Carnival of Cultures – who pays for our fun?

I hope you all had a great weekend at the Carnival! Like every Whitsun since 1995, the Carnival of Cultures took place in Kreuzberg from the 25th to the 28th May. I went to the Carnival two days and really had a great time. It was the first time I saw it because I only moved to Berlin last October and I have to say that the amount of stands and cultures represented there was overwhelming! The shows were impressive, the music fun, the food delicious and the drinks potent. Especially the parade was really impressive, because with 97 wagons it was really huge and the people participating had amazing costumes.
The thing that surprised me, is that this huge event has relatively little advertisement. Maybe that is because it is already so integrated and known in Berlin, so that it doesn’t need this anymore. I only found out about the Carnival because Fenja told me about it.
After I saw how huge the Carnival really is, I wondered how the whole event is financed. After all, the city had to block several streets and provide a many policemen to keep everyone under control. Not to think of the cleaning up afterwards.

Who pays?

The first thing that is really special about the financing of the Carnival of Cultures, is that there are almost no sponsors. The hosts of the event don’t want to change the Carnival into an official demonstration, which would allow more and bigger sponsors, because they are afraid that the Carnival would get too commercial. The fear is that big companies or parties would emboss the image of the event and not the faces of the different cultures.

The state Berlin of course supports the Carnival of Cultures, they do that with an amount of 270 000€ to be exact. This money is funded by taxes and is provided by the etat for social issues and integration. This seems to be a lot, but the actual costs for the weekend add up to 750 000 to 800 000€ in total.
So where does this number come from? The responsible Carnival’s bureau doesn’t give out any proved explanation, only a general overview. They allocate the costs like this: Execution: 350 000€; Staff: 210 000€; Documentation and Competition: 30 000; Taxes and Fees: 60 000€; Provision and Public relations 50 000€ each.

Who really pays?

The people really paying for the Carnival are the ones with a stand – up to 140€ per meter is what they have to pay to sell their things. Since the official website of the Carnival of Culture says that most of the Carnival is financed through the selling of beverages, there has to be a certain fee those stands have to pay, or a certain percentage of their income, otherwise this explanation wouldn’t make any sense.
What is not included in the already high amount of 800 000€ is the cost the actors incur. There are so many different participants ( see also what Stefochka wrote on this) that not only work and help out at the Carnival for free, but also spend money on it. The best example for this is the big parade on Sunday, where almost 100 different groups march all the way from Hermanplatz to Yorkstrasse. These groups pay between 3 000 and 9 000€ just to be a part of the parade. They don’t get any funding and only few of them manage to find private sponsors in time. Of course, the Carnival should mostly be about fun than making money, but it can’t be that participants lose money for the amusement of others. This problem already has consequences, sine more and more groups take back their application. The most observable change was that the usual opening actors, the group Afoxé Loni didn’t come this year, because they couldn’t afford it.

That’s why every year, the discussion arises if there is no possible way to support these great actors, because without them, there is no Carnival!


4 responses to “Carnival of Cultures – who pays for our fun?

  1. Interesting topic, Alex!
    As you know, I absolutely love the carnival – however, until recently I never really thought about the costs behind it. Last weekend, I talked to my sister about the parade as she took part in it. The truck of her group was the very last one – because they can’t afford the money it would take to get an earlier spot. This was when I first realized the significance of money behind all the fun.
    I was then very excited to see that you had chosen to write about this exact topic! Your post flows smoothly and is well structured. Plus, you found a nice balance between facts and your personal perceptions. Nice work.

  2. Alexandra,

    I was at the carnival too! But I only saw the fun part, and you managed to see even further into the carnival – the financial aspects. The topic sounds really interesting and I think people would like to find out more about it. It would be great, if there were more links included.

  3. Hey Alex!
    You already told me in class that your post is about Carnival of Cultures and that you tried to look at it from another angle than Stefochka.
    I think you succedded to write a very interesting post! I think it is always a good start to follow the cash flow. And see, you really found an important topic there.
    As we went to the Carnival of Cultures together as visitors we didn’t have to pay anything (excluded drinks and food) for our amusement. I guessed before that the groups had to pay a fee to take part in the parade (just like it is in the Carnival in Cologne). However I never expected it to be such a high amount! That’s just incredible.
    Obviously I will have another view on the prices of products I buy next time I visit the Carnival of Cultures. I definitely will be proud on supporting the people to realize the Carnival of Culture.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hey Alex,
    Thank´s a lot for this wonderful post! It was especially interesting and refreshing for me as I couln´t be there on that weekend but really would have loved to get some spirit of these “carnival-flair”. What I even liked more, that you focused on the financing of this huge event. As I never thought about it but it is indeed a really interesting aspect. I was really surprised that the event doesn´t have any sponsors and I just love the idea that they don´t want the carnival to become commercial. – Thank´s for this information!
    It is really nice that you give a short introduction about the main important facts of the carnival in the beginning, so everybody knows what you are talking about.
    Attached to that all the costs you name in your post show that you did a great work of researching.

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