… starts with Astrid Lindgren. The first time she heard about the project she thought it was a nice idea and all that, but she didn’t want to have anything to do with any kind of “Astrid Lindgren’s house”. A place where other authors of children’s books and illustrators could be showcased and could inspire others, however, that was something else – that was fine. And that is how it turned out. Staffan Götestam, who presented the idea to Astrid, was already thinking along the same lines: “I wanted to create a cultural centre for both children and adults. Not an old-fashioned, stuffy institution, but something innovative, full of life and content, and exciting!”
A train to the world of fairy tales and stories
Right from the start the idea was of a journey with a small train through some of Astrid’s stories. These would be presented in tableaux, lighting, dialogue and music. The task of creating the settings went to the illustrator Marit Törnqvist, whose initial response was one of disquiet – how on earth would she be able to do the books justice? The strategy became always to go back to the stories and to be faithful to the text. And to work closely with Astrid herself in creating the scenes.
The Storybook Train took nearly two years to create. During this period, the Swedish theatre and music world was practically devoid of leading talent in stage design – everyone was working on Junibacken! Doll-makers, scenic artists, prop-makers, theatre carpenters – everyone was working feverishly to complete the Storybook Train in time for the opening on 8 June 1996. Astrid herself was very happy with the result. She wrote in a letter to Marit Törnqvist on 4 February 1997:
“Everyone who visits is amazed that something like this exists, and I cannot think of any other children’s museum that even approaches what you have achieved at Junibacken.”
The magic between the pages
Today Junibacken is a children’s cultural centre with books at its heart. Everything we do is based on our ultimate aim: to awaken the desire to read. We want to encourage creativity and imagination – and show the way to the magic between the pages. We do this with exhibitions and theatre performances that are based on works by the Nordic region’s finest authors of children’s books. We are definitely one of the largest producers of children’s theatre in the country, putting on over 1,600 performances per year, and our children’s bookshop is Sweden’s largest. The profits we make are reinvested into our activities – nothing is paid out to shareholders as dividends. And Junibacken gets no state funding – it is financed completely from its own earnings.
An audacious children’s cultural centre
Our ambition is to continue to create, inspire and stimulate in the spirit of Astrid Lindgren. We want to be a place where children and adults meet in experiences that last longer than a ride on a carousel. We want to be a children’s cultural centre that doesn’t shirk from the difficult issues but dares to talk about everything that is important in life. Just as Astrid Lindgren did in her books. And as do all the fantastic authors and illustrators that we are discovering today. Welcome to Junibacken!