© Caroline Wendt

Small city - big impact

Lund is a relatively small city, yet many world-renowned people have been attracted to visit. Karl XII ruled Sweden from Lund between 1716 and 1718 and Sweden's literary great, August Strindberg, lived here for more than two years in the late 1800s. During the twentieth century, Lund residents were able to see prime ministers, rock stars and other cultural personalities at various events. When the Pope visited Lund Cathedral in 2016 to celebrate the Reformation, the whole world looked at Lund.

In 1716, Karl XII established his headquarters on Stora Södergatan in Lund. Sweden felt pressured after 16 years of war and Skåne was threatened by invasion. Sweden was therefore governed from Lund and until 1718 the King lived in what is now called the Karl XII building. Another renowned person who lived in Lund was August Strindberg, who between December 1896 and June 1899 lived on Grönegatan and Skomakaregatan. In Lund he wrote both Inferno and Damascus II.

In the last hundred years, Lund has been visited by a number of global celebrities. One reason is that Lund University's student union began arranging student evenings in 1905. The program has been very broad, with musicians including Jimi Hendrix, Duke Ellington and Birgit Nilsson; cultural personalities including Ingmar Bergman, Tove Jansson and George Martin; international politicians such as Willy Brandt and Tarja Halonen; and Swedish greats including Christer Fuglesang, Queen Silvia and Dag Hammarskjöld. The student evenings have not hesitated to bring in controversial guests, including Leni Riefenstahl, the filmmaker behind the Nazi documentary propaganda film Triumph of the Will, and former CIA employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden. (An extensive list is available on Wikipedia.)

Sweden's then-prime minister, Tage Erlander, began a tradition known as Prime Minister Evening 1956 and visited no less than 19 times. Since then, all Swedish prime ministers, including Olof Palme, Göran Persson, Fredrik Reinfeldt and Carl Bildt, have visited Lund at least once during their term of office.

Another venue that attracted many big names to Lund was the Olympen, a failed handball facility in the Sparta student area. In 1971, Stefan "Julius" Malmström discovered that there was an opportunity to use Olympen as concert venue. The first event featured Jethro Tull on January 14, 1972. That same year, Paul McCartney & Wings and Alice Cooper also performed. An incredible number of music greats visited Olympen, including T Rex, Count Basie, Roxy Music, Nazareth, Rod Stewart, Queen, ABBA, Lou Reed, Sweet, Frank Zappa, Kiss, Patti Smith, Bette Midler, Dolly Parton, Elvis Costello, The Clash, Chuck Berry, Pretenders, Ramones and Gyllene Tider. (See the full list in Sydsvenskan.)

The book Olympen: the artists, the audience, the concrete - how a failed handball arena became a temple for glitter, boa constrictors and rock'n'roll was written by Sven Lindström and designed by Petter Lönegård. The book captures the era in concert photos and text, but also through other memories such as concert tickets and posters.

"Olympen became a success almost from the start," says Petter Lönegård. "For almost 10 years it was relatively easy to get the big names to Lund because there were not many places in the Nordic region to play and the bands wanted to fill their European tours. Then the premises became too small for the growing productions."

During the 1980s, Petter Lönegård was active as an organizer, as he was the entertainment manager at the academic association responsible for, among other things, club Bakfickan. Lönegård was also on the Board of Mejeriet. He highlights the active music life during that period as one of the reasons that Lund now has many famous artists, such as Jason "Timbuktu" Diakité, Måns Zelmerlöw and Amanda Jenssen.

"Once upon a time, there was an opportunity to see top performers several times a week in Lund. The organizers often involved students and young people to help with the concerts. There were also many smaller scenes with opportunities for bands to perform. Many teens were active in this way and it must have helped that Lund attracted so many active artists."

In recent years, the Sparbanken Skåne arena built in Klostergårdens sports area has hosted several major events. The Dalai Lama visited in April 2011 and 3,300 people came to hear Johan Wester interview the Tibetan religious leader. In 2016, the world's eyes were turned back towards Lund when Catholics and Lutherans met in Lund to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The Pope and representatives from the Vatican took part in a worship service in Lund Cathedral. Lund Cathedral's treasurer, Mats Persson, was responsible for external security during the event.

"It was great to be involved. Suddenly I became part of the history in Lund Cathedral."

Why do you think both the Pope and others come to such a small city like Lund?

"I think it's about the fact that Lund's diocese is a progressive diocese, but also about the close contact with the university. Lund as a city has a good foundation for science and theology. Lund is also close to nearby universities and has contacts all over the world."

After the Pope, Bob Dylan also found himself in Lund. The 2016 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature had long eluded the Nobel Committee, but when his Never Ending Tour started in Stockholm in April 2017, he finally received the diploma from the Nobel Committee. The week after, Dylan came to the Sparbanken Skåne Arena, where 3,757 people managed to get tickets to listen to the legend.


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