It’s election time in Kiruna and it’s a shock to encounter so many public statements about the town’s future – in local papers, on bill boards, in broadsheets spread around the town. Whereas there is usually an eerie silence on the subject, now we can’t move for falling over a politician that wants to tell us what the town’s future will be, or should be, and how they are the person to take us there.
It’s good to hear all the politicians hopes and dreams for the future, but no amount of spin alters the fact that right now Kiruna is facing a pit, and we must face losing our town and homes.
So, with the notable exception of the Green Party (which campaigns to stop the mine expansion), political campaigning in Kiruna right now is all about making the best of a bad situation. We have to try and see the destruction of our environment as a positive, an opportunity to clear the decks and start again.
Walking to the town hall today to vote we pass one of the mine’s measuring points. This tells the mine how much the ground is moving so they can calculate when the area will collapse. We see that this particular measuring point has been rather charmingly decorated with flowers. Well, the local council are making the best of things.
And so are we, as we march purposefully into the town hall. Guaranteed to lower our spirits, the first thing we encounter in the town hall is an art installation.
It’s a travelling art show (we read) except that there’s no art there, just a little caravan – like hundreds in use out in the fjäll – and some text saying it welcomes people to come and exchange some objects with them, and there are a few paintings inside. This is another offering from ‘Art in the north’. We quickly edge our way around it to the voting booth, force a grin, and post the bit of paper. Done, and we’re out the building as fast as we can to face our bright new future.
Round the corner from the town hall is the road bridge that used to lead to the mine office. Now there’s a pit ahead of it instead of a road, so they’ve decided to demolish it for safety reasons. I remember that road. Beyond the fence, men in hard hats are dismantling it like a Lego toy.
But what’s this? They’re repairing a road that leads to the defunct, soon-to-be-gone-and-forgotten bridge. That leads to a pit? An idea comes to me to add to the pile of crazy ideas put forward for ‘the new Kiruna’.
I don’t think we need (as has been suggested) a giant greenhouse space in the centre, a sort of tropical theme park. I don’t think we need an overhead tram to link the airport with the town. And I don’t think we need a town hall that looks like a giant spaceship. But I do think it would be just brilliant if Kiruna made good use of the growing pit.
I think about using it as a ‘Pit 101’. If you aren’t familiar with the idea, ‘Room 101’ is a metaphorical place where you put your pet hates so you don’t have to deal with them. In Kiruna, you could literally drive things (or people) up the perfectly well repaired road and then at the end, just tip them in to ‘Pit 101’.
Kiruna could be the town for Getting Rid. People would flock to the town – to ditch other people’s mobile phones, McDonalds, surströmming, fitted carpets, instant coffee, reclining plane seats. Any number of things we don’t like could be got rid of in the pit. A few politicians currently annoying the hell out of all of us all could be discretely added to the pile. Then all those patronising art installations could go tumbling to the bottom. Yes, I’m immensely cheered already.