Stockholm bans street art festival adverts

The upcoming Stockholm graffiti and street art festival "Art of the Streets", organised by touring national theatre company Riksteatern, are being denied advertisement spots by Stockholm's city council.

Stockholm bans street art festival adverts

“This is censure, and a direct threat against our freedom of speech,” said the event’s producer Ceylan Holago to daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN).

The city based their decision on their zero-tolerance policy against graffiti and vandalism from 2007, which states that Stockholm will not support activities or events that don’t clearly renounce tagging, illegal graffiti, or similar acts of vandalism.

Riksteatern was planning to publicise their event by allowing 13 graffiti artists to paint 300 different posters, which would then go up on Stockholm’s many cultural advertisement boards. These posters are now completed, but following the city council’s decision, they remain in storage, unused.

Holago is incensed that the city cannot see the difference between vandalism and art.

“Once again the vandalism policy is being used to stop an art form. They just don’t differentiate between scribbling vandalism and street art graffiti. This means that authorities and politicians can just arbitrarily stop us, and keep us from even informing about our event.”

The city council, however, stand by their decision, claiming it to be in line with the city’s zero-tolerance policy.

“There’s nothing strange about this,” said Claes Thunblad, manager of Stockholm city’s anti-vandalism department, to DN.

“Riksteatern can do whatever they want on their own property, we can’t control that, even if we in the city council are skeptical to this event. But when it comes to the city’s cultural boards, there are rules for what can go up. We just can’t have advertisement for a graffiti event that we so openly oppose,” he explained.

Thunblad goes on to point out that after the street art festival was held last time, in 2010, the police and the public transport system SL both experienced a notable increase of illegally painted graffiti.

This argument, however, doesn’t bite on Holago, who says he has yet to see statistics proving this is so, and also accuses the city of practicing collective punishment against artists who want to paint legally.

“You don’t shut off the entire highway just because there are people who abuse it and drive too fast. What we’re doing is offering a legal wall as an alternative to painting illegally,” Holago explained.

“We don’t believe in collective punishment, that just because there are vandals, graffiti shouldn’t be allowed in our society at all. There has to be an option for those artists who want to paint legally,” he said.

The festival “Art of the Streets” will be taking place at Södra Teatern in Stockholm on August 13-14th, where there will be workshops, seminars, and a legal graffiti wall to paint on.

“Riksteatern see graffiti and street art as natural expressions of art in a modern and open Sweden,” said Holago in a statement.

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Stockholm Pride is a little different this year: here’s what you need to know 

This week marks the beginning of Pride festivities in the Swedish capital. The tickets sold out immediately, for the partly in-person, partly digital events. 

Pride parade 2019
There won't be a Pride parade like the one in 2019 on the streets of Stockholm this year. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT

You might have noticed rainbow flags popping up on major buildings in Stockholm, and on buses and trams. Sweden has more Pride festivals per capita than any other country and is the largest Pride celebration in the Nordic region, but the Stockholm event is by far the biggest.  

The Pride Parade, which usually attracts around 50,000 participants in a normal year, will be broadcast digitally from Södra Teatern on August 7th on Stockholm Pride’s website and social media. The two-hour broadcast will be led by tenor and debater Rickard Söderberg.

The two major venues of the festival are Pride House, located this year at the Clarion Hotel Stockholm at Skanstull in Södermalm, and Pride Stage, which is at Södra Teatern near Slussen.

“We are super happy with the layout and think it feels good for us as an organisation to slowly return to normal. There are so many who have longed for it,” chairperson of Stockholm Pride, Vix Herjeryd, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Tickets are required for all indoor events at Södra Teatern to limit the number of people indoors according to pandemic restrictions. But the entire stage programme will also be streamed on a big screen open air on Mosebacketerassen, which doesn’t require a ticket.  

You can read more about this year’s Pride programme on the Stockholm Pride website (in Swedish).