Report Young Professionals Event

Culture for all? Innovation as the way to go

Already the fourth Young Professionals Event took place on the 17th of January. With the Young Professionals Events, the Dutch Embassy in Stockholm aims to give Dutch and international young professionals the opportunity to understand Sweden better and to create a network of young professionals in Stockholm. During this Young Professionals Event, we invited Dutch and Swedish participants in the cultural sector in Stockholm to discuss ‘culture for all’, the Stockholm cultural sector and differences between the Netherlands and Sweden in this sector.

Ambassador Ines Coppoolse welcoming the audience

Ambassador Ines Coppoolse kicked off the evening by elaborating on the role of culture for society, also from the point of view of a rather small Embassy. Our Embassy does not have big financial resources, so she called upon the speakers and the audience to come up with possible new strategies for this. She pointed out one strategy, namely the Vasa project, in which the Embassy participates. In the search for the lost canons of the 400 years old ship, everybody can help finding them by using an app and uploading pictures of the possible lost canons. This could be one of the solutions to guarantee ‘culture for all’. All in all a promising start of the evening…

Writer and critic Torbjörn Elensky then gave an insight into how the Stockholm cultural sector is build up and current debates about the cultural sector in Stockholm. He pointed out that the way that the state treats culture in Sweden can be contra-effective to the freedom of culture. Jonas Naddebo, vice mayor in Stockholm for culture and urban environment, expressed his vision on culture in Stockholm and the role of politics and society. He tries to sometimes give the private sector a share in public cultural institutions, with that sparking a lot of negative reactions in Stockholm. Jonas sees it however as a way to make the cultural sector more flexible and up-to-date.

It is said often that “Dutch people are everywhere”. The same goes for the Stockholm cultural sector! We collected their experiences in a video, where 5 Dutch professionals with a link to the Stockholm cultural sector explained how they perceived the cultural sector in Stockholm. After, a panel of three Dutch professionals got into a discussion, in which differences with the cultural sector in the Netherlands were discussed, as well as their observations of the Stockholm cultural sector.

The panel discussion with Dutch cultural professionals. From left to right: Lisanne Fransen, Stefan Buijsman, John Dekker and Tamara Maasdam.

Moderator Lisanne Fransen sparked the discussion by questioning how to achieve culture for all and what freedom for the cultural sector entails. “There are big differences in the allocation of subsidies and the role of the state: in Sweden the national museums and cultural venues are often for their largest part dependent on subsidies from the state”, according to Stefan Buijsman, a writer and scientist. John Dekker of Fotografiska mentioned that “this does not correspond to what people want nowadays and what they expect of culture. We need to be aware that the challengers of museums are cinema’s and even Netflix nowadays!”

The debate intensified, as Torbjörn and Jonas were invited back on stage and joined the wrap-up discussion. A certain consensus arose in the whole group around the need for innovation in the cultural sector. Moreover, they were of the opinion that the government should sometimes actively refrain from action, as paradoxically as that may sound. “When Stockholm city allows graffiti artists to put their art on specific walls appointed by the city, the whole concept of free culture is contested”, as Torbjörn mentioned. Tamara Maasdam of International Theatre Stockholm added that in her job, culture for all is hard to accomplish, as they are almost free from subsidies, making the public not so diverse. Lisanne added to this that requesting subsidies is a job on itself. A lot of visions and experiences and interaction with the public made this the grande finale of this evening.

Wrap-up discussion and interaction with the audience

During the mingle after, the lively discussions continued. And as Jonas Naddebo highlighted, there is a lot of cultural exchange between Sweden and the Netherlands since a very long time, as well as between Stockholm and Amsterdam. Future discussions would suit comparisons between Stockholm and Amsterdam, as they are facing similar challenges. We hope to welcome you at our fifth Young Professionals Event!