Foto: Ines Borchart
On 16 June 1999, 48 Stunden Neukölln took place for the very first time at 25 venues encompassing 100 events. This was the result of an idea that the people at “Kulturnetzwerk Neukölln” had, as a reaction to massive cuts in the district's cultural budget in 1995. The organisation became a registered charitable organisation with solidarity as its guiding principle, and this is still evident in the festival's concept and programme.
The idea was to present the multifacetted nature of cultural activity in Neukölln; in 1999, it was decided to limit proceedings to the 48 hour-long period which provides the festival with its name. This was a means of countering media representations of the area as socially downcast and neglected, as a violent slum. The initial idea for a festival was to present the multi-facetted nature of cultural activity in Neukölln over the course of a week: in 1999, it was decided to limit activity to 48 hours, providing the festival with its present name. The event was intended as a means of countering images in the media of the area as a run down, violent slum and to facilitate interaction between various segments of the population. From the beginning, the cultural programme included many examples of quality cultural activity made in Neukölln..
Until 2004, a street fair on the Karl-Marx-Straße or, alternatively, in the Richardstraße provided the main focus of the festival and most activity was of a socio-cultural nature. Now, however, the street fair and festival of the arts have developed into independent events. This led to a stronger emphasis on decentralising activity as well as a priority placed on the visual and performing arts.
Between 2008 – 2010, the amount of events and venues that make up the festival doubled.
For the first time in years, however, the organisers of 48 Stunden Neukölln have decided not to continue to expand in 2011. Approximately 330 venues host 560 events within this short period of time. By reducing the quantity of individual events as well as by introducing a competition in which offerings given Highlight status compete for the new prize, the organisers strive to make it easier to comprehend what is held when and where.