“A lot is being done in the region, to build a vibrant cultural scene”

The snow is drifting down on Fiskarvägen 21 in Arjeplog. Sledges and prams show that a family with children lives here. The house faces deep forest and marshes where the darkness of winter descends. The streetlights, string lights and decorated windows shine warmly.

Actor Harleen Kalkat and musician Magnus Karlsson joined hands with the mountain community seven years ago.

“We had planned to move to Östersund, a city that I think has everything, but then Magnus received a request to take the role of cantor in Arjeplog.”

They left a dreary one-room flat in Stockholm and discovered that life in Arjeplog had a lot to offer. They were also able to develop new lines of business. They enjoyed themselves. After many years of full-time work as a cantor in Arjeplog parish – where choir singing and music events have been permanent features – Magnus Karlsson is now a part-time freelancer. Together they run the Music Theatre in Arjeplog. The repertoire includes several celebrated plays connected to the dramatic history of the mountains. The local revues they produced together with talents in Arjeplog have been met with strong acclaim.

Harleen Kalkat has also had a role in the popular TV series Blackwater , based on Kerstin Ekman’s novel of the same name. It was filmed in Arjeplog municipality.

“I got the role through digital try-outs”, she says and praises the active culture policy of Norbotten County, where Filmpool Nord is an active stakeholder.

“Much is being done in the county to build a vibrant cultural scene”.

At the moment, she is involved in a project with the Arjeplog School of the Arts, conducted with the support of Community Art Lab Sweden. This project is supported by funds from the Swedish Inheritance Fund.

“It’s a lot of fun!” If all goes according to plan, a film will premiere at Arjeplog’s Film Festival.

But not everything is easy. For several years, the Music Theatre has been trying to rent a suitable venue in Arjeplog for equipment and rehearsals.

“As that was not possible, we have bought a house in Moskosel where an artists’ centre, Northern Sustainable Futures, has also been established.

Now they, and their twins, regularly make this 260 kilometre commute.

“It is also very character-building to meet others, from all over the world, who work with theatre and art.”

Harleen Kalkat has the world at her feet with a father from the Indian region of Punjab and a mother from Mälardalen. She is also treading new paths in her commitment to the natural environment.

In Arjeplog, she can both see and experience nature up close, every day. The whole family likes to go on hikes in the mountainous outdoors. One of their first trips was to the glacier district of Sulitelma.

“There was no environmental group when I moved here, so I helped start a local branch of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. There are many people here who want to participate in the non-profit work. Not least questions about the forest inspire engagement.”

The forest is her current theme. She is writing a script for a play with the working title Voices on the forest . Her significant other provides the music of the Music Theatre.

“Everything is based on interviews, and I imagine that the play will contain a lot of movement and dance.

So, is Arjeplog a place worth your time and effort?

“We are grateful”, she says, “and we hope that more people will see the opportunities here”.


Footnote: Arjeplog Film Festival, with the motto Faith, hope and love, celebrates its 20th anniversary in February 2024.

Text & Picture : Maria Söderberg.