Durham University at Regenbogenfabrik

Dear Friends at the Regenbogenfabrik

I write this message to you in a reflective mood: 50% sad at the state of the world at the moment, whilst being 50% positive for the better times which will surely come in the near future. I write with sadness as usually at this point in the year I am busy with my colleagues planning our annual trip to Berlin, your wonderful city that I have been privileged to get to know over the past 15 years. It has been difficult for all of us not to be able to travel or easily socialise for the past 12 months.

Around 12 months ago to the day, I recall writing to Christine with the disappointing news that we would not be able to travel to Berlin. Christine also reminds me that March 2020 would have been the tenth visit of Durham Geographers to the Regenbogenfabrik. Our history is a long one – I recall having a coffee with Uli Best in Berlin sometime in 2009 and asking him for a recommendation for a comfortable, peaceful and informal space to host student presentations at the end of their fieldtrip. I explained to Uli that students traditionally worry about these presentations – they are official exams for their final degree result and they need to feel safe and relaxed in order to give a good performance. Uli was unequivocal – we should approach the Regenbogenfabrik.  What a brilliant suggestion this was!  One of the most pleasing sights of every trip to Berlin is seeing the faces of our students when they arrive at the Regenbogenfabrik.  They usually walk to the Kino from across the river in Friedrichshain, full of fear about their presentation / examination.  As soon as they arrive in the Innenhof the worry and anxiety starts to abate.  Once they see the comfortable and informal Kino area, and a smiling Christine at the top of the stairs, we staff know the students will relax and perform to the very best of their abilities.  Our students tell us how much they value their visit to the Regenbogenfabrik.

Durham Geography’s friendship with the Regenbogenfabrik has been based on mutual trust and excellent cooperation.  But the one thing that really sealed our deal was the excellence of the cakes.  In the early years, my colleagues Colin, Jen, Lynn and Joe would look forward to our afternoon with you – purely for the catching up we would do with Christine, the comfortable sofas, the warmth of the welcome and the fantastic cakes.  I fondly recall sending an email to Christine around three years ago asking for a special cake – we had a student who could not eat gluten, eggs, lactose and had a very serious nut allergy.  The reply from Christine was very soothing: “wow – what a challenge – but we’ll manage it”.  And so you did – and everyone commented on how delicious the cakes were.  I can also reflect on some of the differences between “us British” and “you Berliners” – perhaps the best one being the strange looks our students sometimes get when they make tea in your cinema “British style”: black tea, and with lots of milk.  Something I can’t get through the day without  J

But I digress into small details.  It seems strange that I have not visited Berlin for so long, so I very much hope that I can return with a group of students in March 2022.  It seems that the Berlin module and fieldtrip are popular – instead of the usual 25 students we may have 45 next year.  Perhaps the reputation of the Regenbogenfabrik cakes has spread throughout the Durham students……?  I hope you have sufficient seats in the Kino!

This just leaves me to wish the Regenbogenfabrik a very happy birthday and I hope you have an enjoyable and safe celebration.  I can’t wait to visit you again and I make the promise to Christine that I bring more than one bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for us to enjoy together.

With heartfelt best wishes from all of us in Durham