Billingsfors. Have you any idea where it is? A clue: Billingsfors IK participated in highest Swedish division in football one season in the 1940s. No idea? The paper mill in Billingsfors was purchased in the 1950s by the book publisher Albert Bonnier. It didn’t help you? So what about this? The movie Smala Sussie was in part recorded in Billingsfors.
If you still do not get any associations about where this is in Sweden, you may have heard that canoe fans say that if you follow Dalsland’s Kanal, you pass a few locks just at Billingsfors – and a little upstream of the community, you will come to the rather wild Höljerud rapids before you can paddle further towards Bengtsfors.
Many people coming from up North in Sweden, and from the Stockholm region will have noted that they pass Billingsfors on their way to Strömstad at vacation time.
A place that surprised us when making a stop in Billingsfors the other day was the open air theater there. You drive the narrow road between the paper mill and the canal, and park your car at the old nice representation villa located in the park.
If you walk a bit further across the lawn you see a ruin of an old ironworks on the right.
Enter in there, and Sweden’s oldest open-air theater will open up for you.
Maja Waern was the woman who directed the mill in the 1790s. Our informant Per-Åke Hall tells us that this was at the time of King Gustav III. A time when culture and theater were in high esteem and many were inspired by French cultural impulses.
Maja Waern traveled to the capital. In 1792, this was nothing you did so easily. But when she returned after meeting with the king and the theater culture – she knew what she wanted. She built an amphitheater, and Billingsfors became a cultural center for some years.
On our visit today, we were told that the open-air theatre has since been the Sleeping Beauty for 150 years. In the 1950s, it was restored and once again experienced some intensely active years. Again lost in forgetfulness, it was re-revived in the 80’s and since then, Billingsfors theater company has kept the theater alive here almost every year.
Today – we also know – there is a risk that the theater tradition in Billingsfors will go to waste. The activists of the Theater Society are getting old. So it’s a questio I ask myself: are there young people ready to take over? We are waiting for today’s young performance artists to take possession of Billingsfors open-air theater.