The first conference that I participated in as a PhD student was in Eskilstuna, at a campus of Mälardalen University. It is quite close to Örebro, about one hour by train in the direction of Stockholm. I combined the trip with a visit to Eric, whom I interviewed for my brother's website about wintersport: www.onlinewintersport.nl.
The next day, Thursday 18 October, it was time for the conference so I went o meet colleague Max at the venture: IdéLabben, at the Institute for Innovation, Design and Productdevelopment, close to the central station. The day started at 10 am, lasted until 4 pm and we heard a lot of speakers from different fields. One of the most interesting was Maths Isacsson, who has conducted research in Bergslagen for 35 years. He talked about the projects in teh region, what it meant for the regional cultural heritage and the restructuring plans. Being an industrial area in decline, the region profited from EU's Structural Funds, especially after Sweden joined this Union in 1995.
Now, as in many other deprived areas in Europe, buzz-words around which the discourse focuses are Cultural Industries and Experience Economy. He spoke about the changing image - or rather images - of Bergslagen in media, with the local inhabitants and in Sweden.
Other speakers were a journalist, businessmen, researchers from other regions such as Norrbotten and even a guest speaker from Newcastle, a city situated in an industrial restructuring area. There was even a short discussion about the arrival of Dutch families to Bergslagen and what it means for local politics when an entrepreneur from abroad wants to turn a forrestcottage into a restaurant for instance. The cottage in the forrest has been abandoned for years without anyone really taking an interest, but when some small sized enterprise wants to buy it in order to commercialise it, this can cause many protests!
There was a short movie about the history of Bergslagen and the local culture of male blue collar workers resisting education and creativity. This, together with the usual networking and a lecture by an art and image scientist about a painter that painted these stereotypical heavy industy images (Johan Ahlbäck) made that he conference was well worth visiting.
Now, off to Åkerby for the next conference!