The magical barn in Huskvarnaparken

The 18th of June 1921, an amount of 100 SEK was loaned from selling coffee in the Husqvarna factory. It was enough for the deposit for the piece of land that Ingeborg Broman had offered to sell to the social democratic youth club of Huskvarna. After four years of non-profit work, Huskvarna Folkets Park (Huskvarna folk park) finally opened on the midsummer’s eve of 1925. The rain was pouring down, but it did not stop anyone. The workers of Huskvarna had now been given a meeting place, both socially and organisationally, and the joy was immense.

Good quality – a red thread throughout the park’s history

Since then, many things have happened. In a historical review, one can see the classic folk park periods passing by: the 30’s meeting place for the then still young labour movement; the 40’s and 50’s youth revolution with Lill-Babs, Snoddas and the “Raggar” culture and the 70’s and 80’s wave of dance-bands. Throughout these periods, local theatre, music and club activities have always had a role to play. Today, pop music is highly prioritised after being excluded from folk park contexts for many years.

Business developer Per Magnus Söder is proud of the park’s history. – A red thread throughout the park’s history is a focus on good entertainment. Some of Sweden’s most well-known artists were here already in 1925 and it was those that travelled on tours as one did back then. Overall, it has been a fairly good quality of all the events that have been held here, regardless of the decade.

A proud music nerd

The talkative folk park general sits in a small office on the highest floor of the main building. Besides his own office, there is nothing else but a small coffee room and the office of the chief Conny Månsson. It is difficult to imagine that the whole large, distinguished park is being run from here. On the walls, there are tour posters with joyful greetings from the Swedish pop elite; Håkan Hellström, Veronica Maggio, Laleh, First Aid Kit. Per Magnus is a devoted music nerd and a proud one. – I am a music enthusiast and often attend concerts and festivals. When I hear something that I like I want to spread the word about it. Even today, I can still picture myself when I hear Håkan Hellström for the first time. I am sitting in the car, it is the first time that they are playing Känn ingen sorg för mig Göteborg on the radio, and I stop to really hear what it is. Later, one wants to transmit that same feeling further. Coincidentally, I was the first one outside of Göteborg that booked Håkan Hellström. It is a little bit funny now, looking back.

The Popadelica festival

Per Magnus’ genuine music interest has resulted in that the park during the last 15 years has experienced a pop music renaissance. Not the least through the Popadelica festival, which has attracted big names as well as promising local bands. After eight years of faithful service, the festival is now cancelled, but the music has nothing but stopped. Bands and artists from all kinds of genres have gotten a place on the stages, and many of those who have performed throughout the years have praised the mood and atmosphere of the park. Among these, there is a certain pair of siblings by the name Söderberg. – We booked First Aid Kit early in their career. It has generated that we have been able to get them to come back several times. In fact, they discovered the theatre barn, which they think is an excellent venue. There are so many artists who praise it in all kinds of ways. One must almost start to believe that they are serious. Per Magnus takes down one of the many framed concert posters on the wall. – Veronica Maggio here, for instance, she says “thank you” and adds “for real” at the end. Timbuktu said the same last year, “the best gig of the whole summer”, even though he had been at the Malmö festival’s stage with 30 000 in the audience two days before.

The magic of the theatre barn

Teaterladan (the theatre barn) is one of the park’s oldest stages, built in 1934. Through the years, it has been used for all kinds of theatre productions, among them the praised long-running success about journalist Alf Henrikson, a native of Huskvarna, in the middle of the 90’s. When Per Magnus began his post some years later he pictured how it could host grand concerts. Said and done: soon the chars were torn out and the barn was in new condition. Since then, countless bands have shared the wooden stage. Today, a special shimmer rests over the old barn. – Already in 2001, when we held the barn’s first concert and Bad Cash Quartet played, something started to happen. Those who were there began to talk about it. There is something in that venue that is special. Pop artists, hard rock artists and theatre people all say the same thing. That feeling increases every time one goes backstage and sees the old posters from the 20’s and 30’s. The feeling is really that of 1934. The closeness to the artist may also be an important part of the success. It is almost possible to touch Thåström’s toes, even if you are standing in the back. There is a magic in that venue, something.

Car shows every Wednesday during the summer

Per Magnus easily get stuck in the world of pop music, but at the same time wants to point out that it is just one of many events in the park. PRO (Swedish National Pensioners' Organisation), dance band evenings, fairs and not least car shows are other permanent events that bring vibrancy to the park. The car shows have grown organisationally and nowadays, hundreds of cars drive in through the big gate every Wednesday. – The car shows started at a very low level and in the beginning, 10-20 cars came every Wednesday and one thought “oh, that is a lot of cars coming”. Today, we talk about 300-500 cars every Wednesday and an average of 3000 visitors each time. Conny Månsson is the driving spirit behind all of this. With a driving spirit behind an event, it becomes a success when one does something that one is passionate about and finds joy in. It has grown on its own, the word about it has been spread.

Folkets Park – a folksy meeting place

In the same organic way, other events in the park have also grown. Thereby, Per Magnus and his colleagues get close to what still today is the overarching goal: to be a folksy meeting place. He speaks fondly about the vision of being a place for all people, regardless of age, nationality or background. – Most people in town have some kind of connection to the park, hopefully in the present but also in the past. Perhaps, it was here that one met one’s first boy- or girlfriend, here one met with the school, here that one played as a child or here that one was part of the circus school, for example, which we run this week. The core is the meeting place, that the park is available for everyone. It is the fundamental concept that we have had with us from the start until today, that everyone should feel welcome here. We want to live up to just that of being the people’s park.

It is a work that never gets done, but there is not a lack of evidence for that the goal has given results. Twice, the park has been named the folk park of the Year, despite that the awarder (Riksorganisationen Folkets Hus och Parker) having decided that the same park cannot receive the prize more than once. It simply could not be resisted to choose Huskvarna a second time in the year 2004. But the success has not come without hard work. – It is the driving forces behind that make all the difference. If not the folk park chief at the time Arne Putzén had been here in the 70’s and if not the people who organise the events had been here, we would never have been able to reach the point where we are now. Now, we get some offers from artists and booking agencies, but it has required driving spirits behind all this to reach that point, and it is still required today.

What does the future look like?

– Now that we have been doing this for 90 years, we can probably do it for 90 more. But that is also dependent on what kind of driving forces that are behind all the work. When one takes a look at other folk parks and meet other people around the country, one quickly realises that it has worked out well for those who are passionate about what they are doing. Without driving spirits, it would never work.

How does it feel to be a part of that work?

– It is very exciting. If it was not, I would not have been doing this. To me, the highest reward is to be able to see the joy that springs from the combination of artist and audience. When I get to see how people walk home with that euphoric feeling that you can almost touch upon, a feeling of reckognision. That is the most exciting thing.