City of young culture

If you like live music, theatre and festivals on the streets, Göteborg is your city. Known as the “the affable city” or “the city of the cultural events”, it has become into a reference for the Nordic culture. For Göteborg, culture and art must be part of its citizens, and this idea of making culture and art accessible to everybody is specially focused on the children and the youth.

Göteborg gives young artists a stage on the street.

Göteborg is synonym of culture and art on the street. Posters advertising cultural shows or events wallpaper the city while different kinds of music come to the attention of the stroller. Even when the day is rainy and dark, Göteborg streets and shopping centers take in young people playing music, from classical music to techno DJs, or making performances. Its traditional appearance connected to the sea changed in the 20th century into a modern industrial city with many universities, museums, and theatres. It was 13 years ago when the real development and revitalization of the cultural life in the city started with The Strategy of Cultural Policy, which concerned itself with two areas: the area of artistic creation and the cultural area. The text, completed in  1998, indicated local aims were “to promote a rich artistic life of high quality in the city, to expand citizens’ cultural competence, to give priority to those cultural activities involving children and the young and to create an attractive living environment”. During those years, the cultural policy has covered amateur activities, individual creativity, inter-cultural projects and sport.

However, although the results and growth of what is called “culturally active citizens” are evident, the city council hasn’t reached the cultural level it wants in the city. It is on children and youth where the third revision and reformation of the Strategy, which is taking place right now, is specially shaped. “Göteborg has lived a huge development culturally speaking, but it’s not enough for us. Grants and opportunities are not arriving to all the people we would like them to arrive, that’s what made us start thinking about the renewal. Young people have always been very important in Göteborg, that is why we want to work harder for and with them,” declares Nils Tengdahl, Project Manager of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Committee of the city.  As the Strategy says, “good quality culture for children is an investment in the quality of life for future generations and the basis for a worthwhile life”.

Culture at school

Because not every child comes from homes rich in cultural traditions, Göteborg decided to integrate culture in all-day nurseries, nursery schools, youth recreation centres and general education. These places are the key for “stimulating general cultural interest and creative talent,” the Arts and Cultural Affairs Committee of the city states. The network for children’s culture in Göteborg covers the whole city with more than 1,000 culture representatives at pre-schools and schools – and has served as a model for building up similar networks. In fact, other cities around Sweden are trying to follow and study this idea with the aim of working in that direction.

Kulf –‘culture in nursery schools’– is one of those programmes directed towards the youngest ones. It works as a network for the exchange of ideas and information and also as a bridge which links art and culture. Kulf maintains contacts with institutions, practising artists and the public, making it possible for children to get in touch with arts world in a manner more suited to their needs. The regular school system has also a similar programme called Kulis –‘culture in schools’–. Kulis plays an important role in initiating and testing new ideas and methods of work.

Professional choreographers, painters, musicians, drama teachers… All of these go to the schools and have workshops with the children. They can work in eight different fields: film and media, dance, theatre, music, architecture, painting, sculpture, literature.

Besides the ordinary school, each district of the city has culture schools focused on children and since this year for young people up to 19-years-old, who usually go there during their time off. Five and a half million SEK (620,000 €) are given to these schools every year by the city council if the culture projects they want to develop are approved. Each of these schools works with a concrete idea. “There is, for instance, a district where a lot of children without Swedish background are living. As classical music is quite expanded among people in Sweden, we decided to work there with that kind of music. Children are invited to auditions and classical musicians are working with them to instil on them the values and benefits of this style”, explains Maria Rudbo, head of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Committee for Youth.

Cultural youth

The city is a continuous showcase of art and culture not only on its avenues, but also in different buildings and theatres. This love for arts among children and youth is something that the city council tries to stimulate with several proposals. Rehearsal rooms for music groups, locales for the arts with special reference to teenagers (13-19 years) and young adults (20-25) are some of its efforts to make easier the access to culture and art.

Two street artists performing in the centre of Göteborg.

Nowadays the city is working to build a big central house for youth culture for the entire city. Eleven million SEK (1,200,000 €) will be invested in the project. This is something new and relevant if we take into account that until this moment this kind of culture houses (five) worked locally and were specialized in different artistic fields. But the construction process will take some time, because in this case it’s the young people who will decide what is going to be worked on there, not the city council. “That is quite exciting because we don’t know how it is going to be. Of course, different networks and organizations are talking about the location and the approach, but dialogues are very across the field. What we are sure about is that the main thing here is the art and the possibility of our youth to develop themselves in different art forms,” says Maria Rudbo.

Art centres, such as Röda Sten and Konstepidemin, also give space and material facilities to young people for developing their skills. Konstepidemin, for instance, is a non-profit organization, located in a former Epidemic Hospital, which provides studio facilities and exhibition galleries for over a hundred professional artists. Located on a little hill and rounded by some university faculties, forest and the botanical garden, the place is perfect to find the inspiration that an artist needs. It houses sculptors, actors, writers, textile artists, dancers, or film makers and others.

And among all this, Konstepidemin gives special attention to the youngest generation. The Children’s’ Academy and The Young’s invite children and young people to create art themselves. The Children’s Academy is a well-known art program for five to nine-year-olds in which around 1,200 Göteborg kids take part for a year. “I come after the school and I like it. Here I can paint everything I want and then people can see my works in the exhibitions. I feel important”, says Selma Lindgren, a nine-year-old girl who participates in the Children’s’ Academy programme. According to her mother, Kairiin Lindgren, “Konstepidemin gives our children the opportunity of approaching different artistic disciplines in a simple and funny manner that will enrich the kids in their future. We (the parents) see them happy and therefore we are also happy”. The Young’s also runs a summer job program where 16-17 year olds produce art commissions.

About Sandra Castresana

When Sandra Castresana started in journalism, she only had one thing clear: being a reporter abroad. She loves travelling, experiencing new cultures, new countries and new people. Sandra's motto, “learning from others will make you grow up”, has been confirmed with her last two adventures: studying European Culture & European Journalism in the Netherlands and visiting and writing about Göteborg cultural life. → About us