Schreibwerkstatt “Rewriting the city”

…a Workshop protocol by sara

I am Sara, a Transcultural Studies student at Heidelberg University. I took part in this workshop as part of a postmigration seminar. I was particularly interested in taking part in this workshop, which took place at the Road_to do it yourself together festival in Adenauerplatz on Friday 5th July, due to my interest in gender, migration and placemaking in the city.

Kübra facilitated with huge creativity this encounter of writers, students and curious workshop participants. The aim: to experience the performance of writing about the city not as an isolated practice but as a collaborative one. The exercise consisted in writing individual poems about Heidelberg and collate them to form a multi-voice text. There was ten of us. Some people chose to find their own personal writing spot. We wrote our text and regrouped to choose the two most descriptive parts that would belong to the collective one. 

The result:

My selected parts (in green above) ‘Heidelberg, Heidel-berg, happy-berg’ and ‘A confort zone with lots of confrontation’. 

Collaborating vs working together 

Everyone in the group approached the idea of collaboration differently. Some of us were more vocal than ours about how to go about the exercise. Some people needed their own writing space in the Platz. Some paired up. Some of us stayed at the table and made comments as we got on with the writing. It is interesting to think that collaboration does not necessarily always mean necessarily working together. It can involve working in isolation for a common result and it can also involve co-working. Or writing alone, together. I chose to stay at the table with Kübra.


A conscious decision was made for all of us to write in the language we felt most comfortable. This meant that not everything would make sense for everyone. The languages used were English and German mostly. There was Turkish spoken round the table too but not in writing. On one hand language can act as a barrier of meaning but on the other it adds layers of depth, sound and texture to the text. My text came out in English.


The stories about Heidelberg varied but we managed to find a common thread, a joint narrative perhaps. The editing process at the end was hard to do jointly. We were all trying to make decisions around which part of the text belonged to where but in the end Kübra had to try and make sense out of it for all of us. Emotions and feelings about the city were shared but the intentionality of each text was unique. Mine was a story was a story of arrival, like many of the others.

Some questions that the workshop raised: How to write in a collective voice that captures everyone’s experience of the same city? Do many cities become one or is it all the same Heidelberg? How to capture this polyphony of voices in paper? 


The co-creative outcome text:

Heidelberg… Heidi-berg… Happyberg
Chiffren, tief in diesen Traum gewoben,
wer sehen kann, der bleibt, um sie zu lesen
an jeder Straßenecke mit kindlich großen Augen stehen.
Bin ich jetzt Heidelbergerin?
Der Friede ist vorbei
“Das ist der Fahrradweg!” schreit eine alte Dame und unterbricht den Urlaub
Zuckerbäckerstadt, perfect city – illusion?
bubble, elitist, affected – exclusion?
green, rich, open-minded, diverse – open-minded?
“Das kann doch wohl nicht wahr sein! Das ist mein Weg!”

Green, trees, smart – bubble?
Friends, acquaintances, community – family?
University, study, work – home?
Alternative yet closed
green, but sometimes brown
vibrant, but sometimes violent
schickimicki trifft auf alternativ.
Stürme von Menschen. Autos. Fahrräder.
Doch fragt sich jeder: wie können wir im Fluss sein?
Jeder lebt in einer eigenen Welt, doch scheint so zu sein, dass alle die Welt verbessern wollen
a comfort zone with lots of confrontation
no friends or family
no home or work
you still see the beauty on top of Heidelberg

Nach ein paar Tagen Heidelberg
fühlt sich Mannheim an wie Urlaub
endlich wieder nicht nur Kopftuch sein, endlich wieder zugehörig sein.
Denn Heidelberg, deine Bewohner*innen sind manchmal unerträglich.
Coming to Heidelberg with so many dreams and goals;
some are achieved and some are gone.
Ein Schloss doch viele Luftschlösser.
Ein Tourist sieht mich am Karlsplatz am Germanistischen.
“Hi, can you show me the way to the castle?”
Bin ich jetzt Heidelbergerin?