"Project Ålidhem" Ingo Vetter and Peter Lundström

"I like Umeå and Umeå likes me" Lasse Sahlin

"An Important Part of our Education" Students’ Foreword

Ylva Trapp

Frida Krohn
Therese Johansson
Lars Hedelin
Frida Krohn, Ylva Trapp
och Lina Palmqvist

Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy

Per-Arne Sträng
Martina Wolgast
Mariel Rosendahl
Nils-Johan Sjöquist


"The History of Ålidhem" Hans Åkerlind
"My own private Ålidhem" Maria Bjurestam
"Functional Sculpturer" Ingo Vetter

Presentation of Participants



On May 22, 2007 I led a public tour of Ålidhem in conjunction with the art academy’s project. Since I had lived at Geografigränd in 1971-1982 my youth has been very marked by the area. On my tour I wanted to share my personal memories and combine them with historical facts about the district. I based my tour on certain places that were important for me – Geografigränd, the schools, Ålidhem Centre/youth club and Pedagogränd. The tour was attended by 15 people, both students from the art academy and permanent residents of Ålidhem. What follows is my manuscript for the tour.

The name comes from “Lid” = height, mountain, hill, slope, embankment, ridge, so “Ålidhem” is a high place beside a stream (Å), alternatively, a high place with a stream (there is a stream running in a culvert through the area). Until the beginning of the 20th century, Ålidhem consisted of meadows and swamps that were used as pastures for farmers in Teg and Ön. Cattle were shipped over the river. Before 1885 the area contained three soldiers’ cottages, several small water mills and shacks. In 1890 a brickworks was built on the banks of the river (beyond the present Strömpilen, formerly Bowater’s paper mill), followed by a turpentine and tar factory in 1896, a foundry, a steam sawmill and a clinic that was moved to Ålidbacken in 1903. Ålidbacken and the area towards Sofiehem dam had small houses and barracks for workers and craftsmen. Communications went via the main road (the stretch that is partly along Sofiehemsvägen), the steamboat between Holmsund and Umeå and after 1920, the railway. In 1958 Ålidbacken underwent a “clearance”, and tower blocks and slab blocks were built. The first tower block in Umeå contained rental flats and student rooms.

The city plan from the 1950s included an increase of single-family houses but in 1965, with the arrival of Umeå University, the plans were changed – also to adapt to the Million Dwelling Programme which had just commenced. Ålidhem was planned to accommodate 8.000 people, of whom 3.000 would be students. In 1970 Ålidhem contained 1.300 residents and Umeå, a total of about 25.000 inhabitants. In 1993 Ålidbacken was covered over and the last of the original almost century-old buildings disappeared.

We moved to Geografigränd 12A at Ålidhem from Rundvik (a small community 60 kilometers south of Umeå) in 1971. The area was just barely finished, so the building sites and the wood between Ålidhem and Carlshem (which was built later) offered exciting possibilities for playing in. People who lived in Geografigränd at that time included an elderly lady who often invited us in, Lisa Tegby, the present minister of the church, our neighbour Manne who played the guitar, Bus-Kalle who had big American cars, Isabella who had an exciting circle of friends, the Kasks who had 6 children (8 in the end), and classmates, of course. Otherwise, it seems that the sports commentator, Micke Leijnegård in his youth climbed into our kitchen from the next door balcony. When my mother gave him a good balling-out, he disappeared the same way he came. We lived on the third floor. The neighbourhood association, Grändgänget, was sometimes very active: a photography school for children was started in 1972 -74, children’s discos held in the community hall, courtyard parties and planting flowers in the spring, and an exchange visit with the village of Örträsk in Lappland in 1976. In 1978-80, on the initiative of the association, I made wall paintings in a community meeting-place and in several stairways. These paintings still remain and are in remarkably good condition.

I lived in Ålidhem until 1982 but my sister lived there until 2003, so her two children have grown up in Ålidhem

Kolbäcks school was previously called Ålidhem school, where I was a pupil in 1971-1974. At that time the school was relatively homogenously Swedish. Later came Finns, Romany people, the odd non-Nordic child, and immigrants, mainly from South America and Iran. Now there are some 25 nationalities in the school; the percentage of foreign-born pupils is 23% and student-age residents, 18-24 years old, comprises 44% of the population of Ålidhem.

Before the lower secondary school was built, we went by bus to Mimer school in town. My sister, who was born in 1963, was the last of the group of Ålidhem pupils at Mimer.

In 1977 the “Dungen riot” broke out. This was an occupation of the only natural bit of woodland left within the Ålidhem area and a protest against the placement of the upper secondary school there. The protesters proposed an alternative site for the school between Carlshem and Ålidhem. The protests were broken up by a massive police intervention – at their most, 200 policemen dealt with the demonstrators. The police were to “protect” the building workers clearing the area with power saws at the same time as several of the trees were being “hugged” by the protesters. Stuck in piles of snow, I was near enough to having a tree fall on me. Unbelievably, no one was seriously injured in the tumult. The demonstrations were followed by a poisonous debate in the press. There was talk of “professional demonstrators”, “people with other dialects” and “left-wing students” being the cause of the upheavals. In fact, the occupation had been started by a group of children, even younger than I was at the time.

This encounter with the police, my own experience of the event and comparison with what I saw on TV and read in the newspapers changed my view of society. I who began school in 1968 remembered the police as a nice old guy who came to school and told us how to go across the street; and the newspapers always told it like it was, the truth… When the wooded area was emptied, encircled by a barbed wire fence in order to be cleared of trees, there was a spontaneous demonstration; around 2.000 people gathered and marched around the area. In the beginning we shouted slogans but as that felt strange, we fell into a compact silence. Two thousand utterly silent people walking around what had been a grove of trees! The police stood and watched.

When I returned to school – I had actually played hooky to be up at the grove for a week – my class teacher gave me amnesty: “It is important to engage yourself in society”, she said. Later on I put on a small exhibition with press clippings and my own drawings on “Dungen” in the Umeå city library.

The Ålidhem Centre was built in 1970 and was one of the first malls in Sweden. It contained the library, a bar (Krogen, once Sweden’s most profitable), a dry cleaners, a pizzeria, photo shop, bakery, sausage bar, the food shops ICA and Konsum, a post office, a hairdressers (Klippotek), a flower shop, a clock and watch store and a convenience store (Kiosk). During a period at the end of the 70s - beginning of the 80s, the Centre was closed for a folk dance festival one night every year. It was fun and exciting; people of all ages gathered together, danced, drank coffee and watched people. The atmosphere was good, despite the amount of participants. Then stupidly enough a dance hall was built – as an “enhancement” - which made it impossible to gather so many people together at one time and the folk dance parties died out. Now the entire mall is built up and there are no open places left at Ålidhem Centre.

The youth club was an important place – my second home from 1974 to 1977. Groups of friends gathered there, eyed the boys, played billiards or indoor bandy (mostly boys), watched TV or films, sometimes attended a disco. The youth leaders were, with one exception, all guys from Sofiehem, the area with single family houses. One of them still works there! I liked being in the workshop making things, drawing etc. The club also had a children’s theatre, where younger kids could go and play theatre. My little brother acted in a performance of Brecht’s “The Chalk Circle” there in the beginning of the 80s.

Near the Centre lies the Power Station, built in 1967-68. Einar Höste made the sculpture Jutting – out Plane, actually an explosion shield. “The Wing”, 34 meters lång and four meters high is, together with a concrete sculpture which previously stood in Kungsträdgården in Stockholm, the only Swedish artwork represented in the splendid international book “Beton dans l´art contemporaire”. The façade has been designated as Scandinavia’s largest concrete art piece. There is an anecdote that goes like this: when someone complained that “The Wing” covered up the window in the building, Höste replied that “There wouldn’t be any windows there without it.” The original pieces of the station, including its special and expressive chimney, were designed by the architect Vera Spartalj. The Power Station figured in a children’s programme in the 70s as a “candy factory”, or something similar.

My best friend Christine lived here. We belonged to those who were “best in the class at drawing” and we used to dress up and play theatre during our “Fun Half Hour”. Christine was the school’s first brunette Lucia. Her mother was German and her father from France. Christine now works as a stage designer. Next door lived my first great love, Lennart. We alternated between fighting and playing together during the whole of intermediate school. Lennart wasn’t really like the other boys. He didn’t like sports but collected insects and grew cactus.

The Rounders tours began at the end of the 70s when two student collectives at Öbacka challenged each other. Then other students followed suit. Later it became a tradition to finish off with a big family party with local bands and a yard party at Fysikgränd. The present enthusiasm for Rounders is obviously a commercial gimmick to check the increasingly rowdy Fysikgränd parties…

Ålidhem is a dynamic district, for good and bad. There are still neighbourhood associations, with their own activities and traditions. Many different kinds of people live there. Compare Ålidhem with Mariehem! Then one may well wonder where Ålidhem’s bad reputation comes from. A need to have a local “black sheep”? Or is it simply that its low status is due to its having low-income residents (in 2005, the average annual income in Ålidhem was around 143,000 kronor). Something of that attitude can be traced in the following quote:

“Today people 18-24 years of age and foreign-born are highly represented amongst the population of Ålidholm, while Tomtebo’s inhabitants are dominated by individuals 25-44 years of age and children. Ålidhem is populated to a certain extent by people who do not have the economic possibilities to live anywhere else. To live in Tomtebo’s pleasant detached house section one must be willing to invest a fair amount of money on the fixed capital that a house represents and these 25-44 year olds seem to be able to afford it. Thus Tomtebo residents have the resources to influence their housing environment by moving from one social situation to another. Through the newly built properties in the residential area, its high degree of satisfaction with the immediate environment – feeling at home - and closeness to nature, Tomtebo has, despite its lack of some services such as food shops, chemists, cafes and its greater distance from the centre of Umeå, managed to achieve a higher status than Ålidhem.”

(Ålidhem and Tomtebo – Planning, Architecture and Housing Policy in Two Residential Areas in Umeå. Eva Andersson, Institution for Cultural Geography, Umeå University)

Ålidhem has often been viewed from the outside as a “problem area”, mostly by people who’ve never set their foot there. It has also been the object of more or less successful “freshening up” projects. My feeling about Ålidhem is that it’s my true home town. I am proud to have lived there and have been formed by the area during my childhood. How otherwise would I have met all these different people, encountered other cultures and ways of seeing, people with different prerequisites and life conditions – everything from political activists to those we call “addicts”? Hardly in Rundvik anyway (if I’m allowed to be slightly prejudicial). At Ålidhem I learned about diversity, that there are many who are not “like everyone else”.

Many besides me are proud of being part of Ålidhem, even if they might not express it as drastically as my sister’s youngest daughter, who tattooed “Ålidhem” on herself