion to the Elbe island.

Art, stage diving and shared meals

He often cooked for friends in his huge kitchen. At some stage Hamburg singer Nils Koppbruch – now deceased – suggested: “This is the perfect place for a TV show”. Marco, who didn't even possess a TV set, was reluctant – but in the end he did clear the flat several times a year to entertain with the “Konspirativen Küchenkonzerte”, a popular culture forum with live music, art, stage diving and conversation over shared meals. Those who couldn't squeeze into the kitchen watched the show on the Internet or regional TV.

In 2010, the format was the first independent production ever to be nominated for the well-known nation-wide Grimme Award. When national TV channel ZDF came on board, Marco and the team from his production company “Hirn und Wanst” needed more space. He cycled around Wilhelmsburg and discovered the Zinnwerke, a former pewter factory on the Veringskanal. Gradually, he rented more and more rooms in the empty factory complex. Artist friends moved in – and joined him to oppose its planned demolition.

The Zinnwerke

Having a look around with Marco

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  • Marco in one of the halls at Zinnwerke.

  • Marco at his workplace.

  • Marco shows Lena the rooftop terrace of Zinnwerke.

  • The flea market at Zinnwerke always takes place on the first Sunday of the month.

Today, the Zinnwerke is a place with raised flower beds in the car park and a wealth of shared offices, where the fridges are full of lemonade. This is where Marco and his team work on their productions. The documentary “Die Wilde 13” – that's what Wilhelmsburg residents call their bus line, nothing would happen here without it – was even adapted as a play and performed at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg.

Marco walks through the Zinnwerke's big hall, which is standing empty. It's not yet known what will happen to the building. Nevertheless, Marco holds a flea market for culture vultures here on the first Sunday of every month which attracts thousands of visitors. FlohZinn is a highlight for many people in the district: there's live music, local residents sell Ethiopian or Polish food, a bee-keeper sells his honey, new initiatives from the district introduce themselves.

In summer, the party scene invades the Elbe island

“The aim is to make the Zinnwerke the Culture Canal's display window,” says Marco. He's talking about the goal of giving a home to more arts and cultural ideas along the Veringkanal. Although official authorisation hasn't yet been granted, a lot of creatives are already putting this concept into practice. Marco rides along the green bank on his delivery bike, past band rehearsal rooms and studios, the Turtur night club and the Archipel, a floating platform for concerts and workshops. He passes the intercultural garden and arrives at the Alte Schleuse, where the annual Dockville Festival attracts the Hamburg party scene to the island every summer.

More will soon be happening in the Zinnwerke as well. An artists' collective is busy designing a walk-in installation from old scaffoldings that will adapt to different uses. “The elements can be used as a pop-up shop, stage or seating for markets and theatre or concert evenings, for example,” says Marco. A month-long programme is planned, with a bike festival as the finale Very fitting, as Marco agrees – because the best way to explore the island today is still by bike.

The Schau.Spiel.Platz project will launch on 1 September 2017. The Zinnwerke's grounds will come alive for a whole month: On 2 September, for example, there's “Kanal und Liebe” – the summer festival in and around the Wilhelmsburg pewter factory and on the Culture Canal; “ZINNEMA”, the first open air cinema with an anti-rain guarantee, takes place from 9 to 18 September; on 1 October a big bike festival will draw the crowds.

You can find more info on the Zinnwerke here


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