The first of May is a day synonymous with rioting, violence, police baracades, water canons, broken bottles, subways packed full of drunkards, stone throwing, oh the list could go on. But it is also a day full of fun, street concerts, street food, dancing, drinking in parks, meeting friends and peaceful protests.

The first of May also known as International worker's day, observes both the labour movement and the beginning of spring. For years this day was used as a day for protests and riots. In 2003 the city of Berlin established the 'Mai fest' to deflect the attention from the violence of the previous years and create a new celebratory aspect of the holiday. Though sadly, many groups still use this day as an opportunity for political demonstrations or mindless drunken violence, the worst of which took place in 2005.

May first is a public holiday in Germany and other European nations. The brunt of the festivities takes place every year in Kruezberg around Marianenplatz, Görlitzer bahnhof and the neighbourhoods in between.

This year was a little on the cool side and the streets appeared to be far more packed than they had been last year. Walking from stage to stage through the crowded streets was a slow shuffle.

The roads are closed for the day and and scattered with stages. Various musical genres are represented and there's an online programme available so you can head straight to the gigs that you want to see. But of course getting there will mean navigating your way through the sea of people.

Otherwise just meandering through the crowds, sampling the food and drinks, meeting friends and stumbling across a charasmatic band like the one shown in the photo was how we spent most of the day.

Walking the streets on this day is the best way to experience Mai fest. It feels like walking around a massive Big day out, but it's free. There is the smell of barbequed meat in the air and smoke rises from the food vendors along every street. Cocktails are sold in disposable cups and beer is everywhere.

Towards the end of the day we met up with a few friends at this church where a group of activists had convened before their next march. The unfortunate architecture of the facade of the church made it the target for male urination stations. There wasn't a moment where one of these alcoves wasn't 'occupied'.

Posted in: JournalEvents