New Statesman: announcing our new bloggers

Glosswitch, Martin Robbins, Bim Adewunmi, Ryan Gilbey and Kate Mossman join the "blogging powerhouse".

Five new bloggers today join the New Statesman team, writing about parenting, pop culture, film, music and science. Meet the newest additions to our "blogging powerhouse" (seriously, that's what we called it last time we had newbies). 

Glosswitch

A mother of two, and writer of the Glosswatch blog, she describes herself as a "humourless feminist in mummy blogger clothing". In her previous posts for the NS, she has dared to defend "yummy mummies" and told off Benedict Cumberbatch. She tweets @glosswitch

Go to her blog

Martin Robbins

Author of the Guardian website's Lay Scientist blog, Martin will be writing for the NS about skepticism (and scepticism), the media and sexuality. His posts might sometimes be NSFW, but will always be both entertaining and factual. He tweets @mjrobbins

Go to his blog

Bim Adewunmi

Bim blogs at Yoruba Girl Dancing and The Flick, and she will be writing a weekly column on pop culture and telly. She tweets @bimadew

Go to her blog 

Ryan Gilbey

The New Statesman magazine's film critic now has his own dedicated blog on the site (he's a StumbleUpon crowd favourite). Ryan blogs about films with authority, puns and love. 

Go to his blog

Kate Mossman

The New Statesman magazine's pop critic will be writing an extra weekly piece for the website on "pop" music (whatever that means these days). She recently wrote about the 30th anniversary of Michael Jackson's Thriller, which you can read here.

Go to her blog

Our five new writers join our existing blogging team:

David Allen Green on law Go to his blog

Laurie Penny on politics, pop culture and feminism Go to her blog

Mehdi Hasan on world affairs Go to his blog

The Vagenda on magazines and media Go to their blog

Nicky Woolf from America Go to his blog

Helen Lewis on games, satire and anything else, really Go to her blog

Nelson Jones on belief and religion Go to his blog

Steven Baxter on the media Go to his blog

Rowenna Davis on politics outside Westminster Go to her blog

Gavin Kelly on economics and evidence Go to his blog

Martha Gill on psychology and neuroscience Go to her blog

John Stoehr on US politics Go to his blog

Alex Hern on the internet (it's a series of tubes, apparently) Go to his blog

Michael Brooks on science and discovery Go to his blog

Samira Shackle from Pakistan Go to her blog

Alan White on social affairs and society Go to his blog

Juliet Jacques on culture and counter-culture Go to her blog

Alex Andreou on finance and Europe Go to his blog

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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It's easy to see where Berlin is being rebuilt – just hit the streets

My week, from walking the streets of Berlin to class snobbery and the right kind of gentrification.

Brick by brick, block by block, the people are rebuilding the city once called Faust’s Metropolis. To see it clearly, put your boots on. One of the most bracing walks starts by the Gethsemane Church, which served as a haven for dissenters in the last days of the GDR and takes you down ­towards the Hackescher Markt.

Here, in what is still the eastern half of a divided city that wears its division more lightly, is a Berlin experience both old and new. In three decades of frequent visits, it has been fascinating to note how much this part of town has changed. Even a decade ago these streets were rundown. With crumbling buildings showing bulletholes, it wasn’t hard to imagine what the place looked like in 1945. Now there are lilacs, blues, and yellows. Cafés, bars and restaurants abound, serving the young professionals attracted to the city by cheap rents and a renewed sense of community.

 

Breaking the fourth wall

Looking north along Schliemannstraße, you’ll find a delightful vista of well-tended balconies. It’s a pleasant place to live, notwithstanding the gaggle of grotesques who gather round the corner in the square. On Kastanienallee, which forms the second leg of the walk, an old city feels young. It’s a kind of gentrification but the right kind. There’s more to eat, to drink, to buy, for all.

Berlin, where Bertolt Brecht staged his unwatchable plays, was supposed to have been transformed by a proletarian revolution. Instead, it has been restored to health by a very middle-class one. Germany has always had a well-educated middle class, and the nation’s restoration would have impossible without such people. The irony is delicious – not that irony buttered many parsnips for “dirty Bertie”.

 

The new snobbery

The British Museum’s survey of German history “Memories of a Nation” is being presented at the Martin-Gropius-Bau as “The British View”. Germans, natürlich, are curious to see how we observe them. But how do they see us?

A German friend recently in England  said that the images that struck him most forcibly were the tins of food and cheap booze people piled up in supermarkets, and the number of teenage girls pushing prams. Perhaps Neil MacGregor, the former director of the British Museum who will shortly take up a similar role here at the new Humboldt Forum, may turn his attention to a “German View” of the United Kingdom.

There’s no shortage of material. In Schlawinchen, a bar that typifies Kreuzberg’s hobohemia, a college-educated English girl was trying to explain northern England to an American she had just met. Speaking in an ugly modern Mancunian voice that can only be acquired through years of practice (sugar pronounced as “sug-oar”), she refer­red to Durham and York as “middle class, you know, posh”, because those cities had magnificent cathedrals.

When it comes to inverted snobbery, no nation can match us. To be middle class in Germany is an indication of civic value. In modern England, it can mark you as a leper.

 

Culture vultures

The Humboldt Forum, taking shape by the banks of the Spree, reconsecrates the former site of the GDR’s Palace of the Republic. When it opens in 2018 it will be a “living exhibition”, dedicated to all the cultures of the world. Alexander von Humboldt, the naturalist and explorer, was the brother of Wilhelm, the diplomat and philosopher, whose name lives on in the nearby university.

In Potsdamerplatz there are plans to build a modern art museum, crammed in between the Neue Nationalgalerie and the Philharmonie, home to the Berlin Philharmonic. Meanwhile, the overhaul of the Deutsche Staatsoper, where Daniel Barenboim is music director for life, is likely to be completed, fingers crossed, next autumn.

Culture everywhere! Or perhaps that should be Kultur, which has a slightly different meaning in Germany. They take these things more seriously, and there is no hint of bogus populism. In London, plans for a new concert hall have been shelved. Sir Peter Hall’s words remain true: “England is a philistine country that loves the arts.”

 

European neighbours

When Germans speak of freedom, wrote A J P Taylor, a historian who seems to have fallen from favour, they mean the freedom to be German. No longer. When modern Germans speak of freedom, they observe it through the filter of the European Union.

But nation states are shaped by different forces. “We are educated to be obedient,” a Berlin friend who spent a year at an English school once told me. “You are educated to be independent.” To turn around Taylor’s dictum: when the English speak of freedom,
they mean the freedom to be English.

No matter what you may have heard, the Germans have always admired our independence of spirit. We shall, however, always see “Europe” in different ways. Europe, good: we can all agree on that. The European Union, not so good. It doesn’t mean we have to fall out, and the Germans are good friends to have.

 

Hook, line and sinker

There are fine walks to be had in the west, too. In Charlottenburg, the Kensington of Berlin, the mood is gentler, yet you can still feel the city humming. Here, there are some classic places to eat and drink – the Literaturhauscafé for breakfast and, for dinner, Marjellchen, a treasure trove of east Prussian forest delights. Anything that can be shot and put in a pot!

For a real Berlin experience, though, head at nightfall for Zwiebelfisch, the great tavern on Savignyplatz, and watch the trains glide by on the other side of Kantstraße. Hartmut Volmerhaus, a most amusing host, has been the guvnor here for more than 30 years and there are no signs that his race is run. The “Fisch” at twilight: there’s nowhere better to feel the pulse of this remarkable city. 

This article first appeared in the 01 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Age of outrage