Streets with a different beat

Vesterbro is pretty much located behind the Central Station. Walking out of the back entrance, through the overwhelming classical music dominating the hall, there’s usually a crowd of people hanging around, smoking, drinking, talking and getting in your way. The western part of the district is packed with Asian grocers and porn shops, offering a variety of purchases from noodles to vibrators. Further away you’ll find Kødbyen, the infamous meatpacking district, on one side and both vintage and high fash’ shopping on the other. Safe to say you have now entered hipster central. 

Though the clichés are easy to spot, there’s more to Vesterbro than what first meets the eye, which the Mellemrum festival is now trying to show in its “performative interpretation”. It’s a chance to look at the Vesterbro streets, places and corners from a different perspective – as the festival puts it, the “lonely wolves, free birds and the café latte segment syringes, condoms and class diversity”.

With that in mind, it was intriguing to take Mellemrum’s journey, or more correctly ‘guided tour’, around the area. On the greyish Friday morning I attended, the guide is a tall, dark-haired man dressed in leather from top to toe. 

“Hi, I’m Sylvester,” he says to all the participants present. He seems kind, and you trust him to get you safely through the two hour and 15 minute tour on which the only two stops you know of are the beginning and the end. But that’s all part of the fun. 

Nevertheless, beyond the fear of more rain and the thrill of the unexpected, there’s nothing scary about this walk. People are chatting to each other, while some just walk silently to get a feel of the surroundings.

Sylvester lifts his golden stick and starts walking a slow but steady pace through the streets like a general leading his soldiers to war. We stop at an open square with a few barrels. Following Sylvester’s lead we surround one of them, on which he puts a pomegranate that he first divides into pieces and hands to us to eat. Some of the participants are more sceptical than others. Then the walk continues.  

The first performance on the tour is inside a café. Here a woman is waiting for us or rather for her customer, who we all represent in turns. Her story is captivating, and so is her dance performance that ends with her running off to another gig – a bachelor party apparently. 

We follow Sylvester through streets, narrow pathways, parks, yards, buildings, and basements over boarding, always keeping an eye on the yellow stick. Most of the walk is accompanied by two men in work overalls, who spend most of their time pushing either each other or a closet around in an, at times, aggressive manner. Each time they appear, they flee the scene to show up somewhere else on the walk. The first time we meet them is in a back yard. Later we see them in front of a supermarket, then in the park, and in the end in a yard in front of the house where Lenin used to live back in 1910. 

Finally they leave us with sweets, and we follow Sylvester to Toves Gallery, which is a shopping centre named after the Danish writer Tove Ditlevsen. We’re greeted by a group of people who seem to know us. They smile, introduce themselves, and take some of the walkers by the hand and lead them into the centre. Here their performance includes whispering, singing, yelling and other thought-provoking activities before they leave us alone, and Sylvester takes us to the final stop.

The festival is currently taking place in Vesterbro over three weekends with nine different performances on three different tours: a morning tour (last week), an afternoon tour (this week) and finally an evening tour (next week) to show the city in three different lights. This year is the third time it’s taken place, after earlier versions around the city centre in 2008, and then in Nørrebro in 2010. 

Performance Festival
‘Mellemrum 2012’ 

Cph V (exact location given with ticket purchase); starts thu 17 May, ends Sun, daily 13:00 and 14:00; resumes Thu 24 May, ends 27 May, daily 21:30 and 22:30; tickets 75kr at billetter@kittjohnson.dk, 6130 9101; www.mellemrum.info