Berlin Community Radio is exactly what it says it is. An online broadcaster with DIY values at its core, the music platform has always focussed on building and supporting the people and the network that has made it an institution. It’s hard to believe then that keeping it going has been a struggle but, like most independently-run initiatives, precarity is the daily reality of staying on air for co-founders Anastazja Moser and Sarah Miles, who — along with permanent staff member Philip Diep and all their contributors — have made it to their fourth birthday together. They’ll be celebrating with the ‘BCR 4 Year Birthday at The Mall‘ event at Berlin’s KW on September 4, in a night of art and wellness themed performances and DJ sets, as well as the launch of their new merchandise line.
Moser and Diep have spent the past weeks feverishly putting together handpicked and customised vintage pieces, embroidering and printing them in Moser’s hometown of Poznań. Between using the facilities of the local squat community and enlisting her mum to help with transport, Polish-born presenter Moser has done what she and her collaborators do best, which is make do with what resources they have in order to produce something truly original and inspiring.
It’s for that reason that Moser took some time out from the production line of drying, ironing and sewing their 100 patches featuring the portraits of Berlin Community Radio contributors to talk what it really means to do-it-yourself and why it’s important for a station like theirs to survive.
**Can you tell me a bit about how you came up with the idea for the clothing range, and what the intention and style is? I’m getting a punk vibe.
AM: I have this strange relationship to punk. In short, I love the aesthetics and I love the mosh pits. Punk was really present in Poland since the 80s; my parents were into it and I went to punk shows as a kid a lot. There is this great squat in my hometown called Rozbrat, which serves as an alternative culture center and when I moved to London at 19 years old, I lived in various squats around Peckham and South London, while trying to hold down a job and understand what people were saying to me (lol).
Last winter, I ran off to Mexico City for a couple months and I found some good mosh pits, as well as the goth/punk fleamarket El Chopo. I went there a few times and bought lots of these really beautiful handmade patches that I sewed into my clothes. They were often printed on secondhand scraps and I got really into putting them onto other vintage items. So when Philip and I started working on ideas for the design of our merch line, we decided we will definitely do patches too since we always joke about being the posers at punk shows.
**Can you tell me something about how these clothes have been produced?
AM: Philip’s background is in fashion and I always had huge interest in clothes and style (more than fashion per se). I used to run BCR Style Charts on our zine, as well as working freelance as a stylist and I have been thrift shopping since I was a teenager, many years before I ever heard term vintage and developed a real skill for finding high quality textiles and designs. For a couple years I supported myself going to Poznań to shop and selling selected finds at vintage and flea markets in Berlin. I also used to work at American Apparel as a student so I know retail.
**In following Berlin Community Radio for the past four years, I’ve seen it’s programming evolve into something quite distinctive, what do you think it is about BCR that makes it so, and how did this happen?
AM: Thank you! We live in an age of scarcity of attention and overproduction of content and, more than ever, we need tools to sift through it. I am happy if BCR, with all our contributors who are putting the time to create original radio shows, has been a valuable platform on the current digital culture landscape.
The station is unique and it reflects the city’s nature. Perhaps it’s a twisted mirror of its poor economy and booming nightlife, which means there are always so many musicians, DJs and artists around. Our programming is also based on the fact that, for the past years, we mostly funded ourselves through public grants, meaning our decisions never had to be based on numbers, sales or commercial accessibility.
**You also have a lot of artists making music, or musicians making art, on the station, which is also unique to BCR. Do you think this is just the nature of Berlin, or is there also something to how the station is run; in being less about the rigid, male-dominated scene of music heads that so often dictate radio programming, for example?
AM: BCR has always been about offering the platform to those who are up-and-coming, and also encouraging collaborations and experimentation. It’s a space and a playground and it offers so much freedom and this also means a lack of excessive quality control — accidents happen, and so do mistakes but I believe this specific mix of circumstances makes it especially fertile ground for art making. Creativity doesn’t grow on trees, it needs these conditions to flourish.
“these high-end economies of film production were (and still are) firmly anchored in systems of national culture, capitalist studio production, the cult of mostly male genius, and the original version, and thus are often conservative in their very structure.”
So, in moving away from that, creating things with a rougher aesthetic connects us with the DIY movements of the 1970s, and there’s a real beauty to that.
**With that in mind, do you have a policy of inclusiveness on the station?
AM: I suppose it’s less a policy and more of a frustration at the current cultural landscape. I always felt like offering visibility was an important issue, which somehow organically lead to developing the [Incubator] project that has that at its heart while incorporating startup aesthetics. In 2016, we wanted to answer some questions: where can we trace the sources and origins of inventive music making? From a perspective of both the contemporary scene and a history of music, following the path of creative approaches and true innovation will most often lead us towards marginalised communities.
BCR trusts and hopes that moving the spotlight towards those artists who come from culturally rich communities, who often lack the visibility and presence in the mainstream electronic music industry, will help to not only diversify the scene but most importantly bring forward some of the most talented artists creating right now. The long term goals are to perpetually challenge the status quo, increase awareness of underlying power structures and the ingrained patterns of resource distribution, and encourage a proactive approach to rebuilding the system at a grassroots level.**