‘State-funded arts must embrace digital age’

The Swedish government wants to extend the reach of state-funded cultural offerings by looking into how to digital technology can make plays, music, and dance available to a wider public.

'State-funded arts must embrace digital age'

“We want to see how digital technology can bring culture closer to the people regardless of their circumstances,” wrote IT Minister Anna-Karin Hatt and Culture Minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth in a joint statement on Wednesday.

They noted that distance, personal finances, not having enough time or physical disabilities means that it is difficult for some people to access cultural offerings.

Digital technology could bridge some of the divide, they argued.

There have already been noteworthy digital experiments in Sweden.

The National Federation of People’s Parks and Community Centres (Folkets Hus och Parker, FHP) pioneered a similar idea already at the turn of the century.

In 2003, a handful of local community halls streamed a David Bowie concert live from a small venue in London.

“He only sang songs from his upcoming album so people in smaller Swedish cities were getting an globally exclusive preview,” Richard Gramfors, head of digital development at FHP, told The Local.

A few years later, his organisation struck a deal with the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

In 2007, they streamed the Barber of Seville live with Swedish singer Peter Mattei in one of the leading roles.

Part of the idea of live-streaming was to offer a more in depth, behind-the-scenes view with interviews with the singers, the conductor and the director during the intermissions. When it was Mattei’s turn he asked if he could say a few words in Swedish.

“Mum and dad, I know you’re watching this live in Boden, and my wife Rosie and my mother-in-law are in Spånga. I just wanted to say I love you and I’ll be home in Sweden on Monday.”

The direct link-up to New York proved a smash hit with the Swedish audiences, Gramfors recalled.

“For the audience it was a “Damn, this is really happening right now!” epiphany. I can tell you there wasn’t a dry eye in sight.”

At the time, the initiative was partly underpinned by EU funding. In 2010, the Swedish government earmarked 60 million kronor ($9.3 million) to co-finance buying digital equipment for smaller cinemas across the country.

Furthermore, Sweden’s main film distributor, SF, now only offers digital movie copies, in practice pushing smaller cinemas to adapt or die.

Gramfors said there are very few dissenting voices left in the debate about digitalization.

“A few years ago the Dagens Nyheter critic Leif Zärn said the Bolshoi theatre should be seen in Moscow, but that is a completely outrageous comment. He gets paid to whizz around and review performances, which is not the case for most people.”

The government on Wednesday similarly underlined how digital distribution could introduce different types of culture to new environments and new audiences.

“That school kids in southern Sweden can watch theatre playing up north is one example,” the ministers wrote

And apart from its educational potential, some proponents see the digitalization drive as a counterweight not only to Sweden’s urban-rural divide, but as an antidote to the class divide.

“Digitalization for us is a democracy project,” Gramfors at Folkets Hus and Parker noted.

“It can be a heavy task to push open the gilded doors to cultural institutes in the big city when you aren’t used to going to the opera or to the ballet.”

Yet if one asks what these institutions can do for smaller communities, it is seemingly as pertinent to ask what those communities can do for the institutions.

“This all began because the Met realized its fans were getting older and older, the average age was 78. So they asked themselves ‘What happens to us when they’ve all died?’”

At first, he said, there were fears that the new technique would undermine the urge to go see the performances in real life. Today, however, the Met streams live in more than 60 countries.

“The Met thought it would cannibalize their ticket sales, but it’s had the opposite effect. Their visitor tally is up by 16 percent.”

The government, meanwhile, says it wants Sweden to lead the field globally. It has tasked the Swedish Arts Council with mapping out how producers and venues are using digital technology at the moment.

The report is expected at the end of May.

Ann Törnkvist

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‘Don’t wear bright colours’: Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Swedes have an international reputation for dressing well, with Scandi style a popular trend outside Sweden. The Local asked Swedes and foreigners living in Sweden to try and figure out the best tips and tricks for how to dress like a Swede.

'Don't wear bright colours': Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Black is best

When asking several Swedes their top-tips on how to dress like a Swede, many agreed – wear black.

Young professional Tove advises to keep it “all black, minimalist”. Uppsala newspaper columnist Moa agrees: “Wear a lot of black clothes and DON’T wear sneakers or ‘comfortable’ shoes, like running shoes, with dresses.”

Black is a neutral colour and, in general, if you get the neutral colours right you have got a long way in following the Swedish style. 

Neutral colours and a lot of knitwear is a good starting point. Photo: FilippaK/

Stay neutral 

Sweden might be saying goodbye to hundreds of years of neutrality by joining Nato, but Swedish fashion maintains its strong neutral stance when it comes to colour combinations.

Generally speaking, in autumn and winter Swedes tend to wear darker colours, as Sharon put it: “lots of beige, grey, black and ivory knits or wool. Jeans black or any shade of blue. Black tights with white sneakers for skirts and dresses”.

“Swedes in general will wear black and navy together which I’ve not seen before,” she added.

However, as the weather gets warmer, things change, as half-British half-Swedish Erik explained: “in summer/late spring Swedes change shape and personality,” adding a bit more colour to their wardrobe.

“Lots of colours yet still somewhat monochrome,” he said.

Most Swedes don’t wear a tie at work. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Follow the news trend, drop the tie

Nils, a reporter and presenter for public broadcaster SVT in western Sweden, does not always wear a tie in front of the camera – and he said his colleagues on national news don’t wear ties either.

“It’s not a must,” he said.

A blue shirt, no tie, top button open, beige chinos and a grey dinner jacket is the look he chose when presenting the evening news a few weeks ago.

Nils Arnell presenting the news on SVT Nyheter Väst. Photo: Nils Arnell/SVT

On a day to day basis Nils, who stressed that he’s “not a fashion expert”, gave the following advice: “As long as you manage to dress in a neat style, you can get away with quite a lot.”

“A white t-shirt and an overshirt work well in most situations and look stylish.”

Stay classy, even in class

Engineering student Erik (not the same Erik quoted previously) recently returned to Sweden from a one-year exchange at Birmingham University, where he noticed a big difference in student style between the two countries.

“The first thing that comes to mind is that on university campus there are so many people wearing work-out clothes, at least where I was”, he said.

“In Sweden, it’s more common to wear jeans than tracksuit bottoms, compared to the UK”. 

It’s also common to see a difference in styles even between departments at Swedish universities. The law and economics departments, for example, tend to wear more formal attire with a higher number of students wearing shirts and polos than, say, social sciences or engineering students.

Many students seem to wear a toned-down version of what they might be expected to wear in their future workplace.

When in doubt, think Jantelagen!

Equality and conformity are important concepts when it comes to many aspects of day-to-day life in Sweden, including the clothes you wear.

This doesn’t mean you have to do exactly the same as everyone else, but more that being too flashy or over-the-top can be frowned upon.

This can be traced back to Jantelagen, “the law of Jante”, a set of 10 rules taken from a satirical novel written by Danish author Aksel Sandemose in the 1930s, which spells out the unwritten cultural codes that have long defined Scandinavia.

Jantelagen discourages individual success and sets average as the goal. It manifests itself in Swedish culture not only with a ‘we are all equal’ ethos but even more so a ‘don’t think you are better than anyone, ever’ mindset.

And this is seen in Swedes’ attitude to clothing, too. Flashy, expensive clothing with obvious logos or brands designed to show off your wealth breaks the first rule of Jantelagen: “You’re not to think you are anything special”.

‘Stealth wealth’

This doesn’t mean that Swedes don’t wear expensive clothes, though. They’re just not in-your-face expensive.

Felix, a podcaster from Stockholm describes it as “stealth wealth”, saying that Swedes would have no problem buying and wearing “a black jacket without any tags for 10,000kr”. 

Despite living in Sweden his whole life, he said that it’s not always easy to get the style right.

“I’m struggling myself,” he admitted.

He suggested taking a look at fashion blogger and journalist Martin Hansson for inspiration on how to dress. 

“Do NOT use bright colours,” Felix added.

Birkenstocks with socks. Photo: Carl-Olof Zimmerman/TT


Most of those we asked said that Swedes are a fan of white trainers, most commonly Stan Smiths or Vagabonds.

With the shoes being popular all year round for men and women, this can cause issues at house parties – as Swedes take off their shoes when they come inside.

This inevitably results in confused guests at the end of the night trying to figure out just which pair of white trainers belongs to them – and trying to find one missing shoe the next day because someone accidentally walked away with one of yours is more common than you might think. 

Vans trainers are also popular amongst more alternative crowds (black of course). At work, dress shoes are popular in the winter and loafers or ballerinas in the summer.

In the summer months, you’re likely to see Birkenstock sandals on men and women. Most Swedes wear Birkenstocks without socks – unless they’re off to do their laundry in their building’s tvättstuga.

Birkenstocks are also popular as indoor shoes all-year-round, both at home and at work. It is common to have a “no outdoor shoes” policy in gyms, schools and some offices. This is to avoid bringing a lot of dirt indoors, especially in the winter months when there is snow, rain, grit and salt on the streets.

H&M’s then-CEO Rolf Eriksen wears colourful socks at a press conference in 2006. Photo: Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/SCANPIX/TT

Don’t forget the socks!

As you often take your shoes off indoors in Sweden, your socks are visible.

This has led to an unexpected trend for colourful socks with interesting patterns, which are a great way to break the monotone of neutral colours and conformity by expressing your personality – in a lagom way, of course.

A pair of colourful socks or a playful pattern will get you noticed and likely be a conversation starter at a dinner party.

What’s your best advice for dressing like a Swede? Let us know!

This article is based on the responses we received from Swedes and foreigners in Sweden on what they think you should wear if you want to follow Swedish fashion trends.

If you have any tips of your own which you think we’ve left out, let us know! You can comment on this article, send us an email at [email protected], or get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: @thelocalsweden