Lund. “Bibu”. Children is a professional theatre community forum in Sweden and yet another argument in favour of the national idea that children deserve the best in the human value system.

A City of Contrasts

The first surprise that greets a traveler after a forty-five minute ride on a high-speed train from Copenhagen to Lund – that is from the Danish capital to the southern Swedish city of the Skеne Province – is that they have no need to flag down a taxi. Upon leaving the arrival platform, you cross a cobbled street and find yourself a mere 150 meters away from the Grand Hotel and in the very heart of city life. Comfortable weather is another nice perk of choosing this particular itinerary: in the month of May, a street thermometer in the city of the Nords was showing a decent 7-8 degrees more than the one at the Sheremetyevo airport. Here enormous trees (not shrubs!) of blooming lilacs compete in height and magnificence with historic chestnut trees that are also in bloom and exude the sweet aroma of May. These city favorites adorn public gardens with fountains, little streets with restaurants and a university campus, bosomed in the shade of centuries-old trees.
Sweden's oldest city has mysterious origins. Until recently it was thought that the city was built by Denmark's Cnut the Great in 1020. Yet the latest archeological excavations tie the creation of Lund with the resettlement there of the city of Uppеkra, which was destroyed in the 10th century during Scandinavian battles. In any case, the Lund Christian Cathedral, built in 1103, was an influential Christian centre in Northern Europe, and the city itself became the political, commercial and cultural crossroads in Scandinavia. 1666 was the year the Universitetsbyggnaden was built here. Today this university is in the world's top ten list. Every year 47,000 students - a third of Lund's population - from various countries study in Universitetsbyggnaden. This age contrast – of its history and inhabitants – cannot go unnoticed by visitors, who, while looking at the architecture, breathing in the smells, listening to new sounds, and soaking in the surrounding style, experience willy-nilly the wonderful cocktail of respected historicisms and creative splashes of intellectual youth. Lund's very atmosphere is the source of creative thinking and new ways of looking at things. This is where Kulturen prospers - this 120-year-old outdoor museum of cultural traditions that attracts young souls from all over Sweden and the world. This is where the world-famous techno park "Ideon" is located - Sweden's own "Silicone Valley", or "grove" ("lund") , to be more precise. Ingvar Kamprad, the 86-year-old founder of the commercial empire IKEA, himself collaborated with Ideon. This is where Max von Sydow was born - a famous 83-year-old actor from Ingmar Bergman's movies, who is in great demand even today. He performed the part of Jesus Christ in "The Greatest Story Ever Told", and his talent was also noteworthy in the movies of Sydney Pollack, Lars von Trier and Martin Scorsese.
And it is no coincidence that the festival of theatres for the young people settled here of all places. Rather it is a manifestation of natural creative direction that attracts more and more admirers of children and art with every biennale.


"Imagination makes the world real!"
The Swedes firmly believe the above claim, and so does Paul Collard, a British expert in discovering creative abilities, who was invited to the Festival. Collard gave a series of successful seminars to adult participants, where he discussed what separates good schools from bad and how the world of the future depends on successful creative endeavors of today's children. According to Collard, the key to humanity's success in all domains in the 21st century lies in the title of his lecture - "Unlock creativity!"
Productions that were selected for the Festival hail from theatres from various cities and neighboring countries. This leaves no doubt that the two million of Sweden's underage residents encounter true art even during weekdays; art, whose task is not only to entertain but also to educate, to pull them into the world of real things, to prepare them to be responsible for that world, and to hand that world to them, the next generation. Choreographic "Trash" by Malmц's Memory Wax Theatre, created by three dancers and …the actual contents of a trash can, is almost a real, though poeticized, business idea on how you can make everything out of nothing. Plastic bottles, pieces of paper and old boxes take on artistic shapes right before the children's eyes, evoking quiet admiration of that wonder and the actors' amazing plasticity. "Recycling used items in everyday life can become an exciting creative activity; it has the potential for creativity and a key to solving important ecological problems," says Johanna Jonasson, one of the production's creators.
The production titled "What's Up, Sбpmi?" by the Giron Sбmi Teбhter is aimed at teenagers who are interested in learning about their ethnic roots. This complex, tangled story of the origins and ethnic particularities of the northern people living in the so-called Lapland, located on the territory of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Russia, was brought to life in an emotional stage adaptation with four representatives of the four territories sharing between them the right to be called "the Sбmi". The production about the Sбmi arouses logical interest in ethnography and self-identity.
The creators of the Festival's productions raise some difficult children's questions such as "Who am I in this world?", "What to do if a teacher is biased against you?" (the production titled "The Substitute"), "What to do if parents say one thing and do another?" ("It Started as a Shiver"), "How do you maintain the friendship if you fell in love with another guy?" ("Triple Jump"). Together with the children, the adults enter the land of uncomfortable questions, honest answers and open discussions. After all, "theatre is the best place where one needs to have the talks with children" – this was the bar set for the Festival at its opening by the Swedish Minister of Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, who knew firsthand that in the birthplace of the Nobel Prize "half the state's grants are received by children's theatres".
And even though all of the Festival's performances are geared toward children audiences, the most sophisticated theatre-going public rushed to audience halls - experts, critics, journalists, sophisticated parents, who, in responding to the action on stage, received themselves a charge of creative energy. Take for instance the production of "Bartolomeo" by Maria Carrasco's Theatre, which brought joy to connoisseurs of contemporary dance, or the Scenkonstbolaget Theatre's production of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" in Anders Ortman's talented arrangement, with sensational work by Kajsa Giertz (direction and choreography), enchanting plasticity of movement, stunning images, and a renewed idea of good and evil, flavoured with the topical concept of "responsibility".
Festival directors Ingrid Kyrц and Pia Paglialunga strove along with the jury to "weave together" the program of resplendent with talented performers, mastery and wonderful stories, capable of repelling boredom and dismal reality. Experts watched through 167 Swedish productions and 64 productions from other countries, ultimately offering the audiences a total of 25 productions as well as two-three dozen seminars on burning topics for professionals: "Dance and Disability", "How to Combine Languages On Stage?", "The Playwright Is Dead – Long Live the Playwright," "The Unteachable," "Children, Class and Money"...
"Imagination makes the world real" is a children's expression that was noticed and picked up by the expert Paul Collard, and it responds perfectly to the manifesto of the Festival and reminiscent of the maxim from a good old movie that "happiness is when you are understood". This phrase uttered by a Soviet teenager inexplicably became a catch phrase. And it was that phrase that I could not get out of my head there, in May, in Lund.


 Alfira Arslanova

We wish to thank the Swedish Centre of the International Theatre Institute
and Ann Mari Engel and Lovisa Bjцrkman particularly for their help in putting together this material.
Photos courtesy of the Festival







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