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Barents Road study visit to Bodö & Side Event at High North Dialogue 2023.

Barents Road member cities and organisations visited Bodö European Capital of Culture 2024 on 18th-19th of April. The purpose of the visit was to learn more about the great work done by Bodö on its way to become European Capital of Culture 2024 but also to learn about its impact on municipalities, businesses, associations and the society as a whole.

Barents Road representatives from Finland, Sweden and Norway participated in the visit and were traveling to and from Bodö by Barents Bus:

  • Erkki Parkkinen, Mayor (Salla, Finland)

  • Vilma Ohrankämmen, Development Coordinator (The Local Federation of East Lapland, Finland)

  • Aurora Loukusa, Event Coordinator (Kemi, Finland)

  • Roger Tuomas, Head of unit at the community planning office (Älvsbyn, Sweden)

  • Fredrik Rönnberg, Head of the library and museum unit (Boden, Sweden)

  • Daniel Smirat, Chair of Barents Road International Organization/Chair of the City Council (Luleå, Sweden)

  • Nataliia Hammarberg, International Relations Officer, Barents Road Coordinator (Luleå, Sweden).

  • Elin Kvamme, General Manager at Saltdal Utvikling KF (Saltdal, Norway)

  • Tora Lovise W. Johansen, Politician (Saltdal, Norway)

  • Ola Smeplass, Deputy Mayor (Bodö, Norway)

  • Per Gaute Pettersen, Project Manager (Salten Regionråd, Norway)

  • Maria Hansen, Coordinator (Salten Regionråd, Norway)

As the part of the program we met representatives from the Bodø2024 organisation that informed us about the work around Bodö 2024 but also how culture can be used to make it attractive for young people to stay in our region or to come to our region.

We went for a City Walk with short stops at important venues of Bodö 2024. We also visited Bodö Glimt, a small football club in the Arctic that became big European club’s "worst nightmare".

Barents Road has also visited KPB Trainee Salten program and got the presentation about Salten Regionråd, its organization, tasks and the co-operation between the municipalities.

We also visited Svømmehallen Scene, Bodö´s old swimming venue which has been transformed to a concert arena and a place where young musicians can meet and practice together.

Director of the Norwegian Aviation Museum Rolf Liland has shown us around the museum.

Barents Road combined the study visit with participation in High North Dialogue 2023 conference in Bodö. We conducted our own Side Event on 18th of April with the topic "Youth in the Barents region as the part of Arctic. The role of culture in creating of attractive living conditions". It gave us an opportunity to present Barents Road for the broader public and to raise the important issue for our association, namely youth in Barents region and the attractiveness of our common region.

This side-event gathered young people, politicians and civil servants from across the Barents Region for discussing how Barents municipalities can be attractive and competitive through creation of attractive living conditions for young people. The panelist have also discussed:

- the role of culture in creating of attractive living conditions and preventing brain drain and youth emigration.

- what should municipalities do to be attractive for their young residents and to retain their young people?

- what is the role of culture in maintaining of young people?


Daniel Smirat - Chair of Barents Road International Organization/Chair of the City Council, Luleå, Sweden (speaker and moderator)

Ola Smeplass - Deputy Mayor, Bodö, Norway

Patti Bruns - Secretary-General of the Arctic Mayors' Forum

Jari Vilén - Ambassador for Barents and Northern Dimension, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.

Erkki Parkkinen - Mayor of Salla, Finland

Vilma Ohrankämmen - The Local Federation of East Lapland, Finland

Tora Lovise Johansen – Politician, Saltdal Municipality, Norway

Charlotte Nyheim – Youth Coordinator, Bodö 2024, Norway

Cecilia Patriarca - Adviser on Climate and Environment, Dragefossen AB, Norway

Politicians presented measures in place to attract and maintain young people in their cities/municipalities. Young leaders spoke about their vision of the future of the Barents, about what is important for them, what do they dream about and what will make them stay.

The visit was organised by Barents Road Secretariat (located at and coordinated by the Municipality of Luleå) and by Bodö Municipality. The visit was also coordinated by Saltdal, Salten Regionråd and The Local Federation of East Lapland.

Barents Road visit to Bodö was supported by County Administrative Board in Norrbotten.

Our special thanks go to County Administrative Board in Norrbotten for making this visit possible, to Bodös Deputy Mayor Ola Smeplass for preparing such a giving and inspiring program for us and to Saltdal kommune!

Text: Nataliia Hammarberg

Photography: Elin Kvamme & Nataliia Hammarberg

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