Attractions and public entertainments in the Ruhr area at the turn of the century – A salon conversation with historical images
BETTY SCHIEL IN CONVERSATION WITH LISA KOSOK
The industrialisation of the Ruhr area was specific. It not only formed a process of urbanisation, characterised today by the term »territory of large villages« and which saw, in the area surrounding large-scale industrial
plants, the development of particular forms of housing arrangements, lifestyles and neighbourhood relations, with the pub occupying a prominent position in this constellation. But the city centres also had their own unique characteristics. As a rule, entertainment districts or streets were built close to railway stations, which met the leisure-time requirements of a young, mobile, mostly male population. They were places of observation, control, commerce, censorship, but also social contact zones, performative places of expenditure and excessive celebration as well as of direct relief from the burdens of harsh everyday reality.
Variety performances, circus shows, vending machine restaurants, cinemas and amusement parks offered insights into exotic and unfamiliar worlds: decorations, model worlds, dolls and masquerades everywhere. For special occasions, such as the Kaiser’s visit for the inauguration of Dortmund harbour, entire building façades were lavishly decorated with scenery. This illustrated conversation reflects upon the extent to which the amusement facilities represented an area of experimentation for urban lifestyles and also offered women a certain freedom. Käthchen Paulus’ daring flight show with a bicycle balloon, a ladies’ musical ensemble or Fritzi Massary’s vocal performance as a little charcoal girl recorded as a sound image are examples of the spectacular performances of the time. Historical billboards, postcards, photos and advertisements as well as two short films from the pioneering days of cinema provide amusing visual material.
Who were the protagonists on the entertainment scene? What roles did women play? Who and what was subject to regulation and monitoring? What was the idea behind the masquerade? Was there any emancipative potential? Betty Schiel and Lisa Kosok try to explore possibilities and boundaries in the field of pleasure.
Lisa Kosok is a historian and a scientific museum director. After studying and performing research at Ruhr University Bochum, she moved to the Ruhr Museum Essen as a curator. She has lived in Hamburg since 1993, and has held directorships at the Museum of Work, Hamburg Museum and the European Hansemuseum in Lübeck. In 2016 Kosok became professor for cultural heritage and museology at the HafenCity University Hamburg. She is currently developing a teaching and research collection and is leading an EU research project on entertainment districts in European port cities.