At Helio we have the ambition to mesh members and industries in order to create, cooperate and accomplish. Someone who feels the same way is the cultural entrepreneur and goose-bump creator Jakob Grandin, who along with the Innovation festival Gather has as a goal to create change and cross-border encounters. Jakob is also the creator behind the creative hub House of Gather, Nattskiftet, Nattrådet and has both feet in the cultural industries as the founder of Trädgården with the bureau Grandin’s Flying Circus.
Before Jakob began flying, he used to work as a P.E. teacher, but he has also experienced what it’s like to live on social welfare when one of his previous clubs went downhill. Jakob is the kind of person who makes sure that the lamp is correctly aligned, instead of trying to bask in the light of it. We went for lunch and a cup of java with the man who confirms our theory of how opposites attract – in order to, well, to put it simply, get to know him better.
Hello Jakob, did you live in a collective when you were younger?
If we were going to take a guess at what your passion is, it would be collectives. When it boils down to it, all your projects are either created as one or in one. Where do these collective dreams come from?
Maybe it was the lack of a collective in my youth that created it. I grew up in a core family with parents from the forties who were very “what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours”. A lack of community and being able to be a part of something when I was little probably created a wish and later an opportunity to create it myself.
What were your dreams for the future when you were little?
I wanted to be either a farmer or a captain and work on the lake. Later music took hold of that dream. I still fantasize about it today and dream about changing things in my life. I’m a bit spontaneous.
You are now arranging the innovation festival Gather for the third year in a row. To the people who have completely missed Gather, can you tell us about the concept?
Gather is a place and a platform where you can explore the future together. You go there to get inspired and to network but also in order to build hope. It’s an innovation festival and conference with a lot of speakers whose themes touch on current big issues.
There are innovative workshops that are open to everyone, where problems are put into the hands of the participants to solve, and musical experiences in the evenings. Gather is full of talks and dialogues with a vision to create and change, together. One thing you have to bring along with you when you arrive is the understanding that diversity is an opportunity to evolve. That is the basic principle of it all.
Was it possibly a visit to SXSW in Austin that planted the seed of the idea?
Actually, it was not, but it is definitely an inspiration! The seed was planted by a think tank that I had along with a group of really spacy people with the common denominator that they were incredibly driven. It was business people mixed with innovators and creatives who had about twenty-thirty meetings together. A discussion forum where we talked about innovation and change.
Have you always had an interest in innovation?
No, I would say that it started when I began working with trademarks under Grandin’s Flying Circus and become interested in how you create ideas. I became more interested in the process than what it would actually lead to. We began taking in different types of disciplines and participatory elements. We used different sectors when we developed ideas, everything from scientists to psychologists. After the 2014 elections when SD got a boost in supporters, it became more of a human interest, including after the wave of refugees, at the time we involved the Nobelmountain and opened it up as a transit living facility.
The festival takes place on 12-14 September. What do you do for the rest of the year?
We’re starting Gather in Bogota, Colombia in August, which is very exciting. We also have plans to do a Gather North, get out into the countryside more and continue to have our talks like we’ve had at Helio for example.
You seem to have a gift for collecting the right type of people in the right place in order to create magic or goose bump-experiences as you call it. Do you follow your gut instinct?
Earlier, I had a tendency to put too many similar people together. But I have learned that it needs to be an organization, a structure, and differences in order for it to work.
Provocation is what is most important! People who come in and question everything in order to stop it from following the norm. It’s about believing that everyone can contribute to something, but also to say no to those who don’t stand for the core values that we do.
Do you implement the goose bump-requirement in all of your operations?
I think it’s a very important requirement for physical experiences. The road there doesn’t necessarily have to generate that, not everything has to be orgasmic. It’s important to know that you are always trying out the beta-version in the beginning and even if it doesn’t spark something right away, you are hopefully on your way towards something that will!
Have you always had the same core values?
Absolutely not. My parents were very afraid of change and differences. The gang of boys in my youth definitely didn’t view men and women the same way. It has really grown in me. I have met many people who have taught me a lot through the years! I have had a lot of discussions and conversations with amazing people who are great at the questions and have viewed things from completely different perspectives. With different bodies, new knowledge and personalities.
During the latest talk that Gather held at Helio, you talked about how the city is based on the criticism from its citizens. Can you give some viewpoints you have had criticized that have inspired you to do the work that you do in one or more of your businesses?
In Nattrådet we work towards becoming a city that is more alive, to create a more open and inclusive nightlife. One of the biggest problems with the nightlife in Stockholm is that it has yet to learn everyone’s equal value. The system lets people in, based on society symbols that prioritize people who pay more or who are right for each other. The nightlife needs to grow up! Stockholm claims to be a metropolis that is supposed to compete against the rest of the world’s big cities. To do that we need to put ourselves on the map and change rules and laws a little. If we do that, we can get versatility. We need to think about how we build and create the city, so we don’t get caught in old patterns and structures created by men with power.
Something new för this year is that you will enter Slakthusområdet, where Gather will contribute as a pusher in the development of the area from the perspective of a cultural city. What is the future vision for the area?
My future vision and what I think is interesting is how the planning stands from a cultural standpoint, which makes Slakthusområdet unique. Unlike many other created city areas, they are now allowing a new kind of business and city to get established on top of the old one. You will get the chance to try and create an entirely new foundation that contains culture as a main pillar. The collaboration between culture, housing and work can create an entirely new set of prerequisites!
You seem to be very responsive and open to both criticism and adversity, what is the magic formula for succeeding in turning criticism into an aid in an organization?
Attention to the criticism. To have a curiosity and openness around it and take it seriously.
Finally, Jacob Grandin, what gives you goose bumps?
The first time I was in Berghain, goose bumps. The first time I heard my friend Martin singing in an arena, goose bumps. I just got goose bumps now!
That was all.
Thank you! Feels good to have gotten some goose bumps!
Tickets to Gather is available for purchase here. To read more about all of Jakob’s projects, make sure to check out Nattskiftet, Nattrådet or Trädgården. And by all means, follow Helio on Instagram via @wearehelio