Organizer Deborah Duerr takes you through one of Stockholm’s premier monthly art events – First Friday Hopping
The basic idea of ”First Friday Hopping” is to bring a new public and a new pulse to the Vasastan area. ”First Friday Hopping” takes place on the first Friday of each month from 4pm-8pm. We sponsor a free bus which can be boarded at any stop along the route at any time. The event has no official starting time or place.
I picked up the idea from my hometown, Louisville, Kentucky, where the ”First Friday Trolley Hop” has been active for quite some time as a way to help revive the downtown area and to bring the public back. Most towns have experienced the movement from the city center to the suburbs, resulting in a lifeless town when offices close at the end of the workday.
As a result, many galleries and cultural institutions moved into the empty spaces of the inner city in search of lower rents. Can’t say this is true of Stockholm.
Stockholm is, however, experiencing this same movement, with the opening of shopping centers and the spread of large chains, knocking out small businesses. Many small businesses in the Vasastan area have been forced to close in the past few years because they just didn’t get paying customers.
Residents of the area love the atmosphere created by small bookstores, boutiques, theaters, galleries and interesting shops, and understand the value they add to their neighborhood while being tired of larger shopping centers going up all over town – both in the suburbs and in the central city.
You can actually buy the same dress in the south of Sweden that you can in the north of Sweden, and you can even find that same dress in London or New York.
Unfortunately, the majority choose to make their purchases in these larger chain stores or through the internet, making it impossible for the small creative businesses to compete economically and to stay afloat.
Most people that open a small unique boutique, a gallery, a photo ateljé, a flower shop, a framing shop…. do it because it is something that they feel passionate about – it is something that they ”burn for”.
I realized that there are many creative small businesses in the area that are struggling just as I am, and when Lily Skarby from Galleri Lili asked me how I marketed my gallery, I told her of the difficulties of surviving as a new and relatively unknown entity. I also told her about what was going on in Louisville. It was then we decided to see if we could start up something similar in Vasastan.
FFH is not the first cultural route in Sweden, but it is the first to be consistent every first Friday of the month, and it is the first to provide a bus to help people get from place to place. Our driver is a part of the group and is knowledgeable about what is going on at each stop.
It is not easy driving a bus around Vasastan on a Friday afternoon or evening, but we feel strongly that it is an important aspect of FFH. It serves several purposes – the bus puts focus on all of the participants, and is also great fun for those that take it.
Being that it is a small bus, it is very personal, and a great way to meet new people, helping to insure that people will get around to several venues and not only to the one they already know. Many see places that they had no idea existed, and are pleasantly surprised.
One of the main criteria of FFH is that every participant is equally involved and equally responsible for making the event a success. We share all costs (printing, marketing, rental of bus, and driver). We also share our own network, meeting once a month to discuss and reflect upon the previous FFH.
We take turns hosting this meeting – mainly so that we can all get a chance to visit each others’ establishments and learn more about each other. We give support to each other and even help each other, if needed, to come up with interesting ideas for the evening, encouraging each participant to do something special for the evening and to make each guest feel welcome – we want our guests to learn something about us and our work – we want to share our stories of why we are so passionate about what we do. We do not just open our doors and offer 10% off.
Our target group is everyone – residents of Stockholm as well as visitors .
We are a core group of about 12 that participate each month, but there are also new participants each month as well as a bit of a rotation. It is not required to participate each and every time, and it is even possible to participate only one month.
The route slightly changes each month depending on the participants, but we keep the route within Vasastan near Odengatan and north, as well as Birkastan. We have had interest from others south of Odenplan, but we would have to start up another bus route to cover that – which is, of course, possible in the future once we have grown a bit more.
More on First Friday Hopping
First Friday Hopping (FFH) is a network of cultural operators in Vasastan – gallery owners, artists, gold-and silversmiths, bakers, violin makers, crafts smiths, photographers, florists, unique shops, and more – all with solid backgrounds in their respective fields.
They are united by a shared interest in spreading awareness about local cultural art, traditional crafts, and artworks by contemporary professionals as well as spreading ideas, inspiration and creative meetings for both participants and visitors.
Every first Friday of each month, FFH offers open houses, gallery openings, themed lectures, concerts, dance, and similar cultural events. For visitors to be a part of as many programs and events as possible, FFH offers a free shuttle bus that runs in a loop for all current participants. Visitors can hop on and off at the “station” they want, and the bus has an interval of about 20 minutes.
First “First Friday Hopping” here in Vasastan started in August 2012.