In 1982 Goetz Lehmann took over responsibilities at the naTo. The foundation-stone of the naTo as a place for alternative culture was laid, when friends of Lehmann, who where operating a youth club for medical students/workers moved to the naTo after problems with their previous residence. At first they organised private parties more or less, or all night table tennis marathons and "open evenings" but the variety of events soon expanded. As well as the official name "National Front" there were various nicknames like "NaFro" or "NaTo" in the end naTo became the name of choice though "NATIONALE FRONT" is still written large over the threshold of the house - which is now listed.
the era Lehmann
Under Lehmann´s direction the NATO over the next two-three years made a name for itself as an alternative culture venue within and also beyond the borders of Leipzig. Lehmann organized jazz concerts and experimental film performances including the work of artists like Lutz Dammbeck. A network, started to form in the city between the naTo with the "Grafikkeller" in the Academy of Visual Arts (HGB), and the Moritzbastei contacts were formed between artists and people generally interested in culture. An important partnership was formed between the naTo and the gallery "Eigen + Art", which was opened to 1983 close to the naTo in the Körnerplatz by Judy Luebke and Thorsten Schilling and the two institutions often held art performance parties together. The naTo became the hub of a group creative people, whose members came from Dresden, Leipzig, Berlin and Chemnitz this mix of people from different cities in the GDR ensured ever changing intellectual and creative inputs. The group were interested in testing the limits of the system and having fun.
how did things get this far? Why Leipzig?
Chemnitz and Dresden with there historic past were centres of conservative culture, Berlin was a political a hot spot and therefore heavily controlled but in Leipzig and especially Süd-Vorstadt there was the freedom to explore new cultural ideas. This was due in part to Mrs. Jutta Duclaud a particularly dedicated and intelligent town councillor who often gave support to the alternative culture scene and created room for them to work.
The Beginning of the 90's was also the time of the legendary costume parties in the naTo. E.g. the "Prohibitions party" in 30's the style, with casino and shit loads to drink, with an announcement in the LVZ: "for the friends of the Italian opera, on Saturday 8 o'clock, No.46 Karl-Liebknecht-Straße ". On the night of monetary union the naTo celebrated the "fall of the Titanik". The entrance was a passenger-loading stairs which went through the window followed by a gangway down the hall.
When Leipzig public got interested in and demanded dance music new party nights were organised, which influenced the night life of Leipzig. First "jazz blind" in co-operation with the MoJo club in Hamburg bringing Dance jazz to the city. Also the legendry Krakow Beat. The 80's music party filled the naTo to bursting and is still an influence on the party scene today.
the summer events
The naTo organises summer events that attract increasingly large crowds: the bathtub race, the soapbox derby and naTo-cup. In 1989 48 teams played in 1st round of the naTo-cup. In the beginning it was a normal football tournament. But in the 2nd Year a drastic redirection was taken creating a silly but definitely fun event. The soapbox derby took place for the first time 1991 on the Fockeberg and in 1992 there followed the third public magnet the bathtub race in the pond in front of the Völkerschlachtdenkmal. Today 80 teams play in the naTo-cup, and 10,000 people come to watch the soapbox derby and the bathtub race attracts 20,000.
concerts in the naTo
There have been and will be artists from all parts of the world in the naTo. The naTo tries to balance the cultural dominance of America and England, by organising artists from Japan, Brazil, Italy, Nigeria, Kiew, Newfoundland, Iceland, Serbia, and Finland.
The naTo has a unique atmosphere with an intimate relationship between the artist on the stage and the public. The diverse interests of the naTo lead to weekend program mixes such as a North Korean film Friday, free experimental jazz on Saturday, and Sundays a Mongolian throat singer holding the public spellbound. Due to this variety ZDF German Televisions Second Channel in its "Aspekte" called the naTo "… the most important centre for free culture in Leipzig".
With the concert program East Wind created in 1995 the NATO started a singular podium for Eastern, European and Asiatic music culture in Germany. The project includes all kinds of music Klezmer, Gipsy, jazz, Folk… and is committed to tradition as well as innovation. East wind demonstrates the rich Eastern European music culture, just over the chart music horizon. Under Jens-Paul Wollenberg direction the concerts have gained importance in and outside Leipzig. The list of Performers includes The Klezmatics, Manana Menabde, the Kocani Orkestar, Muzikas, the Black Sea Trio, Bratsch and Kroke.
Another current concert program is "Weltempfänger". Since 1998 under this title, sounds and artists from the whole world are presented. It showcases improvised and experimental music styles, with performers manipulating technology, styles and instruments to produce fresh styles under the banner jazz music. Jazz meets fusion, Groove, Soul, radio, Brazil, Samba, Salsa. Lee Konitz, Mal Waldron, Willem Breuker, Perry Robinson, Aki Takase, the Balanescu Quartett, Kenny Wheeler, Günther “Baby” Sommer, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Mardi Gras.BB and many others. The events concentrate on progressive jazz, preferably as live listening performance.
In the concert program "Noise club" music amplified to unimaginable levels, experiments between Sonic Youth and the Pixies. Electric Guitars and more electric guitars dominate the concerts which have become insider tip in the Indie scene. Bands include JUD, Karate, Slut, Blackmail, Yuppie Flu, Mother Tongue and Bottom 12.
Today the naTo´s program is based on six main points: music, film, art, literature, theatre and politics, and in the summer the naTo also organises fun / sport events.
And finally there is a new events and artist agency in the pipeline.