Tackling burning issues with a fire truck

11 October 2022 - Published by Walter Wehus
The combination of a social event, neighbourhood curiosity, and information about pressing social issues made for an interesting day out in Bremen.

One summer day, residents in one of Bremen’s northern suburbs discovered a black Volkswagen pickup truck with a large digital screen on its back.

The car was a part of an event initiated by Diakonisches Werk Bremen, the German partner in the project From Isolation to Inclusion (I2I). The project works on reducing loneliness and increasing social inclusion in North Sea Region neighbourhoods.

The car made stops both in front of the local fire station, and on a meadow that functions as a local meeting place.

Short documentaries presented in front of local fire stations, the subjects chosen on the spot by the audience, successfully lead to open discussions about different being isolated or included in communities. Journalist Annette Wagner discusses one of her TV-documentaries in Bremen-Vegesack. | Photo : Christina Kuhaupt / Credit : Diakonisches Werk Bremen

Spontaneous meetings

On the screen, people could see short documentaries by the journalist Annette Wagner on the difficulties of an ecological milk farmer; the situation of a young woman with disability; and the social work in Hamburg amusement areas.

Annette Wagner, the award-winning creator of Interactive Community Events, was commissioned to design a series of events suitable for isolated elderly people in the rural Northern area of Bremen county.

Wagner on her sustainable concept: "The participative event-series Your burning issues? is generating communication amongst neighbours and local subgroups that had never talked to each other before," she says.

The casual collective interactions, strategically spread over a period of three to four hours, create a communal spirit.

"First the random crowd has to come to an agreement: By discussing which documentary they want to watch – which subject is ’the hottest’ for them – they get closer to each other," says Wagner.

The afternoons continue with roasting sausages over a fire bowl and chatting. A final symbolic activity is the positioning of a so called neighbourhood bench at the spot.

"This will hopefully become a public meeting point in the future," says Wagner.

Jürgen Stein, project manager of Diakonisches Werk for Your burning issues?, says this about the success:

“The combination of a curiosity about the work of the Fire brigade, interest in the subjects of the short movies, and a desire to meet other people after the Covid restrictions were lifted, led to many spontaneous meetings and conversations among people of different generations”, says Jürgen Stein from the Diakonisches Werk.

The events made it to both local newspapers and social media.


Effective emotional magnet: A giant video wall on a VW from 1967 attracted passers-by of all ages and revived jolly memories of travel amongst the senior spectators. The open-air setting was deliberately chosen in order to reduce the fear of getting infected with Covid. | Photo : Jürgen Stein / Right of Publication : Diakonisches Werk Bremen

Inspired by partners

The events were inspired by the quadruple helix cooperation encouraged by the I2I project, according to Stein.

In addition to being a joint action with the Bremen volunteer fire brigade, the pickup truck was provided by a rental car agency, and local businesses allowed for the use of a busy city street. Inviting posters were also placed in unused shop windows.

“Many of the participants reported feeling lonely and isolated, and confirmed that the events help them to participate socially again”, says Stein.

For Diakonisches Werk Bremen, the events are seen as prototypes for similar activities and other cooperative tools to fight isolation in North Sea Region neighbourhoods.


Reunited after months of isolation due to lockdowns and fear of the Corona-virus: Jolly neighbours joining the open-air-cinema-event Your burning issue? by Diakonisches Werk Bremen in the Norther part of the county.  | Photo: Christina Kuhaupt / Credit : Diakonisches Werk Bremen