Germany is a land of music. In the homeland of Mendelssohn and Bach most villages will have a choir and quite probably a brass band, orchestras have state support and enthusiastic audiences, and there is a vibrant home grown pop and alternative music scene, as well as the ever present popular English language songs that are listened to, and sung along with, often without any real understanding of the words.
Techno music (loud and fast dance music, using electronic sound and a quick heavy beat) is part of the music world, and until Saturday 24th July 2010 a huge open air music festival, the Love Parade, which had its beginnings as a small group demonstrating for peace over twenty years ago in Berlin, had evolved into the biggest festival celebrating this type of music in Germany.
Described as the world's biggest techno party, the yearly festival had become a magnet for famous DJ's, and audiences who came in their thousands from all over the world.
Idealism was the motivation for the parade when it began, with its first motto being 'Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen', or Peace, Joy, Pancakes, symbolising Disarmament, Music and enough Food for all
It was a late afternoon and the Love Parade was taking place in the industrial Ruhr area town of Duisburg when 21 young people died, and over 500 of the estimated more than one million who were taking part were injured after a mass panic had broken out, following attempts by many thousands over the authorised maximum of 250,000 to enter the concert site. Both the entrance and exit leading to and from the venue were through the same 360 foot long tunnel, which ultimately became a trap.
For months the verdict was out on why the chaos started, with questions asked but not answered and many theories discussed. One is that the entrance to the show arena, a disused former railway goods yard, had been closed because the audience capacity had already been exceeded. This meant that the people who had turned back to leave the narrow tunnel became wedged together with those still coming towards them, leading to many being crushed underfoot and against the wall.
Another that party goers, trying to bypass the crowds and find a way into the grounds, forced their way through a barrier near the tunnel, falling off a steep staircase onto the people below triggering further fear and panic.
Captured on mobile phones were distressing scenes of thousands of people desperately trying to escape the turmoil.
To prevent a further stampede it was decided that the music should continue, so it seems that the majority of the audience had no idea what had happened, and what was still happening, as the emergency services battled to rescue those trapped and injured.
However whatever the explanation for this tragedy was, and no one definite cause has been singled out, the German media's response was instantaneous and ferocious, filled with censure and criticism not of the festival goers but of the entire organisation behind the event.
It is possible that in the months before the Love Parade took place warnings, regarding the wisdom of holding the event in the town because of various factors including its size, had been given from numerous official and unofficial sources, however they were not acted upon by either the organisers or by the city officials responsible for giving approval to the rail yard venue.
The Love Parade founder, a DJ named Dr Motte, who resigned from the organisation in 2006 because he believed his original concept had become lost to commercialism, accused the organisers of having been concerned only with making as much money as possible, while taking no responsibility for those actually attending the festival.
Dr Motte had held the first Love Parade, which was free for everyone, in the divided city of Berlin shortly before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, as a small peaceful demonstration for international understanding through love and music.
Soon afterwards East Germans broke through the wall, the East West divide was no more, but the Love Parade continued, remaining true to its image as a problem free festival whose message was world harmony and peace. It achieved cult status and the concept spread with festivals held in cities all over the world, including the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Israel, South Africa, and Holland and in 2010 had been held as part of the European Capital of Culture Ruhr 2010 celebrations.
In Germany at least the last ever Love Parade has been held, as 2010's organiser and major sponsor, Rainer Schaller, said the event would never be held again out of respect for the victims.
'The Love Parade was always a peaceful event and a happy party,' he said but it would now always be overshadowed by the tragedy of that July day in Duisburg.
The Love Parade in Berlin 2002 and the Love Parade Official Logo illustrations, both by Wikipedia Utilisateur Holycharly
And you can follow me on Facebook