In the Gängeviertel, usually more than four people shared a single room and the apartments were narrow and noisy. Parks or squares for outdoor recreation were virtually non-existent. Therefore, spaces for gathering and social life were rare and usually the bars of the neighborhoods filled this role, which was especially important for the formation of the labor movement. After working hours, the urban poor gathered in the corner and basement bars to drink together and discuss politics or the problems of everyday life. Many different bars existed in the Gängeviertel: institutions for the red-light business, the local underworld or harbor workers. Here, a feeling of community was created through drinking rituals and extended discussions. Apart from the smaller bars, some bigger venues emerged, for example “Tütge’s Etablissement”, located in the contemporary “Engelssaal,” which was Hamburg’s first private theater and the predecessor of the Thalia Theater, or the neighboring concert hall “Auf dem Kamp.”
After World War II, several subcultures – which rejected the narrow and conservative post-war society – emerged in the former proletarian neighborhoods. One example was the “Palette” in the ABC-Straße, which was portrayed by Hubert Fichte in his novel of the same name. The German equivalent to the Beat Generation gathered around the venue, inspired by Ginsberg and Kerouac. The “Palette” remained an institution of the scene well into the 1960s, when it was closed down after several drug raids. However, the Palette was not a solitary development. The surrounding neighborhood was characterized by subcultural hot-spots, from Jazz basements to gay bars and bookstores, for which the Neustadt had already been a center since the 1920s. In 1961, the city of Hamburg executed the dancing prohibition for homosexuals for the first time in the “Bar Boheme” on the Valentinskamp.
Simultaneously, the Laeiszhalle, occupied by the British Army, attracted young swing fans. Swing, outlawed by the Nazis in the Third Reich, returned to Hamburg with the British Forces Network (BFN), a radio station for the allied forces. Around the station a lively scene sprang up, which attended the concerts in the venue and created the Anglo-German Swing Club, a forum for exchanging records and engaging in joint activities. Although the swing youth movement seems somewhat innocent from today’s point of view, it was a radical youth culture – in 1955 the police even used water-cannons against rioting visitors at a Louis Armstrong concert.
On the other side of the street, another institution, this time of rock’n’roll culture, arose with the Mad House in the 1960s. The famous club remained on the Valentinskamp for more than 30 years and attracted famous guests like David Bowie and Mick Jagger, as well as a colorful crowd.
Up until today, Hamburg’s subculture and underground have a home at the Valentinskamp. With the Jupi Bar, the Fabrique, the Druckerei and the countless smaller venues of the Gängeviertel, important clubs and hotspots for different subcultures, from punk to techno exist here. Artists, musicians, urbanists and squatters exist side by side.