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What holiday story do YOU want to read on The Local Voices?

We're inviting you, our readers, to help us create our year-end holiday feature story. Find out how.

What holiday story do YOU want to read on The Local Voices?
Carolina Romare/imagebank.sweden.se

Dear Readers,

In March 2016, we launched The Local Voices with your support. We’re extremely humbled by what you’ve helped us accomplish. Over the past eight months, your generosity and trust has allowed us to share nearly 100 stories with more than 120,000 readers in more than 100 countries. Thank you for trusting us with your stories, which have had a real impact on so many people’s lives.

As we look ahead to 2017, we think it’s time to try a bold new approach that will further strengthen the voice of newcomers in Sweden. We want you – our readers – to help us take this step by helping us find the stories that matter most. So we’d like to invite you to help us create our year-end holiday-themed feature story.

The winter holiday season — including Lucia, Nobel Prizes, Christmas, and more —  is a big deal in Sweden, in no small part because it offers an excuse for celebrating and socializing in the darkest depths of Sweden’s long, cold winter. Let’s work together to help create a common holiday memory we can share with our community of readers: newcomers, Swedes, and others around the world.

Here’s how you can join us:  

Step 1: You help us decide the theme for our story

We believe that most holidays, wherever you are in the world or where ever you come from, are about one of the following:

1) Family Ties: What does Christmas look like in your family?

2) Quirky Traditions: That thing you do once a year

3) The Feast — Food and Drink: What's on the menu and why?

We want your input on which of those three options should be the theme for our holiday feature story. We'll be running an online poll on Tuesday, November 29th from 9.30am to 1.30pm CET. Check Facebook and Twitter during that time for details.

Step 2: You decide the people

Once you decide the theme, we’ll find people who want to share their experiences and perspectives on the chosen theme. Again, we’ll present you with three (3) options, and give you the chance to tell us which person’s story you’d like to read. Again, we'll run another online poll — this time on Thursday, December 1st from 9.30am to 1.30pm CET.

Step 3: We produce the story you asked us to write…

…and in so doing create a holiday memory for us to share with the newcomers, Swedes, and others around the world that make up The Local Voices family.

Help us make this holiday season truly about your experiences. You’ve already helped shape our vision, and we really hope you can join us in making this holiday wish a reality.

By the end of our holiday feature story collaboration, you’ll have helped us pioneer a new way to further empower our community of readers by developing a process that lets you help us define the stories that matter most. And we look forward to using this process even more in 2017 so that The Local Voices becomes an even better channel for strengthening newcomers’ voices in Sweden – and beyond.

Sincerely,

Jamil, David, & Paul

The Local Voices Team

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IMMIGRATION

INTERVIEW: ‘It’s a way to jokingly show that Sweden is very segregated’

Michael Lindgren, the comedian and producer behind the new Swedish TV quiz show Invandrare för Svenskar, or "Immigrants for Swedes', tells The Local how the seemingly superficial game show is actually very serious indeed.

INTERVIEW: 'It's a way to jokingly show that Sweden is very segregated'

SVT’s new gameshow Invandrare för Svenskar (IFS) began with a simple image on a computer. 

“I wanted to do something to show the simple fact that the category of invandrare [immigrant] is a really stupid category,” says Michael Lindgren, the co-founder of the Swedish comedy group Grotesco, and creator of Invandare för Svenskar

“I was just playing around with pictures of people with different values and professions and personalities to like, show the multitude of humanity, and then I placed an ethnic Swede in the middle and I built a block of people with different backgrounds around that blonde person. and I was thinking it would be fun to put a Swede in the minority.” 

It was only when a friend pointed out that the image he had made looked like the famous quiz game Hollywood Squares, a big 1980s hit in Sweden as Prat i kvadrat, that the idea to turn the image into a game show came about. 

Shortly afterwards, he contacted the show’s host, the comedian Ahmed Berhan, and began working with him and some of the other celebrities with immigrant backgrounds on the concept. 

The panelists on Invandrare för Svenskar.
 

Critics in Sweden are divided over the new gameshow, in which ordinary Swedes have to guess whether celebrity immigrants are lying or telling the truth about their home cultures. 

Karolina Fjellborg, at Aftonbladet, called it a “potential flop”, which was “forced and painfully shallow”. 

“And yet her paper, Aftonbladet, has written about it several times!” Lindgren exclaims when I mention this.  “Some people think it’s too stupid and glossy. It’s had rave reviews and very critical reviews, which I think is perfect.” 

He rejects the charge that the show treats a serious subject in too frivolous a way. 

“I’m an entertainer. I work in comedy. Of course, it’s superficial,” he says. “It’s a glossy game show on the surface, but underneath it’s a way to jokingly address the fact that we still think in these categories, that Sweden is a very segregated society, and we need to address that with more honesty.”

“The other point is that the idea of ‘immigrants’ as a group is absurd. It’s not a homogenous group. I think Swedes need to be faced with that, that the category is false. ‘Immigrants’ is useful as a statistical category, meaning people who actually migrated here. Most panelists in the show are born in Sweden, but Swedes tend to see them as immigrants anyway. For how many generations?”

He says his favourite moments in the show come when the contestants are nervous that they might give an answer that reveals them as prejudiced, and you can feel a slight tension, or the few moments when they do make an embarrassing mistake. 

Even though the atmosphere is deliberately kept as warm and light-hearted as possible, it’s these flashes of awkwardness, he feels, that reveal how uncomfortable many people in Sweden are about ethnic and cultural differences. 

It’s clearly something he thinks about a lot. Unlike immigration to countries like the UK or France, which are the result of long histories of empire, he argues, the immigration to Sweden, at least since the 1970s, has been driven by a sense of Lutheran guilt at the wealth the country amassed as a result of remaining neutral in the Second World War. 

Immigration, he argues, happened too quickly for the ordinary Swedish population to really understand the cultures of those arriving. 

Michael Lindgren, founder of ”IFS-invandrare för svenskar”. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
 
“I like to see Sweden as a little bit like The Shire in The Lord of the Rings,” he says. “It is located up in the corner of the map, peaceful and quite, with a very homogenous, old, peasant population. Historically shielded from the big world outside. Immigration is fairly new to Sweden, from outside Europe basically from the seventies onward, that is just fifty years ago. In what was in large part a political project from above.”
 
“And there is a discrepancy, because the majority population is still that old peasant population, and we didn’t learn a lot about the people coming here. We’re polite and friendly, but culturally very reserved, and I think that’s also about the climate, we don’t intermingle a lot. We don’t invite people into our homes easily.” 

According to Lindgren, the reception of the show has been great. Some of the show’s panel have a big following among Swedes with immigrant backgrounds, meaning it is drawing a demographic to Sweden’s public broadcaster that it normally struggles to reach. 

“The ambition is that the primary audience for this show is Swedes with mixed backgrounds, Swedes with a background in another country,” he says. “It’s a very tough demographic to reach. It’s a demographic that simply doesn’t watch public service, because it’s usually not made for them, and they seem to really enjoy it.” 

He has plans for the next series to include short factual segments. 

“I’m not saying I’m gonna make it serious. It’s supposed to be fun and jokey and entertaining and light, and I’m not going to change it in its core,” he says. “But I think it would add to the entertainment and variety to pause maybe twice in the show and say ‘this is actually true’, just stay at a point of discussion for 30 seconds, and maybe have a graphic to back it up.” 

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