Norrland's vision: Cities rewriting the rules of growth

Nordiska Kammarorkestern (The Nordic Chamber Orchestra) is now a full-time orchestra - one of many investments in culture in Norrland. Press image
Nordiska Kammarorkestern (The Nordic Chamber Orchestra) is now a full-time orchestra - one of many investments in culture in Norrland. Press image

At a time when culture is taking a back seat in many places, several municipalities in Norrland are investing extra resources. In Luleå, Sundsvall, and Skellefteå, culture is emphasized as a cornerstone for the growth of the cities.

Engelska 29 januari 2024 16:30

At a time when culture is taking a back seat in many places, several municipalities in Norrland are investing extra resources. In Luleå, Sundsvall, and Skellefteå, culture is emphasized as a cornerstone for the growth of the cities.

Cultural guarantees for all schoolchildren, more public art, and innovations to strengthen cooperation between culture and business are some of the new initiatives that Luleå municipality is undertaking as the city grows in the midst of the so-called green transition, where industry is expanding to help facilitate a fossil-free society.

– It would be very foolish to cut back on culture, because we know that it is a crucial factor in why people choose to stay or move to a city, says Marie Wallstén, head of Art, stage and meetings in Luleå Municipality.

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Marie Wallstén, head of Art, stage and meetings in Luleå municipality. Press image..

According to her, even politicians in other areas of the municipality agree that culture should be at the center of discussions about Luleå's future. The cultural budget will be increased by seven million kronor, which may not be much compared to, say, road maintenance, Wallstén points out.

– But in a cultural context, you get a lot of value for the money, and it enriches the city so much with a vibrant cultural life.

Luleå offers free cultural schools, and the new cultural guarantee introduced in schools applies to everyone between the ages of four and sixteen. It guarantees at least one cultural experience per grade, and the hope is that all students will have access to the same opportunities.

– It's available not only if you have a dedicated teacher or a school nearby, says Wallstén.

Skellefteå is also increasing its cultural budget by seven million. As Sundsvall expands, Nordiska Kammarorkestern (the Nordic Chamber Orchestra), for example, will become a full-time orchestra until 2027. The municipality is also allocating five million kronor annually between 2025 and 2028 to a cultural and sports fund to promote new ideas.

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Nordiska Kammarorkestern (The Nordic Chamber Orchestra) is now a full-time orchestra - one of many investments in culture in Norrland. Press image

– We want to strengthen the cultural and creative industries; they have intrinsic value, but they also make Sundsvall more attractive for existing and future residents. We also need to build on the strengths we have, and one of them is Nordiska Kammarorkestern, says Niklas Säwén (S), chairman of the city council.

Säwén understands that some municipalities find it difficult to invest in culture in today's tough economic times.

–  It is different from what they do in Norrköping, where they actively identify culture as a special interest. In my opinion, it becomes an ideological question. But above all, I am concerned that the state is not taking enough responsibility and is not increasing funding at the necessary pace.

What's up in Skellefteå?

After building Sara kulturhus Skellefteå municipality is now developing a new area for grassroots culture, with a focus on initiatives for children and youth. The cultural budget is increased by 7 million. This includes funding for a new library bus and investments in more public art in urban spaces.

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