A Summer Festival of Literature
In the summer of 2015, the Wortgarten Festival (i.e. Garden of Words Festival) was held for the first time near Fürstenwerder in the Uckermark region. This summer literature festival of a rather different kind showed alternative ways in which to bring literature to the people.
The Uckermark region, often described as a “sparsely populated area roughly 150 kilometres north-east of Berlin”, suddenly became the focus of literary attention in 2014 when the author Saša Stanišić won the Leipzig Book Fair Prize for his novel Vor dem Fest. Weird and original characters – not only those who lost out as a result of German reunification but also people who have chosen to move to the area – populate the novel. Stanišić’s Fürstenfelde, the setting for Vor dem Fest, is modelled on Fürstenwerder, a village in which he himself lived for a time.
Open airWhen Saša Stanišić invited visitors to take a literary stroll through his former home of Fürstenwerder at the start of the Wortgarten Festival, more than 100 fans of literature were only too happy to accept. Feeding them a lively mixture of facts and fiction, Stanišić took them from place to place, his audience hanging on his every word. This already was an indication that Wortgarten would not simply be the same as any other festival. Its organizers from the Verein Kook in Berlin’s independent scene were lucky enough to find patrons in the form of Detlev Graf von Schwerin and his wife Kerrin who were willing to provide a unique setting for this summer festival of literature and music at Bülowssiege, their estate near Fürstenwerder in the Uckermark region. Following two periods of dictatorship, this estate from the German romantic period – a real insider’s secret – is now in family ownership again. Bülowssiege was named after Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Bülow, a successful general in the “Wars of Liberation“ against France in the years 1813 to 1815.
The festival was even lucky with the weather: while an area less than 100 kilometres away was battered by severe storms, more than 500 visitors thronged to the open-air readings in the park and grounds of the estate. Authors from the local region cheerfully took turns with more cosmopolitan writers, while a special programme for children – where else would one find such a thing? – provided non-stop fun. None of the children left the festival without a copy of Cowboy Klaus in their rucksacks. Karsten Teich and Eva Muszynski, the authors of this series of books for early readers, had done a really great job.