Hi folks! I had big plans for last year - To meet and network with new people running fun projects, talk to them about their plans, community engagement, people, the future...But if there's one thing 2020 taught many of us, it was that to improvise. Presenting to you Dialogue with This is Helsingborg. A series where I chat with different people from the city running projects, ideas and initiatives. But in between all of this, I also want to talk about the city's residents - how and where do they come in?
Excited to kick start this first episode with Moa Sundberg about Helsingborg's placemaking project Söderscen.
Want to know more about Söderscen? Check out their links here:
If you prefer reading the interview, here is the full transcript:
Moa - That's my big dream for 2021 to have a big concert and celebrate together with the community... those events that you remember for life...the day meet in big numbers again.
Parul - Hi everyone! Welcome to 'Dialogue with This is Helsingborg'. My name is Parul and this is going to be a series where I chat with different people from the city about projects, ideas and initiatives but also to talk about the people and how they fit in between all of this. There's no better way to kickstart the series about people, the city and community engagement than with my first guest Moa Sundberg, the project leader of Helsingborg's placemaking project - Söderscen. Let's get started.
Moa - Hi, what an introduction!
Parul - But..tell us about yourself. Who is Moa?
Moa - Well I'm an urban designer and I work for the Urban Planning department and I moved back here to Helsingborg. I grew up here and I moved back here five years ago. I work mostly with safety in the urban spaces of Helsingborg so the project that is most interesting for this conversation I suppose is my placemaking project in Furutorpsplatsen - Söderscen, which is one of the innovation projects that we do within this field of work with safety in urban spaces.
(Transition - What is Placemaking?)
Parul - It seems like a very trendy term. So what is placemaking?
Moa - Well it's not a new concept. The idea came up in the States decades ago. It was about basically making...cities more human-centred. And it was the result of the modernist planning era and the need to go back to uh who are we building our cities for? It's the people. So place-making, how I'm using it at Furutorpsplatsen is about reimagining and redesigning the park as a community. So making the community come together through a placemaking process and since we had already redesigned the park big time in 2018, it was more about programming the park. So if we want to achieve better safety in the park, we need to change how people behave in it and you can only come as far as you can with just redesigning. You need to also activate it, program it and involve the community.
(Transition - Let's talk about Söderscen)
Moa - We started in 2020 last year, mid-June with a big event where we invited everybody to come and redesign and paint wooden chairs that we had bought from different flea markets, that we wanted to place around in the park. So that was a big introduction about Söderscen.
Then we have ourselves together with partners like Nordic Wellness and the Helsingborg Chess organization done different activities each week. So for example, Nordic Wellness had Zumba classes free for everybody, every Thursday evening. And the chess organization would teach you how to play chess in the park for two days, two hours every Saturday. So that was the base of the summer program.
Well, we had a lot more than that but that was just two examples. Then we also invited everybody to come with their ideas to us that they wanted to do in the park and we would fund it for them. So we had five different initiatives, it was both projects and activities and events made by different people both in Söder but also from other parts of Helsingborg that were looking for a public space to do their idea.
Parul - Is this the first time something like this has happened in Helsingborg, a project like this?
Moa - Well, in a way the Citysamverkan is doing it in the North city centre, with the activating the shopping area. And is strengthening the identity of the shopping area, but this is the first time we're doing this in a park in this way.
We've also done similar things on Sundstorget but that has mostly been about redesigning it and activating it through design but here we are activating it through events and program. But then again we couldn't do it as we wanted to because of Covid-19, but we have prepared for whenever the pandemic goes away.
We have built a wooden stage and we have bought different things so we can do a concert. We made some storage in the park and bought some public sun chairs, so yeah.
Parul - Very exciting! We're so ready for next year. I remember coming and participating in a few of your events and in my time here that's something...that's exactly what I was missing in public life, to participate in activities. I met a lot of people and made friends in your events, so I feel like it's so much more than just something happening in the park. It's also connected people.
Moa - Of course. Yeah, you're pinpointing one important thing as well that to improve the feeling of safety you need to interact with people, you need to start building trust between people. And I remember especially one activity that we did this summer.
Every Tuesday we tried to introduce a new activity that you could do or try out a new hobby and one was the Ikebana workshop where you could try to do a Japanese flower arrangement and that activity was one of the most popular but it also attracted people with different cultural backgrounds - young and old and men and women. So after that night, I was so happy because you could feel the love and the creativity of the people of Helsingborg. That's the one that I missed, unfortunately.
Parul - You mentioned men and women. I have a question about that. I was listening to a podcast or I was reading something and a very interesting thing that was said was that if you want to assess and understand the health of a public space look around and notice how many women do you see. If there are more women in the space than men then you know it can be considered a safe space. I'm from Delhi and unfortunately, Delhi has a reputation