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Small Talk - Great Impact

Edited on

09 February 2021
Read time: 5 minutes

The founding of the Climate Café was born from the restrictions created by the COVID pandemic, we too - like so many others - were affected and had to rethink how to proceed. Especially since we were just about to start our practical rollout after our structuring and the founding of the KLIMARTIST*EN.

After a relatively long phase of setting up and self-discovery, Spring was now to serve as a time to develop our vision and our methodology. After all, it was time to translate theory into practical experience and to make the concept that had been tried and tested in Manchester tangible - visible for the cultural and creative industries, but also for the general public. For this we had successful exchanges at the turn of the year and with Urbane Künste Ruhr and the Regionalverband Ruhr (RVR) two renowned regional institutions at our side. Well, all that was of no use, because all the measures were not allowed to take place and were cancelled.

The uncertainty of planning and the restrictions on getting together (limits on the number of people who can meet and distance rules) also made it impossible to place the carbon literacy training or other interactive formats. After all, it has to be admitted, we had little experience ourselves with the practical application of our learning from Manchester, so digital formats were also questionable for us at this point.

So what should we do? It was necessary to maintain the flow we had gained as a creative alliance and to give the approach as well as the topic a further public presence. To do this, we had to be on the road with publicity ourselves. Against this background, the idea of the climate café developed. A format that embeds itself in the living environment of the public is an effective way of carefully and purposefully taking up space for its message. A kind of small talk format should offer us exactly this platform. And so the climate café took shape under the tag #smalltalk...

When it comes to the challenges, there are exactly three subject areas that can be identified: (1) capacity, (2) location and (3) characteristics.


The climate café must be realisable with as little effort as possible. Anyone who believes that the standstill of a pandemic opens up resources is mistaken. Crisis situations like this must also be managed. In this respect, there are relocated work areas and new tasks; not only within the department; people also have to be outsourced to other work areas (e.g. to the health department).

The climate café was thus a central task area of the project management or the ULG coodinator. As far as questions arose that concerned higher-level questions/tasks (e.g. of the communication), corresponding partners of the municipal representation were present to provide support.


If we want to be seen, we need a place of everyday life in which we can embed ourselves. At best, a space with a network character and an accessibility that is mentally and locally open. These conditions were decisive for the choice of the "Trinkhalle am Flötz", a mixture of pub and bistro. This facility is located in the creative quarter of Ückenorf, a suburb that in turn stands for its creative environment. It is located on the main axis of Bochumer Straße, which runs through the middle of the suburb, and is a contact point for creative people, neighbours and representatives of nearby institutions, as well as for contacts in the local poilitic scene. It is also an authentic place, as the operators focus on sustainability and thus also give expression to our zones.


The basic idea was to create an open platform for meeting and exchange. “Open platform” means there is no prescribed topic. Presence is the be-all and end-all and is an invitation to enter into conversation. This continuous presence links the faces of the project representatives with the climate message within the prevailing structure of the facility. Spontaneous guests can join without barriers. In this respect, invitations to #smalltalk were distributed - supplemented by regular Facebook posts. The choice of date (every Thursday from 5 p.m.) in the style of a regular after-work event was a guarantee for a casual atmosphere, a general number of visitors and excluded limitations of office hours.

Naturally, we also considered the focal points of the content. However, we coordinated these internally and directly with potential interested parties (including ULG participants).

It was amazing how positively the Climate Café developed. From the very first day, the regular guests of the location reacted with enquiries. In addition, individual visitors have repeatedly visited the Trinkhalle am Flötz to get information.

The artists and initiatives that are active in the area or are already members of the KLIMARTISTEN also took the opportunity to exchange information (status and work talks). In this respect, we were on the same level as Christoph Lammert (ULG member, climate artist, study visit participant in Manchester, and initiator of the first PAP building block, the Szeniale), who realised another project with a sustainability claim (visits on foot or by bike) with the temporary outdoor gallery and art action 'ansehBar'. We also spoke with Alexandra Jaig from the drinking water initiative a ti:tap. After we had given her the opportunity to present the project at the last ULG, contact was made with the Musiktheater im Revier. The theatre is now in the process of switching its staff supply to tap water. Contrary to planning, the VR Places Festival event was not held in May 2020, but in August 2020, mainly digitally with satelites in the district. The original plans of an interactive format could not be realised from our side. Nonetheless, sustainability was taken into account and the connection to the climate artists was also fixed online:

The redaction of the city magazine isso. also became aware of us. The responsible editor and the layouter not only wrote a two-page article about our work, but also became KLIMARTISTEN themselves. The public presentation prompted the Rotarian Club to approach the CEO of the Musiktheater im Revier, Tobias Werner, with a request for a lecture on sustainability. (Tobias is not only a ULG member and a KLIMARTIST of the first hour, but was also one of the fellow travellers to Manchester).

Networking and thematic offers made directly to potential interested parties meant that we were able to enter into conversation with new addressees. Example: Our cooperation with the Energie.Agentur NRW and their new offer of a consulting service especially for museums opened the door to the RuhrKunstMuseen association. (To explain the genesis: I called the deputy director of the Gelsenkirchen Art Museum and introduced her to us and the Energie.Agentur. One phone call turned into several conversations. And so it came about that the Climate Café on 10.09.2020 was not held in the evening as usual in the Trinkhalle am Flötz, but in the morning in the building of the Gelsenkirchen Art Museum with a double presentation to representatives of eight museums):

In the end, the involvement of the location and the operator led us to the second (still pending) PAP. The combination of climate and culture ( also cultural space) was the basis for the art project Make a change in December 2020:

What started as a stopgap was ultimately a successful model. We were able to establish a space for dialogue and exchange in which we reach people and everyday worlds that cannot be activated by a conventional invitation to ULG meetings. We were also lucky enough to find a location that has a certain laboratory quality and where ideas are also generated. This format therefore has further potential for expansion, also against the backdrop of the replacement of workshops.

Certainly, large formats (and also festivals) are important in order to present challenges. Therefore, specialist forums such as the ULG continue to be a good space for an exchange of experts. However, small, embedded formats such as the Climate Café are also a means of supporting and promoting adaptation on a broad scale.

With the onset of the second wave of the COVID pandemic, cultural institutions and gastronomies had to close their doors again. Therefore, the Klimacafé is not able to practice at the moment. Since all other measures that resulted from the C-Change project framework and are in the city's interest cannot be implemented either, the resumption of the climate café would be a first and simple step towards getting back into the public eye.

Stefanie Rogg, C-Change Project Manager, Gelsenkirchen