Our Man in Malmö | Pushing your limitations

Recently I found myself disappointed with Malmö’s summer cultural events calendar – more with what was not offered than what was. 

The Malmö Festival (August 16-23), the city’s biggest event, boasts many terrific musical acts, theatre, food etc. However, my fringe festival-loving self longed for some strange, odd entertainment – something like Möllevångsfestivalen, which I experienced in 2009. This small, organic neighbourhood festival blew me away with its collection of backyard concerts, unconventional theatre venues and abundant street food. I felt that I had found a potential venue for future performances. Now to my horror I’ve discovered it’s gone.

However, a few weekends ago, my sadness evaporated when I stumbled upon Malmö’s Roller Derby Festival, a weekend-long event hosted at the open-house cultural centre STPLN, which featured international roller derby bouts, roller-skating workshops, a city-wide roller-skating tour and more – all for free.

This whole scene reminded me of San Francisco’s vibrant flare, but not due to the veneer of tattoos, dreadlocked hair and punk rock fashion. Nor because they presented an alternative to Malmö’s rigid, standardised society, but because this scene offered an accepting, ‘anything goes’ mentality that contrasts with the city’s often stifling, unaccepting mindset.

When I attended this event at Stapelbäddsparken in the western harbour, I realised why Malmö came in fourth, directly behind San Francisco, in Forbes Magazine’s recent list of the 15 most inventive cities.

Malmö’s roller derby crew are not your average Scandinavians living a ‘same as it ever was’ lifestyle who never dare to think or act outside the predecided norm, but rather are people who possess a ‘why wouldn’t you’ (as opposed to the all-common Swedish ‘well you couldn’t’) attitude. For me this reveals that Sweden’s future exists not in its traditions, but rather its ability to be different, flexible and accepting of the non-traditional and in its prowess to innovate as oppose to stagnate.

Sweden’s rich cultural history is its blessing and its curse, offering the comfort of the known, yet at the same time the weight of its past. Like a ship clinging to an anchor outweighing it, one risks being dragged down by the very object that offers security.

As a volunteer guided my seven-year-old daughter through a roller skating workshop, another coaxed my wife and I into some skates.

Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry once stated: “A man’s got to know his limitations.” At 48, I certainly do, as there are some things I plan never to do again or even attempt. The acceptance of my ageing body, as well as my accident-prone nature, ranks roller skating with parachuting on my not-to-do list.

Yet the contagious enthusiasm in the ether channeled the ‘in for a penny’ pounding attitude of my youth. As I strapped on a pair and the protective gear, I asked if they had a pillow for my butt.

Malmö’s Roller Derby may come and go, but the people drawn to it possess the qualities required for Malmö’s and Sweden’s future success.