Below you find a selection of translated texts, recently published in Swedish in Nutida Musik.
Nutida Musik #288 in september 2022
Fylkingen evicted from the Munich Brewery
As we were about to go to press, news reached us that Fylkingen is being evicted from their venue by the landlord AFA Fastigheter. This happened without warning, in the middle of negotiations that had gone on for several months about how one might find a somewhat constructive solution for all parties involved.
Fylkingen has had its venue in the Munich Brewery in Stockholm since 1986. In short, Fylkingen is the world’s oldest active venue and artist collective for new experimental music and performance: in 2023 Fylkingen will turn 90. The venue was once a storage room for beer kegs. Before the move there in 1986, members drew up blueprints and rebuilt the space to give it a highly qualified stage room, with a bar and meeting rooms. In 2013, yet another wholesale renovation took place in which the stage, dance mat, bar, entry, dressing rooms, and general accessibility all were improved dramatically. This was done with the help of public funds from Boverket and Allmänna arvsfonden. The landlord, AFA Fastigheter, did not have to pay a single crown for this gigantic renovation of a venue that was and is theirs. They contributed with a contract that ran for 10 years with a successive but manageable rent progression that was then signed.
Now, 10 years have passed.
The negotiations have been ongoing for several months. Until last Friday, when Fylkingen’s chairperson Lise-Lotte Norelius was suddenly called to a telephone meeting.
LN: I am in shock, but also not surprised. AFA Fastigheter wanted to speak. I thought, dammit, they are going to evict us… Our negotiator called this an assault.
In February 2022, Fylkingen was given their first contract template from the landlord. Norelius says that until then, the discussion was only about different rent levels. But here was a line added which said that Fylkingen ”shall not carry out sound-producing activities during the daytime, except for a short sound check.” Sound producing activities can of course be anything at all: even a sneeze, or a person who walks barefoot over a concrete floor, produces sound.
At that point, Fylkingen engaged a professional negotiator, after a recommendation from Stockholm City’s cultural department. It led eventually to a new formulation from AFA Fastigheter, namely that they and Fylkingen would split the cost for a new, more effective soundproofing.
When AFA suddenly began to see the surrounding properties as suitable for office rentals, not surprisingly, a conflict arose. Both the building’s caretaker and Fylkingen noted immediately when the idea came up that it was a bad idea when taking into account the already existing activity in the building. But this did not change AFA’s viewpoint. Fylkingen was forced to employ a law firm, which after looking at the succession of events pointed out in a letter to AFA that it must be considered the responsibility of the landlord to create the conditions they want to offer new renters. Not to force existing renters to rebuild their spaces and either adapt their activities to the new renters or move out.
Nutida Musik has seen this letter from June 8, 2017. It is over two pages long and contains long, detailed analysis and shows point by point the absurdity of AFA’s actions, among other things how Fylkingen (when they said that there would be a risk for disturbance when the properties underneath were turned into office space) was first assured that any eventual adaptations to the building would be done by the landlord itself, followed by an about-turn demanding that Fylkingen not only pay for the soundproofing but also change the activities that had been going on in the venue for more than 20 years. It is a powerful document.
Did AFA react on this in any way?
The past years, Fylkingen’s board has been forced to spend an inordinate amount of time on the question of sound disturbance. This had never been a question before, because the closest neighbors were a storage space and a server hall. Now instead there is a meeting room right under Fylkingens stage, a slight improvement over the earlier choice of placing an executive office with glass walls there. Norelius points out that dialogue with the renters themselves is quite good, and that the producer reports to them about the daily activities of Fylkingen a week in advance, which leads to eventual sound leaks being much less disturbing. It is the private landlord that feels that Fylkingen is an unwanted renter, and works actively to get rid of cultural expressions that had been in the venue far before the building was sold by the city of Stockholm.
According to Lise-Lotte Norelius, the acoustics expert who was part of the process when Fylkingen was rebuilt in 2012–13 opined that what was now needed to completely safeguard the surrounding offices from sound is a so-called floating floor, but this is extraordinarily expensive and would not at all guarantee that the rental contract could be kept in the long run. The attempts to adapt to AFA’s newfound demands for soundproofing have been done from a sound volume level of 100DB, which is easily much more than what Fylkingen’s activities produce during the daytime. It has involved among other things simulations of different scenarios where walls and pillars are sawed off or taken down, they have even tried to hang up the bass speakers above the floor, without changing the measured results in any meaningful way.
Now, the landlord has come to the conclusion that the easiest solution to all these problems is to evict the society. They also point to Fylkingen having ”insufficient ability to pay”. That formulation is built on the fact that the board is still actively working on strategies to be able to pay the new rent when it takes effect.
Fylkingen’s contract expires at the end of September 2022, after which 9 months notice follows. That means that they must be out of the building by the end of June 2023. Since no new contract has been signed since the negotiations began in September 2021, a formal eviction notice is expected in the coming days.
When Fylkingen moved into the former beer storage facility in 1986, Stockholm city was the landlord, and the idea was that the venue would be dedicated to cultural activities. Eventually, the city lost its control over the Munich Brewery, and since 2007 it has been owned by AFA. At that time, Fylkingen had been there for over 20 years, but now there were new negotiations with totally new circumstances. Norelius was the chair at that time as well, and remembers sitting with a hired lawyer, who could not better the conditions of the contract for Fylkingen in any way.
Much has been said recently about how Stockholm is being emptied of its independent cultural life. When venues are turned over to private owners, the public instances can only stand there and do nothing, even if they would like to. Not even when large sums of all our common public money have been invested, in houses that are owned by someone else, to allow different forms of art the possibility of taking place. Not even when the renovations take the shape of specialized renovations and rebuilding to create the qualified spaces that are a prerequisite for these activities, as is the case with Fylkingen.
So what should Fylkingen do now– just to take one example– with the site specific dance mat hat the society worked for years to realize? Two producers have been recruited for the coming 90th anniversary, in part to help with increasing the revenue of the society.
LN: They [AFA] do not earn enough money through us. If they rent out office space they can get a lot more.
Norelius cannot at the moment speculate on where Fylkingen will end up in the future. At the moment, five shows a week are often held there, so it is not possible to simply become part of another existing venue’s activities. The society has been in dialogue with the Stockholm cultural department , and Norelius says that they have spoken of the importance of Fylkingen’s existence, but have also questioned why their public activities, which are ”so exclusive,” need such a central location in the city as Söder Mälarstrand.
When this issue now goes to the printer’s, it does so with a strong sense of foreboding that one of Stockholm’s few remaining music and art scenes will be driven out of the city– a place that is in addition a unique venue for an entire field of interacting artists and a benchmark for audiences as well as musicians, composers, and other artists far beyond the borders of Sweden and Europe.
Susanne Skog and Magnus Bunnskog, editors of Nutida Musik
Translation by George Kentros