Beatfestival, © Tourismus NRW e.V.

Reck­ling­hausen: Vestland­halle

Show­place of the Beat Move­ment

At the beginning of the 1960s, skiffle and the beat from Liverpool that arose from it spread from the Reeperbahn in Hamburg to the furthermost corners of the country. Suddenly, young people everywhere were grabbing hold of instruments and founding bands that were intended to sound like the Beatles, the Stones or the Kinks. They were assisted by highly committed churchmen, such as Pastor Wichmann in Gelsenkirchen-Buer, who with his “temple” that he set up in the district created a centre of the movement until the mid-1960s, creating up to 1,500 bands . The most important figure of the beat movement in the “Ruhrpott” region, as well as Pastor Wichmann, was the youth worker Kurt Oster in Recklinghausen. In the Vestlandhalle, he ran beat festivals in place of the tea dances and youth balls mainly organised by the city administration that had been hosted there before. He agreed with the official youth welfare offices that making “nice” skiffle and beat music (compared to raucous Rock’n’Roll) was an activity worth supporting and an effective measure to counteract youth crime. So it was that the beat festivals were organised in the Vestlandhalle by a “youth support working group”, which included educationalists, parents and volunteers. These festivals were hugely successful. It was not unusual for over 100 beat groups to play in front of thousands of young fans over a weekend. As a result, Recklinghausen became fondly known by its ironic name, the “German Liverpool”. Kurt Oster also fostered contacts with Hamburg and organised a competition between bands from the Ruhrpott and Hamburg (in which the Ruhr region bands were outplayed). Only a small number of bands ever got beyond the status of an amateur group. The most successful were the German Blue Flames, who after winning the band competition in the Vestlandhalle twice appeared several times on the TV programme “Beat-Club” and released numerous records. The main hall, with space for 2,500, is still used for concerts and events today. The large outdoor area is used every so often for fairs, carnival or circus events. And it is fascinating to take a look at the hall, which is now 60 years old, which has withstood all the changes in trends like a blue-and-white box. In the interim, the address has changed, and rightly so: today, the venue is no longer on Herner Strasse, but at Kurt-Oster-Strasse 2.

Further information
Kurt-Oster-Straße 2, 45659 Recklinghausen