Inger Helen Midtgård (Associate Professor in Community Work at HVL, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences)
I have always tried to do my best to develop and to take care of and preserve the good quality of my local community. To be honest, when I took my master’s degree in community work I didn’t realize that my contribution to my local village was community work. In the books of Twelvetrees, Ledwith and Popple and others, community work was something bigger and connected to troubled places. What I was a part of here at Hjelmås, was what you just do as a community member, together with others, establish a community theatre, make a “summer day at the quay” for people to be together eating dancing and having fun, arrange a humour festival and humour conferences, make breakfast at the quay for the whole community, make autumn festival and so on. It’s what you do, together with others, just ordinary things not worthy of talking about, writing about and in any case nothing to brag about.
So my thought is when these lovely ladies from Italy and UK come to visit, what on earth do I have to show them in my local community?
We went to the local convenience store, from 1889, at the local quay, with its own bathing beach, established and maintained by voluntary workers and contributions from local traders. I have been on the Board of the store and know how hard we have been fighting to keep it, a fight against capitalism and centralisation. It’s a very important meeting place for our local community. It’s the heart of our village.
Then we went to the small youth house built in the 1930s. A cozy three-room hosting the Norwegian youth culture movement, Noregs Ungdomslag, one of the most important movements to build the Norwegian nation after 400 years under Danish supremacy. Walls full of memories from the community theatre show, myself, my sister and the rest of the big theatre family I belong to, for 30 years now. What if the walls could talk, of all the fun, the joy, the singing, dancing, and belonging and connecting they have been watching? Culture building and community building.
I feel so proud to be a part of this building community movement embodying this love that I feel for my local community. Be- longing and belonging to something that really means so much to so many people.
Maybe I have something to show them Nevertheless? I start explaining about our local convenience store, It’s all connected you know. The store, the culture movement and the local people, part of the whole. Part of our lives. We have had a lot of battles to keep the local store. Nowadays the electric bill for the store is threatening us. Should this important meeting place close, because of EU and Acer, a store that has survived two world wars and the hard thirties? I started to cry, speechless because of the pain, the injustice and how bloody capitalism works.
Then to the other newly built culture house where I had my 50th birthday some years ago, celebrating with a big concert and with over 100 people, dancing, singing, eating and drinking together. I showed them the “Sandbergsalen” the tribute to the filmfamily from Bergen, with their cottage at Hjelmås who had documented the daily lives of local people for three generations with such warmth and love. Big photos of their films with local people at the walls.
I remember making a speech as leader of the local community council the day we solemnly opened this hall:
“What unites a people? Armies? Gold? Banners?
Stories. Nothing is more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop her. No enemy can beat her. (..) The quote is from Game of Thrones (a film in a somewhat different genre than the Sandberg films) and are Tyrion Lanniser's words.
It is the good stories that unite us. Three generations of the Sandberg family have shown us that. With their warm humour, warm portrayal, they have created lovely stories, attached them to the film and created something completely unique”.
Some years ago I collaborated with Øyvind Sandberg, in teaching, related to his ethical perspectives when doing his warm and wise filming, working with his authentic characters. Yes I do really have something to show the others, I now see, driving home to make us a late dinner; taking Berit, Gaia, Silvia and Hazel to eat Bacalao in my house by the fjord where I have belonged for generations, joined by our good friend Bodil and sorry that Donata could not joins us until later.