THE bEAR in Berlin and OPEN PAST in Edinburgh, are two small organizations with community at the heart of our work. 

OPEN PAST makes teaching/learning resources from the heritage sector accessible and when possible, an open online source to everyone.

THE bEAR unearths the true, personal stories of Berlin. Workshops and stages give a voice to the many-layered communities we serve. Because we all have stories to tell. Stories connect us.


With the Cultural Bridge grant, we want to exchange our knowledge and work to mutually benefit our growth as leaders, artists, and administrators.

Watch the teaser film about the partnership

OUR STORY told by Dyane, THE bEAR.

14th September 2023: “Hallo, ich bin nicht mehr in der d50 theater.” A text message from Stephan, the technician who helps us turn a classroom by day into a cozy theatre with raked seating for 76 people and somehow gets the antiquated light and sound mix boards, cables and mics to work by 8pm. (Translation: Hello, I’m no longer in the d50 theater.)

The following day our Scottish partner Open Past would be arriving to personally experience how we bring the Berlin community’s personal, true stories to the stage. I have both a stomach ache and headache - a sure sign of panic: how embarrassing - the theatre is going to be chaos tomorrow and lack the usual magical ambience that I have been boasting about.

Doug MacRock, from Open Past responds to my email of doom with: No worries, we can take over the technical part.

And that is just one example of the trust and camaraderie that we have developed between our two teams through correspondence, online talks, and in-person visits during our Cultural Bridge exchange.

“FLEIß und SCHWEIß” (sweat & effort)

With our two teams of 9 people in total, we go to work. And by 8pm, we have a theatre with all 70 chairs happily occupied, lights and mics are doing their magic, OPEN PAST is recording the event in top quality, and THE bEAR is hosting 9 storytellers to come on stage and tell their tale. The evening called “Untold Stories” is a success on stage as well as backstage; even Tristian from OPEN PAST, surprises us with a goosebump-raising, spontaneous edition of Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” sung live to piano accompaniment. The evening ends on a high note.

Unlike THE bEAR’s lowest note at the beginning of our cultural exchange with OPEN PAST. Why? The long hours, the little income, the theatres closing down during Covid epidemic pushed us to question our mission: are these activities worthwhile for our community? Should we stop?

Jump forward to Berlin the day after our show:

THE bEAR team starts this day with 2 burning questions:

  • How can we share the powerful stories like the ones from last night - to a larger community besides the 70 seated in the theatre?
  • Which format can we use besides ‘live’ theatre events?

We spend the next day in a generous exchange of insights, work, and experience. Dyane (that’s me - THE bEAR) leads an exploration: “Storytelling in non-creative fiction”. Tristian (also the singer from last night - OPEN PAST) guides us through “the essentials of podcasting.”

* Both of these talks were recorded by Doug from OPEN PAST and will be uploaded and accessible to everyone.

And after a pause of Kaffee und Bienenstich Kuchen - we had our aha moment! 

THE bEAR would produce a weekly podcast featuring the best stories from our live events as well as moderation that continues the conversation people want to have after listening to such moving tales.

Once we had the main idea - with help of Open Past’s own experience with podcasts, we ended the day with a masterplan for the first 10 episodes.

On OPEN PAST’s last day in Berlin, THE bEAR’s Michael Rost aka as the popular Experience Berlin Youtuber guided us through a compact story of Berlin vivid history through a tour of its most famous landmarks.


We are now sifting through our archive of over 800 recorded stories, to find the most relevant personal narratives for our podcast. Stay tuned! We are aiming for January 2024 to launch: “True Stories Berlin” where locals share meaningful moments of their lives with a global audience.

The Cultural Bridge grant made possible our original goal: to grow! Through this exchange we have extended our network, our knowledge, and our community reach. And more importantly, the grant gave us, two small organisations in a vast landscape of inspiring social-cultural ventures, the confidence and credibility that we also, belong.

Image: THE bEAR and OPEN PAST in Berlin. Photo: Emmi Mascher