Christmastime – the best time of the year

Advent season has only just started and it’s magic! In these days Birmingham’s German Christmas market is a nice place to be and the city looks marvellous with its Christmas decorations. The light’s brightness is everywhere and just standing there and taking at look at it is worth going there. It delights me to have the pleasure of visiting a Christmas market in Birmingham because this is a German tradition and I badly would have missed going there. In fact, for me there is no difference betweeen a Christmas market in Germany and the German Christmas market in Birmingham. People meet friends and family to spend a nice time together and to put themselves in the right mood for Christmas. They eat delicious food, drink hot mulled wine, listen to Christmas songs and maybe buy nice things on the market. So, the Christmas market makes me feel like home and going on the Christmas market should be a very important item on everybody’s Christmas to-do list. :)

Besides visiting the Christmas market, we use the Advent season to prepare ourselves for Christmas. This includes that we decorate our homes and make an Advent wreath. Every Sunday we light a candle and enjoy spending time with the family. In my family we bake various Christmas biscuits and drink hot chocolate with cream while listening to Christmas songs and having a great time together. I love to think of Christmas presents for my beloved and to see their bright faces on Christmas Eve. :) But before this great event on Christmas Eve can start, my mother and I spend the entire day with preparing and cooking food. When nearly everything is done we change clothes, go to church to put ourselves into the thoughful mood of Christmas Eve and spend the night within the close family circle.

I hope you enjoy the Advent season as much as I do and maybe we run into each other on Birmingham’s great German Christmas market! :) See you there!


Kraftwerk Symposium @ Electri_City Conference, Düsseldorf

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The three-day conference organised by Rudi Esch following on from “Electri_City”, his best-selling oral history of the electronic music scene of Düsseldorf, was a resounding success, attracting several hundred visitors. The first day was devoted to a symposium on Kraftwerk that was organised by our music expert Uwe Schütte.


Featuring speakers from both Britain and Germany, it explored various aspects of the seminal band’s  history and music. The audience included scholars from Germany, the English-speaking world and beyond, as well as enthusiasts of electronic music. This included Claudia Schneider-Esleben, the sister of Kraftwerk core member Florian Schneider, and Ralf Dörper, keyboard player and founding member of Die Krupps & Propaganda, as well as several people who had also attended the conference at Aston Earlier this year.


Following the academic part, the was a Q & A session with Peter Hook, formerly of Manchester bands Joy Division and New Order. Hook talked about the great influence of German electronic music and Kraftwerk in particular during his formative years as a musician. During the evening, there was a concert by Heaven 17 and a DJ set from Mute label founder Daniel Miller.








The second day was devoted to Düsseldorf bands other than Kraftwerk and again featured papers in both German and English. Again, academics who had already presented papers at Aston, such as Stephen Mallinder (formerly of Sheffield industrial pioneers Cabaret Voltaire, now a lecturer at Brighton University) and David Stubbs, made an appearance. Highlight of the day were the evening concerts by Mallinder’s new band Wrangler, and by Michael Rother, a founding member of Kraftwerk and Neu!.




For the third day, proceedings moved to the spacious Düsseldorf Conference Centre. The programme featured Aston Kraftwerk conference stalwarts such as the unstoppable Rusty Egan (Visage) but also a number of important musicians such as Gabi Delgado (from Düsseldorf electronic punk duo DAF) or Andy McCluskey (OMD). Highlight of this day was the visit to the formerly secret Kling-Klang Studio in Düsseldorf’s red-light district, where Kraftwerk recorded most of their albums from the early 1970s to about 2008.











Based on the success of the event, opportunities for a follow-on conference next year on the more recent musical developments in Düsseldorf, including bands such as Kreidler or Mouse on Mars, are being explored,  and plans were laid for formalising this field of research into an International Research Network.

Following are more pictures from the event, mostly taken by Markus Luigs.






Rudi Esch in conversation with Ralf Dörper (Die Krupps / Propaganda)









David Pattie talking about early Kraftwerk.










Aston logo at the Düsseldorf Conference Centre












Krautrock legend Michael Rother at panel discussion       prior to his great concert.








Uwe Schütte on the phone of the legendary Kling-Klang Studio – but no Ralf Hütter calling.









Alexei Monroe during his presentation.









Uwe Schütte on Morrissey’s debut novel “List of the Lost”

Our resident literary critic Uwe Schütte has just published a full-page review of “List of the Lost”, the debut novel by indie music hero Morrissey (formerly of The Smiths).


It has appeared in SPEX, Germany’s leading music magazine. While essentially all critics in the Anglophone world dismissed Morrissey’s book as a failure, Uwe points to a hidden subtext, linking the story of four student relay runners to gnostic thinking. As he argues in his review, it is only when reading the novel within this framework (which other critics failed to identify) that the story begins to make proper sense.

You can read his review, entitled “Penis und Schwert”, here.









(Illustration: Matt Blease/The Guardian)

German Oktoberfest in England

Zicke zacke, zicke zacke, hoi hoi hoi! – I heard people singing inside the tent.

During the last week of October people from all over the world came together and met up in Digbeth to celebrate Germanys biggest beerfestival called Oktoberfest. Together with friends they came to sing, dance and enjoy the unique bavarian culture.

As a german girl I also went to my first Oktoberfest which seems to be funny as I have never experienced an Oktoberfest in Germany. When I arrived and stood outside the tent I could already hear the people singing along to the german lyrics of typical Oktoberfestsongs. When I entered I saw people either standing on the benches with their pitcher – as a Bavarian would say “Maß” – or sitting on the ale-bench enjoying their “Schnitzel”. The atmosphere was very friendly and spirits were running high as a band from southern German played typical Schlager such as Rotes Pferd, Nena or Anton aus Tirol.

Nevertheless, apart from the waitresses, people did not wear the typical dress called Lederhosen and Dirndl. As I thought that visitors will try to imitate the original beerfestival I had bought myself a typical Dirndl but when I arrived I deterrmined that I was completely wrong. Well…at first I felt a little bit silly but in the end I was funny as people thought I would be a waitress and wanted to make orders all the time – so yes, it was kind of funny.

Depite the fact that beer and Schnitzel seemed to be very expensive, people from all over the world – including me – had a nice evening with good music, original bavarian Festbeer and of course German Schnitzel.




From small town to megacity – German teaching assistants 2015/2016

Welcome to the German at Aston Blog!

We are Christina and Julia, the new teaching assistants for German at Aston University and would like to introduce ourselves to everyone.

I am Christina, I come from Germany, living in a small town near Paderborn. I am studying for a Bachelor of Education with the subjects German and English and will finish my degree next year. I love reading, dancing and travelling. If I am not studying one can find me at the dance venue as I am a ballroom and Latin dancer.

I am Julia, I am 22 years old and come from Berlin but moved to Paderborn two years ago to study for a Bachelor of Education. I’m in my fifth semester, with the subjects English and Spanish. When I am not working or studying one can find me at the gym, practicing new Cheerleading routines and stunts, or enjoying nature and having a walk.

We will be giving oral and aural skills sessions, conversation classes and grammar clinics in TP1 and TP2 at Aston University and are looking forward to it. So if you are interested in having a conversation in German, please come see us in NW924.


We look forward to seeing you all,

Julia and Christina



Take part in the Oxford German Olympiad 2016

The Oxford German Olympiad 2016 – organised by the Oxford German Network – is now open for entries! This year’s theme is ‘Deutscher Humor – nichts zum Lachen?’ and the competition is open to learners of German between ages 9 and 18 years old and resident in the UK. Deadline for submissions is noon on Friday, 4 March 2016.

Full information on the tasks, guidelines for entering and more can be found on the OGN website:

Please do share this with any UK teachers of German you know!

Oxford German Network

DAAD – IMLR Translation Competition

The DAAD and the Institute of Modern Languages Research are inviting submissions to their translation competition. Competitors translate a short passage from Annett Gröschner’s recent novel Walpurgisnacht (Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 2011).

Complementing the series organised by the IMLR in partnership with the University of Nottingham, Annett Gröschner and her translator, Katy Derbyshire, will feature at the next Encounters: Writers and Translators in Conversation at the IMLR on 10 December, which will be followed by the prize-giving.

The competition is open to secondary school pupils, undergraduates and postgraduates, and anyone else who feels equal to the challenge of translating Gröschner’s prose into English, and entries will be judged by a panel of academics and professional translators. Among the prizes are a DAAD scholarship for a summer language course at a German university, participation in a translation master class at the University of Cambridge and/or London; an invitation to a workshop/panel discussion on translation at the University of Cambridge followed by dinner at Magdalene College, and a number of book prizes. Prize-winners will also be invited to meet Annett Gröschner and Katy Derbyshire before their Encounter on 10 December. The closing date for entries is Friday, 6 November 2015.

The competition is organised under the auspices of the DAAD (London), the Institute of Modern Languages Research, University of London, the University of Nottingham, the Cambridge German Network, and the Goethe-Institut London, and is sponsored by the Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, German Embassy (London), and the Greater London German Network.

Competition website (further details, entry forms, and upload). Passages for translation. Queries should be addressed to Cecile Reese at the DAAD.

More about Encounters: Writers and Translators in Conversation

Kraftwerk conference time again….

Following the great success of January’s conference on Kraftwerk at Aston, Uwe Schütte has been invited to organise another one-day symposium on the German electronic music heroes. This time it will take place from 29 – 31 October at the place where it all began – the city of Düsseldorf.


The conference, which will feature papers in both German and English, is part of the 3-day “Electri_City – Electronic Music from Düsseldorf” event organised by Rüdiger Esch. In addition to academic papers, there is also an exciting programme featuring bands, DJ sets and panel discussions. Among the artists appearing and performing will be Peter Hook (ex New Order), Steve Mallinder (ex-Cabaret Voltaire) with his great new band Wrangler, Andy McCluskey (OMD), Heaven 17, DJ Rusty Egan and more. The highlight will be a concert by Michael Rother playing material from his former bands, the legendary Neu! and Harmonia.

More info here.

Test Dept symposium a great success

The launch of the Test Dept book attracted about 40 visitors to Aston. The audience heard five speakers from various UK universities talking about the band.


Apart from a Q&A panel with original band members Paul Jamrozy and Graham Cunnington, the highlight of the event was the talk by Stephen Mallinder, formerly frontman of Cabaret Voltaire. His presentation about the role of radical music during the Thatcher years was accompanied by a slide show including a number of iconic images and photographs.

 C360_2015-05-28-16-23-25-854There was also an after event party at Vividworks wich was well attended. It included DJ sets from Test Dept, Stephen Mallinder and Alexei Monroe.

Test Dept book launch 28 May

Straying a little from our usual focus on German music, the German section is proud to host the Midlands launch of “Total State Machine”, a fantastic new volume documenting the work of seminal English industrial band Test Dept.

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You can find more info on the event, which will be opened with welcome address by our colleague Uwe Schütte, by visiting the event page.

The event is free but requires registration.

You can also watch a video or visit the publisher’s website.