Love Parade.

What started off as a birthday party/150 men demonstration for peace, happiness and equal food distribution for all in 1989 in Berlin, tragically ended two decades later with the death of 21 people, due to major security and logistical issues, at one of the worlds biggest street festivals that drew 1.5 million visitors in 19991 and 1.6 million visitors almost a decade later in 20082.

The ‘Love Parade’ took place as a demonstration for something positive rather than against something negative, under a yearly changing apolitical motto to celebrate the good¹. It rapidly grew since its first demonstration in 1989, which first led to problems with the senate of Berlin in 1994 as it believed the demonstration does merely follow political motivation any more, and mainly focuses on the entertainment of its attendees¹. After its first peek event in 1999 with over 1.5 million attendees, the organisers experienced financial issues due to a decrease in numbers, and ultimately caused the organisers to cancel the demonstration for two years in a row in 2004 and 2005¹.

The difficulties with the Berlin senate and the vast change in attendance numbers led to a relocation of the demonstration to a bigger space in Berlin City, and a few years later to different cities in Central-/Western-Germany. The first step towards commodification was made when the commercial company Love Parade GmbH was founded in 1996¹. After its two year break, the Love Parade officially returned as a street festival¹. The commodification of the demonstration/festival caused an increase in attendance which mounted in the most successful event for the Love Parade in 2008 with over 1.6 million attendees². The tragic events of the last Love Parade in summer 2010 brought an end to an era and leaves me questioning if the commodification3 of the event might have been the trigger?


1MAYER, F., 2002. Origins, commodification, and significance of Berlin’s Love Parade [online]. [viewed 28 October 2016]. Available from: http://www.grin.com/en/e-book/9037/origins-commodification-and-significance-of-berlin-s-love-parade

2SPIEGEL ONLINE, 2008. Techno Festival Breaks Record With 1.6 Million [online]. [viewed 28 October 2016]. Available from: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/love-parade-dortmund-techno-festival-breaks-record-with-1-6-million-a-567018.html

3BRIA BASS., 2015. Commodification of Culture [online platform YouTube]. [viewed 06 November 2016]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7pVLjDQLbc

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1. Differentiation through Unification.

To gain a better understanding why the Love Parade was such a success in the 1990s, we have to look back at Germany in 1989/1990. The Berlin Wall cut off West Berlin from not only its other half of the city, but also the rest of Germany from 1961 until November 1989, when the wall finally fell1. The first small techno demonstration, that later turned into the Love Parade, took place only a few months prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall2. In 1990 Germany officially reunited on October 3rd¹. In the same year the Love Parade was themed The Future Is Ours‘ and drew approximately 2000 demonstrators from all over the country²,3.

Guy Debords ‘The Society of the Spectacle’4, which consists of 221 theses criticising our society, links to the idea of the Love Parade. To understand how this can be linked to an event in today’s society, we need to acknowledge what a spectacle5 is. As explained in the video, a spectacle can be understood as something that does not reflect the reality. So, how does this link to an event that was so real?

Debord claims that the spectacle “..appears at once as society itself, as a part of society and as a means of unification.” (§3)4 but “..the unity it imposes is merely the official language of generalized separation.” (§3)4. The Love Parade became a success because people unified to celebrate the reunion of Germany and their shared love for techno music, and thereby separated themselves from others. Debord continues to say that “separation is the alpha and omega of the spectacle” (§25)4 and that it “..is self-generated, and it makes up its own rules” (§25)4. The Love Parade was free of charge and took place in a public environment, accessible to everyone, for the first decade, due to its status of being a demonstration6. It went by its own rules, celebrated taboos and otherness², and through that created a unique festival for everyone that wanted to separate themselves from the masses. Pine and Gilmore7 identified the need for differentiation as part of today’s experience economy. It therefore might well be that the Love Parade fed the people exactly what they needed. Even though, or maybe because, Germany was reunited, the peoples’ need to be different and celebrate otherness grew and showed that Debord was right when saying “..division is presented as unity, and unity as division.” (§54)4.


1A&E TELEVISION NETWORKS, 2016. East and West Germany Reunite after 45 Years [online]. [viewed 28 October 2016]. Available from: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/east-and-west-germany-reunite-after-45-years

2MAYER, F., 2002.  Origins, commodification, and significance of Berlin’s Love Parade [online]. [viewed 28 October 2016]. Available from: http://www.grin.com/en/e-book/9037/origins-commodification-and-significance-of-berlin-s-love-parade

3BERLIN GUIDE, 2016. Love Parade [online]. [viewed 4 November 2016]. Available from: http://berlin.barwick.de/freetime-leisure/events/love-parade.html

4DEBORD, G., 1994. The Society of the Spectacle [online]. New York: Zone Books. Translation published by Donald Nicholson-Smith. [viewed 27 September 2016]. Available from: http://antiworld.se/project/references/texts/The_Society%20_Of%20_The%20_Spectacle.pdf

5ELLIS SOCIOLOGY, 2015. The Society of The Spectacle Chapter 1 Summary [online platform YouTube]. [viewed 6 November 2016]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDayTaQQvJc

6MCKAY, G., 2015. The Pop Festival: History, Music, Media, Culture [online]. USA: Bloomsbury Publishing. [viewed 04 November 2016]. Available from: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=iUfCBwAAQBAJ&dq=motto+of+love+parades&source=gbs_navlinks_s

7PINE, B. J., GILMORE, J. H., 1998. Welcome to the Experience Economy. Harvard Business Review [online]. [viewed 28 October 2016]. Available from: http://rushkolnik.ru/tw_files/4995/d-4994348/7z-docs/4.pdf

2. Breaking the norm.

When I think of the Love Parade, I envision pictures of half naked people, wearing fluffy leg warmers and platform shoes, crazy coloured hair and hairstyles, and loud music coming from trucks that are surrounded by dancing people blowing their whistles. But I also see a wide variety of different ethnicities, gender and sexual preferences. Leopold and Andrews1 explain that we use our body without thinking. They continue to say that we use our bodies to express ourselves or who we would like to be. For example, when people wear costumes they tend to portray someone they can not be in their everyday life¹.

Debord2 has also found that a big part of the spectacle is appearance (§10) and can be identified as one of the main attributes of the Love Parade. The attendees of the Love Parade, as described above, were usually merely dressed, to express, what I believe, was their true self. Their half naked bodies were a symbol¹ for the celebration of the body and free love for everyone, which was reflected in the Parades motto year after year. According to Leopold and Andrews¹ the attributes of gender are a social construct that result in the stereotyping of gender, which is a common part of events. However, the Love Parade broke out of this norm and celebrated the need to express taboos such as otherness, fetishes, transgender and homosexuality3, to unite as one. I believe that it became a symbol of the Parade to express your identity through your clothing and openly celebrate taboos.

Debord ² emphasised that dreaming is a necessity if the society continues to see the fulfilment of their needs as necessary (§21), but simultaneously warns that the further one drifts into a fantasy world, the more they will drift away from reality (§33, 36). This Disneyfication4 reflects in the motto’s of the Parade, which spread positivity and were in line with Debord stating that “everything that appears is good; whatever is good will appear.” (§12)².

The creation of a fantasy world, where people could show their true identity, was brought to live with the Love Parade. As explained by Pine and Gilmore5 the experience economy seeks to construct and reconstruct ones identity through leisure. The Love Parade’s identity was clearly free-spirited and this reflected in its attendees. This ideal picture of freedom and pleasure combined, goes hand in hand with Adorno6 believing that “..individuality serves to reinforce ideology” (p. 14). Here you can find a video7 that gives an insight into Adornos theories on the society.

The created Ideology of a festival celebrating mental and physical freedom in a time of big changes raises the question: why did it have to die, to be reborn as just another commodity? Debord² observed the phenomenon of a shift in social life from being into having (§17) driven by capitalism. So the question is, did the organisers of the Love Parade lose the focus, which was to protest for freedom and love for all, and instead shifted towards a street festival merely representing its original, true identity?


1LEOPOLD, T., ANDREWS, H., 2013. Events and the Social Sciences [online]. [viewed 20 October 2016]. Available from: http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/qmu/detail.action?docID=1125159

2DEBORD, G., 1994. The Society of the Spectacle [online]. New York: Zone Books. Translation published by Donald Nicholson-Smith. [viewed 27 September 2016]. Available from: http://antiworld.se/project/references/texts/The_Society%20_Of%20_The%20_Spectacle.pdf

3BERLINLOVEPARADE.COM, 2014. About the Love Parade [online]. [viewed 28 October 2016]. Available from: http://www.berlinloveparade.com

4BRYMAN, A., 2004. The Disneyization of Society. Sociological Review [online]. Vol. 47, Article 44, pp. 380-387. [viewed 4 October 2016]. Available from: http://fasnafan.tripod.com/disneyization.pdf

5PINE, B. J., GILMORE, J. H., 1998. Welcome to the Experience Economy. Harvard Business Review [online]. [viewed 28 October 2016]. Available from: http://rushkolnik.ru/tw_files/4995/d-4994348/7z-docs/4.pdf

6ADORNO, T. W., 1975. Culture Industry Reconsidered. New German Critique [online]. No. 6, pp. 12-19. [viewed 04 November 2016]. Available from: http://orgnets.cn/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/21-adorno-culture-industry.pdf

7THE SCHOOL OF LIFE, 2015. SOCIOLOGY – Theodor Adorno [online platform YouTube]. [viewed 6 November 2016]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YGnPgtWhsw

3. Commodification.

Themed experiences that exclude negativity are more memorable1, but does that make them authentic? The Cambridge Dictionary2 defines something as being authentic whenit is real, true, or what people say it is”.

What I associate with it, is that someone is being authentic, when they are true to themselves. However, the Love Parade was reborn as a commodity in 2006, as a street party, and in my opinion thereby lost its roots and meaning. Debord3 states that “..the spectacle is both the outcome and the goal of the dominant mode of production. […] It is the omnipresent celebration of a choice already made in the sphere of production..” (§6), which reflects the shift of the Love Parade from being a protest to a world wide anticipated street festival.

In ‘The McDonaldization of Society’, Ritzer4 talks about a homogenised society. The Love Parade experienced homogenisation through its world wide duplication. Ritzer4 developed four themes of the homogenisation: efficiency, predictability, calculability and control. These four themes have one purpose: to make money, which often leads to sacrificing quality over profit4. I believe that his themes of homogenisation can be applied to the Love Parade’s shift into a commodity. The reborn version of the Love Parade focused on efficiency, which in my eyes ultimately caused a loss of the events meaning. Predictability causes homogenisation4 which was achieved through the world wide adoption of the Love Parades idea, and the expansion of the Love Parade within Germany itself. Calculability causes the sacrifice of quality over quantity for profit4, and the Love Parade has sacrificed quality over quantity, which I believe may have been the cause for the tragic events in 2010. This leads me to the last theme of control over uncertainties4, which can be applied to the risk management of events. Risk management can be defined as “the process of identifying, evaluating, selecting, and implementing actions to reduce risk to human health and to ecosystems” (p.18)5. It appears to me that the organisers of the Love Parade have not thoroughly evaluated the risks of the last Love Parade in 2010, which for the first time ever was staged at an enclosed area, and thereby sacrificed quality over quantity. What exactly happened in 2010 is explained in this video6.

Debord3 believed that “..the commodity contemplates itself in a world of its own making..” (§53) which is the society of the spectacle. Considering his thesis and all other theories applied, made me wonder if the commercialisation of the Love Parade may have triggered the 2010 disaster and if it may have been avoided, not only through adequate risk assessment, but also by letting the protest be a protest, and nothing more.


1PINE, B. J., GILMORE, J. H., 1998. Welcome to the Experience Economy. Harvard Business Review [online]. [viewed 28 October 2016]. Available from: http://rushkolnik.ru/tw_files/4995/d-4994348/7z-docs/4.pdf

2CAMBRIDGE DICTIONARY, 2016. Authentic [online]. [viewed 06 November 2016]. Available from: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/authentic

3DEBORD, G., 1994. The Society of the Spectacle [online]. New York: Zone Books. Translation published by Donald Nicholson-Smith. [viewed 27 September 2016]. Available from: http://antiworld.se/project/references/texts/The_Society%20_Of%20_The%20_Spectacle.pdf

4RITZER, G., 1983. The McDonaldization of Society. Journal of American Culture [online]. Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 371-379. [viewed 4 October 2016]. Available from: http://fasnafan.tripod.com/mcdonaldization.pdf

5EARL, C., 2006. Public Health Management at Outdoor Music Festivals [online]. [viewed 4 November 2016]. Available from: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/16235/1/Cameron_Earl_Thesis.pdf

6LOVEPARADEDUISBURG, 2010. Official Documentary of the Loveparade 2010 Desaster (ENGLISH!) [online platform YouTube]. [viewed 6 November 2016]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y73-7lFBNE

4. The Techno Viking Phenomenon and what it means for us in the future.

The Techno Viking is an internet phenomenon that has started off as the first ever meme1.

Initially, the artist Matthias Fritsch, has filmed the Techno Viking dancing to techno music at the anti-Love Parade street festival called Fuckparade, which was and still is a protest against the commercialisation of the Love Parade2, in 2000. In 2006 the artist proceeded to upload the video to the online platform YouTube titled ‘Kneecam No. 1’, and soon the Techno Viking was born¹.

Why am I mentioning the Techno Viking3, you ask? Well, obviously he is an internet sensation and needs to be seen by everyone who loves some good dance moves. But, after a long fight about rights with the Techno Viking himself, the artist released a documentation about the phenomenon that the Techno Viking is. The full documentary and more about the background story of the Techno Viking can be found here4.

The Techno Viking stands for the power of social media in today’s society. He can be seen as a metaphor. Mass media, as Debord5 has predicted, rules our everyday life and how we participate in it. This is why I believe that it is practically impossible to hold an event that is unique to everyone in the modern society. A truly unique event would call for media attention, and through the power of social media it would spread across the world like a forest fire and thereby become a spectacle. Maybe this is the reason for the vast amount of mainstream events and festivals, that are homogenised to their cores.

Can I make any strategic implications for events in the contemporary environment? To be honest, no I can not. It is becoming more and more difficult to keep up with the increasing demands of event attendees, that are striving for unique event ideas that fulfil their needs, which ultimately leads to the decision of whether or not to attend an event. Social media platforms allow us to indirectly participate in events, through liking and sharing, or watching recaps online. Today’s society is so distracted by the technology that surrounds us, that it may as well be, that no one actually wants to attend real, unique events any more.

As Bauman6 described in Liquid Life: alienation is a social construct that causes people to feel like they do not have a role and therefore simply float with the stream of the society. I believe that the majority of people simply float with the stream of society and what is currently “trending”. Unfortunately, for event managers and people that actually do love to attend any sorts of events, this means that it will get more difficult to create a truly unique event that does not get dragged into the spiral of social media and commercialisation.


1TECHNOLLAMA, 2015. The Curious case of Technoviking [online]. [viewed 7 November 2016]. Available from: http://www.technollama.co.uk/the-curious-case-of-technoviking

2BERLININFO, 2011. Berlin Events. Fuck Parade [online]. [viewed 4 November 2016]. Available from: http://berlinfo.com/Freetime/Music-Clubs/events/index.htm

3IVAR ALENDAL, 2010. The original technoviking video [online platform YouTube]. [viewed 6 November 2016]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjCdB5p2v0Y

4RIOTTA, C., 2015. Who is the Techno Viking? New Documentary reveals story behind viral video, memes. Arts.mic [online]. [viewed 6 November 2016]. Available from: https://mic.com/articles/127123/who-is-the-techno-viking-new-documentary-reveals-story-behind-viral-german-video-memes#.f53T3kRe5

5DEBORD, G., 1994. The Society of the Spectacle [online]. New York: Zone Books. Translation published by Donald Nicholson-Smith. [viewed 27 September 2016]. Available from: http://antiworld.se/project/references/texts/The_Society%20_Of%20_The%20_Spectacle.pdf

6BAUMAN, Z., 2005. Liquid Life. Cambridge: Polity Press