The old cathedral curia building in Havelberg is preserved and used by an association.
Interview with Ute Schröter from Domherrn8
Commitment to the memory
Ute Schröter is a master ceramist and has a pottery workshop at Havelberg Cathedral. She noticed the empty houses in Domherrnstraße early on. Together with other Havelberg residents, she founded an association in 2008 to save the old cathedral curia from demolition.
Ute Schröter, who was born in Hamburg, fell in love with the small town of Havelberg during a bicycle tour. Her pottery apprenticeship led her to Wendland back then, while her husband was studying in Berlin at that time. During a bike tour together from Lüchow to Berlin they passed through Havelberg and were impressed. In 1995, they moved to Jederitz, six kilometres away. At that time Ute Schröter still kept goats and other animals, which aren't really suitable for town life. But she could get to Havelberg quickly by bike. She wanted to start her own pottery business and unexpectedly received a grant. "It was as if it came from a fairy godmother at that time." This enabled her to establish today's pottery workshop near the Havelberg Cathedral, with apprentices and all the trimmings. She noticed the empty houses in Domherrnstraße again and again, and thought, something should really be made out of them. When the owner wanted to have the houses demolished, some Havelberg locals and even the mayor opposed it. The houses had to be preserved as monuments, she said. Ute Schröter was annoyed that such old buildings, especially when they're monuments, are left to decay and that sometimes it even appears as if the decay is intended. She is aware that it is not always possible to save every building. However, it is important to think before something is torn down and irretrievably gone forever. For her, it's all about preserving the memory.
Ute Schröter had many ideas for how to use the houses and met two Havelberg locals who took over the financial side. Together they founded an association and bought the former cathedral curia at Domherrnstraße 8. They had an outside expert's opinion drawn up, which showed that the 300-year-old half-timbered house was not in danger of collapsing, but was surprisingly robust. "Time was running out but the basic structure had held up well. I mean, they're oak trees. Ten-metre long oak trunks, thirty by forty centimetres in cross-section. Imagine that! How amazing were these trees that our ancestors had erected risking their own lives?! And we're simply going to tear it down. In France or Italy it would be romantic, we would think it's lovely. But here it is considered an eyesore." Then the real work started, an initial emergency securing of the house was carried out and the building was repaired step by step. The master ceramist herself was also involved, explaining the difference between clay, loam and dirt to the helpers on site. In addition to the actual work, which was supported as a social measure by the job centre with so-called job opportunities, concepts for use had to be developed. The association visited other places with similar projects and obtained tips from local associations. An event hall, a public library, a café, a gallery for art exhibitions and a holiday apartment were gradually built at Domherrnstraße 8. The garden was also revived in accordance with the historical structures. There were even donkeys living on the courtyard. For Ute Schröter it is important to be involved in an association or in another way. She believes that the reason many associations are losing members is due to demographic developments: more association members are simply dying than new ones are joining. But she is pleased about the increasing number of homecomers and newcomers who are bringing fresh inspiration. "Many people don't have the time to get so involved. You have to have a burning passion for it, and there is a risk of burning out. We should look where we can find comrades-in-arms and strength and also places where we can recharge our batteries ourselves together."