Community building in Ebeltoft
Some would argue to feel a part of artistic or cultural life, it was necessary to visit larger cities in Denmark. Now thanks to Maltfabrikken – there is a new cultural hotspot in Ebeltoft.
Text: Heather Storgaard
Maltfabrikken is a cultural centre known as the People’s Factory in Ebeltoft. The town is most known for its tourism, popular among Danes and international visitors alike. However, with the new Ebeltoft I Udvikling (Ebeltoft in development) project, those living in the town and surrounding areas also feel a positive change in the community. I would now go as far as to argue that those living in the cities need to take a trip to Jutland’s countryside so as not to miss out on some of Denmark’s most exciting English language talks, projects and events.
Many events for all
Earlier this year, Maltfabrikken hosted “Culture Impact Now!” in collaboration with The European Network of Cultural Centres and Trans Europe Halles. The result was an event in English, with speakers from Denmark, Europe and beyond. The main topics discussed were what culture means to the community in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic. Before Maltfabrikken became a cultural space, hosting an event of this scale would have been unthinkable in Ebeltoft, which shows how far this centre has come since it opened last year in the middle of the pandemic.
I spoke with communications manager Anne Märcher, who said that “Maltfabrikken has several layers, being both very local and very internationally-minded at the same time.” Making communications bilingual so that both internationals and Danes felt welcome was essential to her. Being in a small town, she said the internationals got the chance to connect with locals very organically, in a way that they perhaps couldn’t in a city, which is something I have definitely experienced.
“Maltfabrikken has several layers, being both very local and very internationally-minded at the same time.”
Whilst browsing their Facebook page, I came across a talk by British artist Lily Hunter Green, whose work focuses on honey bees. She took part in the Earthwise artist’s residency, another international project based on Mols, and agreed to chat with me. Lily told me that she was very much a city person who had previously been in Copenhagen but not in Jutland before the residency near Bogens in the Mols Bjerge National Park.
Lily and I agreed that having spaces for cultural activities was very important, and as an artist, she was clearly impressed with the facilities available in eastern Jutland. “In the British countryside, we don’t have such a thriving art scene”, she told me and also talked about how international the residency had been, allowing her to meet and connect with Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Finns and Germans. After hearing the stereotype about Danes being a bit cold, she was happily surprised to find a “really warm” welcome on Mols. She spontaneously collaborated with two Danish dancers she met at a talk in Aarhus and scientists from Aarhus University. Although her talk at Maltfabrikken mainly had been attended by Danes, she was also impressed with how keen they were to hear from international visitors.
The way forward for smaller towns
Although the number of internationals living in the eastern Jutland countryside is relatively tiny, artist residencies and cultural events in English allow a community of internationals and internationally-minded Danes to meet and connect. The coronavirus pandemic has led many people to question the necessity of city living, so it makes a lot of sense for smaller towns to build on this to create new or expanded communities.
As a building, Maltfabrikken is a part of Danish heritage that the people of Ebeltoft were keen to preserve for the town. As a cultural space, it’s retained all of that local connection to eastern Jutland while building layers to create a clearly international direction.