Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 13.COM 10.c.2

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Sweden has proposed Land-of-Legends programme, for promoting and revitalizing the art of storytelling in Kronoberg Region (South-Sweden) (No. 01392) for selection and promotion by the Committee as a programme, project or activity best reflecting the principles and objectives of the Convention:

The Land-of-Legends programme is aimed at promoting and revitalizing the art of storytelling in the Kronoberg region of southern Sweden. In Sweden, as elsewhere, factors such as industrialization, urbanization and television and social media have led to the disappearance of traditional venues for storytelling and modes of transmission, with practices of telling stories to exchange experiences and convey knowledge and values dying out. In the late 1980s, a number of librarians and teachers in the Kronoberg region organized a festival involving practitioners, enthusiasts and experts from various parts of Sweden to discuss this situation and devise possible solutions. Shortly after, in November 1990 the Storytelling Network of Kronoberg was created (known as ‘the Association’) to raise awareness about the endangered viability of storytelling and develop measures for its revitalization. The Association initiated the Land-of-Legends programme, which organizes a range of activities including a storytelling festival, camps for teenagers, activities in schools and academia, courses for future teachers and remedial activities. Over time, international contacts have been developed and several aspects of the programme have served as a model for activities elsewhere. The programme links storytelling to other forms of living heritage, helping to revitalize and promote it as a living art.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the programme responds as follows to the criteria for selection as a good safeguarding practice set out in paragraph 7 of the Operational Directives:

P.1:   The programme was launched following a thorough analysis of the viability of storytelling in the country and numerous discussions concerning suitable ways of revitalizing it. A comprehensive system of safeguarding measures has been created by local community members that brought storytelling back to life, produced new storytellers, and turned storytelling into an important means of retaining collective memory and coping with social and psychological problems and traumas.

P.2:   The programme has spread to other parts of Sweden as well as to other Nordic countries; storytellers from different continents have been invited to Swedish storytelling festivals. Many networks have been formed and joint activities such as summer camps for Nordic youth have been organized. The programme clearly promotes coordination at the national and sub-regional levels, the sharing of experience and international cooperation.

P.3:   The Land-of-Legends programme focuses on a fragile domain of oral traditions, as storytelling and verbal arts in general can very easily succumb to rapid loss, folklorization or commercialization caused by the abandonment of traditional ways of life, globalization and the impact of modern media. The safeguarding measures fully reflect the objectives of the Convention: they are community-driven, systematically revitalize the element, ensure its viability and sustainable development, involve continual transmission, promote respect for human creativity, strengthen social bonds and respect among people and foster balance in society.

P.4:   The project has proven to be outstandingly effective, as attested by its long existence, continual growth, impact, large numbers of participants of various backgrounds and high levels of involvement. The project has helped renew a general interest in storytelling at the national and sub-regional levels, and continuously contributes to the sustainable development of the practice and to strengthening its viability.

P.5:   The programme has been implemented by local communities, particularly storytellers, story-lovers, experts, teachers, volunteers, staff of nursing homes and local organizations, with the support of local authorities. The proposal was prepared and endorsed by the umbrella association in collaboration with experts, individuals and local organizations involved in the programme.

P.6:   The project already serves as a very successful national and sub-regional model. Its viability and active search for new venues and social spaces for promoting and practising storytelling suggest that it is applicable to a wide range of national, cultural and social contexts. It also reflects contemporary challenges connected with environmental and social traumas, immigration, acculturation or collective and individual learning problems.

P.7:   The submitting State Party and communities concerned are clearly willing to cooperate in the dissemination of the programme if selected, as attested to by their formal agreement and several practical steps undertaken. One full-time position at the Museum of Legends in Ljungby dealing solely with maintaining international contacts will be established, and efforts will be intensified to publish texts in several international and local languages to help disseminate the programme. Other ways of sharing experience at the International Ljungby Storytelling Festival and within the Nordic NGO network are also foreseen.

P.8:   The growing numbers of visitors to the museum and the festival, and particularly the ever-increasing numbers of storytellers, people actively involved in the programme as well as the expanding network of storytelling associations may serve as source data for assessing the reach and success of the programme. The file provides several examples of the external monitoring and evaluation of the programme as well as feedback and reviews, which are used to improve the activities and safeguarding measures involved.

P.9:   The programme safeguards essential values of the local communities that are embedded in oral traditions, while providing stories with new functions, practitioners and forms of transmission. It could be applicable to the needs of developing countries, mostly because the safeguarding of storytelling, oral traditions and verbal arts does not necessarily require a high level of funding. The focus on the collective, informal sharing of time and space among communities and individuals creates optimal conditions for transmitting this kind of intangible cultural heritage.

  1. Selects Land-of-Legends programme, for promoting and revitalizing the art of storytelling in Kronoberg Region (South-Sweden) as a programme, project or activity best reflecting the principles and objectives of the Convention;
  2. Commends the State Party for its first selection and for proposing an exemplary file that presents a successful, effective and sustainable programme for safeguarding storytelling, which is deeply grounded at the community level and which can serve as a model for countries where oral traditions still play important social and cultural roles.