Irish artists in Berlin, a city 'always and never in crisis'

Article published on July 2, 2010
Article published on July 2, 2010
Whilst Irish artists like Paul Diamond and You're Only Massive become better known in Berlin, stages in Irish bars remain empty. With less people investing in upcoming Irish talent, the young generation will continue to migrate to artistic-friendly places like Berlin to follow their musical dream

With an unemployment rate of 13.7%, around 40, 000 people are expected to leave Ireland this year in search of opportunities no longer available on the island. According to the economic and social research institute of Ireland, another 40, 000 will follow in 2011. Germany is one of the top European destinations, its capital hosting around 1, 700 Irish expats, like Paul Diamond. It's a sunny morning at the Hackescher Markt (market) in the centre of Berlin. The area is swarmed with cafés, boutiques and galleries. With his bass guitar slung over his shoulder, Diamond explains why Berlin is the only place to be a musician. 'Its a playground for artists,' says the 27-year-old jazz musician. In January, he booked a 'one-way' ticket from Dublin to Berlin back in January. Although he had no contacts on his phone when he arrived, the young musician is now proud of his little flat in Wedding, western Berlin, and modest life jamming with various musicians from all around the globe. 'Nobody comes to Berlin to hit the jackpot or to make it big,' he adds, but the cost of living here allows Paul to follow his dream.

Believes in making a living in music in Berlin

Berlin: competitive for Irish

alias You're Only MassiveBerlin is not a place to become rich. It is poor. According to the Bertelsmann foundation Berlin is so poor that it has lost the competitive edge that it never had to begin with. One in five Berliners rely on state support just to survive, a statistic that heavily contrasts with the south state of Bavaria where only 5% depend on the state. So has anything changed for the city's residents since the economic turndown?

'Berlin is too poor to be affected by the recession,' laughs Maebh Cheasty, who is posing for photos in and around the You're Only Massive recording studio in the Kreuzberg district. 'Everyone is jobless anyway!' Nevertheless, the 25-year-old musician and actress from the south-east of Ireland feels lucky to be living in the capital of Germany.

'Music is equal to health and education in Berlin'

Accompanied by bandmate Dave Murphy, she left Ireland in the heat of the recession in 2008 leaving 'tales of woe about people losing their jobs' behind. As part of the You're Only Massive electronic duo, they now dedicate their time to recording music and playing gigs around Berlin and greater Germany. 'Music is equal to health and education in Berlin,' they add. They feel that Ireland has turned it's back on the arts with all the cut backs and feel fortunate not to have been effected by the Irish recession. 'Here we don't need to justify our place in society,' says Dave.

Crisis: never and always in Berlin

Focus on entrepeneurship: Songbeat to MMXThe city is full of musician friendly hubs, where artists can hook up to exchange ideas, like at the MMX open art venue on Linienstrasse in the centre. Renovated by 29-year-old German entrepreneur Philip Eggersglüss, today it is a meeting place and free residence for artists. The friendly, approachable Eggersglüss, who also set up the music software development company Songbeat, assures me that Berlin is the coolest, cheapest capital city in Europe at the moment. 'Everyone wants to come to Berlin. Berlin is never in crisis - Berlin is always in crisis,' he says, giving the thumbs up to young entrepreneurship and insisting that recessions are the best time to start companies. 'You just have to be more creative and resourceful when times are hard.'

So Berlin is always and never in crisis. It's diverse but reasonable, the complete opposite to Dublin. Mary Coughlan, the deputy prime minister of Ireland, seems quite unfazed that 60, 000 people left the country last year. 'The type of people who have left, some of them find they just want to enjoy themselves and that's what young people are entitled to do.' The problem is, most of them will enjoy themselves so much, they might just never go home.

Many thanks to Berlin

All images: ©David Tett/; video onlymassiveTV/ Youtube