Serious partying for Siste april
by Ariane Senécal
Valborg 2007 – will the fiesta this year be cooler, calmer or just colder?
On April 30th, Lund’s City park (Stadsparken) will be invaded by thousands of students ready to welcome the spring with a long day of partying in public.
This annual gathering has been toned down since 2009, after festivities were judged to have gotten out of hand, but it remains one of the most anticipated dates of the Lund student calendar.
All over the world, people mark the change of seasons. In Sweden, Walpurgis Eve is a day for getting together, eating fish, lighting bonfires, singing and drinking. Valborgsmässoafton, usually simply Valborg or Siste april (Last of April), has its roots in the Middle Ages, perhaps even in pre-Christian times.
This spring celebration has been adopted by Lund students as a major party day. The official holiday on May 1st (Labour Day) is often used to recover from consuming large amounts of alcohol the day before, starting early in the morning.
No matter what the weather is like, some will wear their summer attire.
Indeed, Siste april usually begins with a sillafrukost, a marinated herring and schnapps breakfast. Student nations usually organize such fortifying morning meals. As this is a carnival year, a large open-air sillafrukost is also in the works for karnevalen participants.
Unfortunately, this breakfast will not be held in Mårtenstorget (the market square) as before, due to scheduling impossibilities: “Four years ago, Valborg fell on a Saturday, but it’s on a Friday this year,” sighs Erik Neppelberg, 2010 Karnevalen General. The market merchants will therefore be conducting their business there as usual.
But the carnival team is not giving up: “Maybe we can move it to Stortorget [the City hall square],” hopes Neppelberg. “We’re discussing options with the municipality.”
This ‘bring-your-own’ get-together (“we’ll provide the logistics, the space and the chairs and tables,” explains Erik Neppelberg, “so everyone comes together and has fun”) is one of the many things happening for Siste april. However the main gathering is in Stadsparken, in the southern part of Lund, following breakfast.
There, student nations will compete in sports activities such as rope pulls, and AF radio will broadcast live. The park is generally overrun by students, who sit around, drinking and barbecuing usually until mid-afternoon.
Downtown, the renowned Lund University choir will sing out winter from Lundagård, outside the AF building, at 17:45. Their most famous concert happens the next day as they sing in spring from the steps of the University building on May 1st, as broadcast each year on television (TV4) at 18:15.
In the evening, attending Lundaspexarna’s April 30th spex (musical comedy show) has also long been a major focus of the Valborg evening (tickets on sale April 17th). For fire fans, bonfires are usually on the outskirts of Lund, in parks or on beaches.
Not all fun and games
The mix of many young people, some underage, large quantities of alcohol and an ‘anything-goes’ party attitude has come under criticism from authorities two years ago: “In 2008, there was an accident,” tells Göran Wallén, Chairman of the Lund Social Welfare Board. “A girl died after she was pushed by drunk young men: she fell in front of a bus and was killed.”
Authorities aim to reduce alcohol-related incidents during Siste april.
“There were so many drunk people throughout the day,” recalls Wallén. Considering the tragic event, as well as the sum of other alcohol-related incidents, the municipality of Lund decided, in consultation with local police, to close Lund’s state-run liquor stores (Systembolaget) on Siste april in 2009.
“In Lund, Valborg is the day where young people do the most drinking,” states the Lund Community Chief of Police, Jörgen Nilsson. Closing Systembolaget stores was hoped to result in “less alcohol in public areas,” he asserts.
The police officer feels last year’s strategy, which also includes patrols in the parks and other safety measures, was a success; liquor stores will be closed again for Siste april in 2010. He says that in 2009 Lund’s Systembolagets sold less alcohol overall in the last week of April than in previous years: “Police look at crime, at how much we had to do; we talk to hospitals, to the community: all said things were calmer during Valborg 2009,” declares Nilsson.
Other rules from last year should also apply: for example, furniture (chairs, sofas, tents, etc.) probably won’t be allowed in Stadsparken – blankets are a safer bet.
Staying on the right side of the law
The Community Chief of Police assures that police in Lund don’t have so much trouble from international students under normal circumstances, though it happens they have to deal with loud parties, or occasional drug issues: “Sometimes we get students, from Holland or England for example, and they don’t realize drug laws are not the same here as in their country,” he points out.
Swedish laws (and general social attitudes) are not very lenient regarding substance abuse. In fact, it is exceptional that alcohol is tolerated in public spaces in Lund: this is not the case in the rest of Sweden – except in another notorious university town, Uppsala.
The police forces don’t mind student celebrating, they just want Valborg to go by without unfortunate incidents: “Have fun, go to nations, go to the park, don’t drink too much,” advises Jörgen Nilsson. “Eat something between drinks.”