You’d think everyone here was scared of the dark, but Kiruna’s extremely bright street lighting goes beyond the need to reassure, or even see. Kiruna had public electric lighting very early compared to the rest of the country so it’s possible that bright lighting is still associated with status and luxury. The effect is, however, far from luxurious.
Generally we’ve just had to accept that’s how it is – Kiruna’s big on lighting, big on light pollution.
However, if you’re the least bit interested in the more natural northern lights then it’s a problem. Running a bed and breakfast for many years we were proud to claim that our particular back yard was one of the best places in town to see aurora – but that was only for so long as the street light opposite was broken.
And then, in the last few months, the local council has ‘turned it up to 11’. In some areas single over-bright street lights have been replaced with tall metal towers of mega-bright lights, four lights clumped together and angled sideways, as well as down, like searchlights – all just to light small, quiet shopping areas. Kiruna is popular as a film location – maybe we’re on a film set for The Great Escape?
For security reasons all of the town is lit up, whether lived in or not. There’s lighting in places there shouldn’t be, as if these backstage areas are also part of the scene. Empty apartment blocks that are about to be demolished, trapped behind wire fences, are all saying their goodbyes in the spotlights. Meanwhile old buildings that have been moved to new sites in the new town and will not be used for a year or so, stare blankly into the lights, as if they’ve forgotten their lines.
The new town is half built and half building site. The smart urban streets with glossy high rise sides come as a shock when you turn away from the cranes and the debris. This must be what it feels like to walk onto a film set. We’re all feeling a bit unreal in Kiruna these days.