Back tails at break time – Bryggeriets Gymnasium

Håvard Siem Nakken bs crailsliding at the lunchbreak

Article originally printed in Kingpin Magazine, issue 54, 2008

Words by Tamsin Leach
Photos by Nils Svensson

Are you in school at the moment? Does your timetable go something like this: First period, Maths. Second period, Journalism. Third period, Skateboarding. No? What about facilities? Do you have a Panasonic DVX100 to use in film class on Wednesday afternoons? Or maybe one of the better indoor skateparks in the world as your classroom? Hmm. Didn’t think so. Damn, son: they do in Malmö. You’re missing out.

– – –

If you want to get something done in Sweden, form an association. Freedom of association is enshrined in the Swedish constitution; it’s considered fundamental to the democratic process. In Malmö alone there are 2000. No messing around with local skatepark user groups here, no scrabbling to get the council to take you seriously. Form an association, write down what you’re about and how you’re going to manage yourself, then send off those details to the local authorities. You look like you have a vague idea of what you’re doing and aren’t just going to embezzle funds; they give you an association number. A year later (in Malmö, at least), you become eligible for grants. Wham: you’re in business.

This was the beginning of Bryggeriet. A group of Malmö skaters gagging for somewhere dry to skate during the long, dark Scandi winters formed an association, AggroKult. This was back in 1990, when the Malmö authorities weren’t in love with skateboarding as they are now; there was no track record, and skaters were still just kids in their eyes, not the successful Red Bull/youth magnet media and money spinners that they became after the building of Stapelbäddsparken. But an association, even one filled with kids, had to be listened to. It took a while, though. Eventually the skaters were introduced to Ronny Hallberg, who was working with the YMCA and another youth association, the Young Eagles, on projects that might get Urban Youth off the streets and into something good.

Now they had someone who knew how to work the system on their side. Get this: they got the space for Bryggeriet from Malmö’s department of leisure. For free. No rent. Listening, Ken Livingstone? In return they promised to fill it with a skatepark, a café, film and photo studios – and involve The Youth. The space they were given was in the old Pripps Brewery, or bryggeri. You can’t tell from the photos how massive the main hall is, so take it from us: massive. The park took a year to build, finally opening on September 4th, 1998 – at a time when decent European skateparks were desperately thin on the ground. A bunch of other associations took root in other parts of the building, too,

The Bowl being built in 1998.

So, the skatepark worked. It has a comfy café with views over the park, good strong Nordic coffee and kanelbullar (these things are important), locker rooms and a large workshop. Two skaters are employed full-time to keep things ticking along nicely, with others taking shifts at the door and motherly ladies behind the counter in the café. There are weekly ladies only sessions, and slots set aside for the Old Bastards (this is their own moniker, and we’re not going to argue). There are also employees who are, as my grandmother would say, “not quite all there”. In fact, of the 25 currently employed at Bryggeriet, 9 are on some kind of worker’s comp from the government, which both keeps costs down and adds to the community vibe. Social inclusion, innit?

Next step on the high school highway was the creation of an individual study programme in association with the University of Malmö. Basically, if you wanted to learn to run something that was vaguely youth, urban and community related, you could come to Bryggeriet to do it. Some students started hiphop collectives. Others set up music festivals. For his class project, John Magnusson got a fuck-off giant concrete skatepark built down the street – with a little bit of help from the rest of his association, of course.

And so the not-for-profit Malmö skateboarding empire continued to grow. “Wouldn’t it be nice,” Kami had said, back when they were building the indoor park, “If we could use some of the rest of this space to create a high school?” (Kami is an OG Malmö loc and now teaches woodshop to the students – with a heavy emphasis on transitions). There was a precedent: a skate programme at the Fryshuset high school in Stockholm (, a not-for-profit that began life as Stockholm’s indoor skatepark and has grown into an 850-pupil strong secondary school specialising in sports, performance arts, music and gaming.

The skateboard class room

By 2004, it seemed like maybe Malmö was ready for such a thing. The millennium had seen a new high school system introduced in Sweden: now, for the three years between 16-19, students would have a choice of about 17 different pathways, some vocational, some higher educational. Schools could specialise in sciences, technology, electronics, agriculture, arts … no, not skateboarding. But schools could specialise in media. What if, the Bryggeriet crew reasoned, you studied media through choosing a ‘passion’, which became the lens through which your education was focused?

Time to set up a new association. The dance studio next door was invited to get involved, as a way of “diversifying the student body”, (not many boys dance, not many girls skate: got it?), and advisors were brought in to help write up a programme. The first time the new association wrote to the National School Board to apply for recognition, their plans were refused; things just weren’t quite tight enough. Back to the advisors, and late in 2005, Bryggeriets Gymnasium was deemed good to go.

John Dahlquist going through the differences between a Sean Penn and a Madonna.

Typically, in Sweden, new schools are companies, not not-for-profit associations; typically, new schools have funds already invested. Bryggeriet had nothing except people who really gave a shit. Free schooling across Europe isn’t actually “free”; looking at it very simplistically, local authorities have a budget for each student living in their jurisdiction, which goes to the school that gives them a place. As Bryggeriet offers a specialist education, it has ritsintag status: it doesn’t matter where students live, their local authorities must allow them to attend and pay for their place. But until those places were confirmed and the money arrived, the school was broke. They couldn’t employ a headmaster until the May before school was supposed to begin; they couldn’t pay any of the teachers until the Class of 2009 starting skating through the doors (yes, you can skate in the corridors). And it wasn’t like they had a rush on applications, not at first. Skaters were up for it, but it was hard for the staff to explain the concept to nervous parents. You know: “Yeah, well, it’s a school – and it’s skateboarding.”

Bryggeriet Gymnasium opened in August 2006. The first class is made up of 30 skaters, 10 dancers, and 10 just specialising in media, primarily kids from the local estates. This year adds another 50 to the mix. By the third and final year of the first intake, there will be a student body of 150. About half the school day is devoted to subjects required to graduate high school: maths, Swedish, English, social studies. One afternoon is given over to photography and film: basics in the first year, specialising for the next two. Fridays school finishes after lunch – which, incidentally, is free, and meatball-tastic. And skating? At break, at lunch, and for two half-days a week.

So: today ve will learn svitch nollie heels or detentions all round? Er…no. John Dahlquist, the skate teacher, has to vaguely follow the sports curriculum set out by the authorities: along with “techniques” go history and culture, injury prevention, goal setting and achievement, ethics and event organisation. So they study old mags and videos, look at branding, have a physio come in to explain how to rehab, build ramps for Malmö festivals. “But I’m not going to tell anyone how or what they should be skating,” he says. “Sometimes we swap tricks. Sometimes everyone follows the same line, but does whatever they can do for their level and style. And twice a year everyone sets their own goals. It’s pretty informal.” As for health and safety, well: in the first year the worst injuries were a dislocated shoulder and a bad heel bruise. Save those stats for your local council.

Andreas Lindström fs tuckknee at Stapelbäddsparken

On the walls in the photography classroom, shots from the parks and the streets jostle for space with the usual high school photography themes of portraiture and desolation. And though film class doesn’t focus on skating, footage of the park shows up again and again. “Making skate films helps you to learn editing because of the flow,” explains Daniel Ronnstam, the film teacher. “Plus it’s so easy and fast to get stuff shot downstairs; the park gives us very good basic material for a filmmaking course.” Sticking to the school’s mission of combining subjects to provide a holistic education, last year everyone had to shoot and edit a trick tip – from a drop-in to a nollie heel late flip – which were then posted on the local shop site:

About 20% of the first year have sponsors. There are classes on how to get on in front of a lens, as well as behind one, and the staff work hard to help their students get hooked up. But Bryggeriet is open to all abilities, and producing pro skaters isn’t the goal. Martin Erberth is the headmaster, one of just seven staff employed the first year. He’s stoked on being involved in something new and non-traditional; stoked on finding new ways to teach. “Other schools need to think like we do, need to see the individual as a whole. Leisure is as big a part of our pupil’s lives as school – and maybe more important.”

Over on the next desk, the deputy head clicks on some footage shot in the park by the Swedish Magdalena Rosén knew nothing about skating before she got involved with the school; now she’s watching Norwegian Daniel Hansen bailing a hardflip with all the pride of someone whose student just got a Nobel Peace Prize. “Look, look, look: this time, he nails it.”

And to the naysayers who claim it’s not a “proper” education? After a visit, the sceptics usually get it. The obvious stoke students have about the possibilities of film and photography; the way a student who thought they couldn’t write manages pages and pages when allowed to write about a comp, or a road trip, or the latest skate video. Then there’s the fact that the school is home to students who wouldn’t be at school at all if Bryggeriet didn’t exist. Magdalena shrugs. “We have very few problems with our students skipping school – because what they want to do most is at school.” Lucky bastards.


You don’t live in Malmö. You don’t even live in Sweden. No matter: last year there were three Norwegians at the school. Okay, you don’t speak Scandiwegian. Again: no matter, so long as you speak passable English. If a group of skaters can set up a school, you can arrange your own exchange programme. Here’s how to get started: look into the organisations that sort out high school exchanges in your country, and figure out how your local authority funding works. Contact Bryggeriet and speak to Magdalena. If enough non-Scandis show interest, they’ll even arrange alternate language classes so you can tick all the boxes on your way to graduation.

Bryggeriets Gymnasium
+46 40 926585




What would you be doing if you weren’t here?

Best thing about school?
You can skate all the time, and film

What’s the most useful thing you’ve learnt in skate class?
How to shoot a good photo

It’s still a normal school … maths and stuff

Etnies, Habitat, One Off skateshop

Karim, who is currently sweeping up at all the Swedish comps, commutes an hour-and-a-half on the train to get to school. And back again. Every day. Quit your whining about lack of spots.


Sarah Meurle enjoying an outdoor lesson with a smooth bs smithgrind.



Best thing about the school?
My: That we can skate, there are not too many people, and it’s free. I’m from six hours north and my parents weren’t sure about the school at first, but now they think that I’m getting a good education.
Sarah: We can do what we like to do, and all the subjects are combined and connected. It’s really small and calm, and everyone here has a good relationship with the teachers.

Sarah: There’s almost too much skating! You skate, you hang out with skaters, and you skate so much that sometimes you don’t feel like skating after school. If I stop skating for two days now I feel like I haven’t skated in a week.

Favourite subject?
My: Photography and film. I love skating out of school, but while I’m actually here, I enjoy them even more than the skating.

What do you want to do more of this year?
My: I want to be a better photographer.
Sarah: Learn how to edit.

What’s the most useful thing you’ve learnt in skate class?
Both: When you have a skatepark almost to yourself it feels easier to try new tricks.

My: Evoke and Triple A
Sarah: Riverfarm, Etnies, Streetlab, WeSC, Triple A

Sarah went uncredited for the loading dock nollie heel in Kingpin Issue 42; sorry, Sarah.




How did you hear about the school?
Håvard: Petter found it on the internet and started at the beginning of term. Two weeks later, I joined him

Best thing about the school?
Petter: Downstairs (ie: the park). And we’ve learnt to live on our own.
Håvard: We get to make movies, learn to shoot photos, skate so much – and it’s free.

Petter: It’s not in Norway.
Håvard: There’s nothing that I don’t like about this school aside from that.

Petter: Demin Skateboards; Håvard: My mum


Johan Sundén enjoying a schooltrip to Gothenburg with a bs lipslide



What would you be doing if you weren’t here?
Johan: Probably be at art school
Andreas: Living in Gävle, doing nothing

How did you hear about the school?
Johan: I moved from Gàvle to Malmö in the first place to skate Stapelbäddsparken. Then I got talking with Magdalena (the deputy head) one day when I was skating Bryggeriet.
Andreas: Johan told me about it; Magdalena got in touch and fixed it up for me.

Best thing about the school?
Andreas: I get to live in Malmö and skate for free. At home there’s nothing – in my town there’s just some curbs.

Andreas: Missing friends back in my hometown.

Best subject?
Johan: Hmm…not sure if it’s film or photography, but right now I reckon photography

What do you want to do more of this year?
Johan: Get into skating vert
Andreas: Skate more, shoot more photos

What’s the most useful thing you’ve learnt in skate class?
Johan: I’m bad at stretching, but John always reminds us to look after our bodies.
Andreas: That there are no rules.