28 August 2020

The Kalas event is Sweden’s largest welcoming party for new students. Each year, 8,000-10,000 students are welcomed, given information and enjoy a concert. The Kalas event is an important LiU tradition, but how did it start?

The Ark spelar på den första Kalasmottagningen 2005. Göran Billeson

 “I remember standing outside the Cloetta Center watching the students arrive in a steady stream and thinking ‘People turned up! What a relief.’”
This is how Göran Felldin describes the moment when he realised that the first Kalas event was probably going to be a success. Right up until the last minute, he was worried that no-one would come, and that the floor in front of The Ark at the Cloetta Center, now the Saab Arena, would remain empty and desolate.
As newly appointed head of the Division for External Relations at LiU, Göran Felldin was involved in 2005 with arranging the first Kalas event. He remembers that the idea for the event came from the students. The intention was to welcome the new students and give them the information they needed when new in town.
“We wanted to show during Nolle-P what Linköping, Norrköping, the region, various companies and the university can offer.”

Göran Felldin.

LiU is bigger than you think

Right from the start, it was planned to be a megaparty.
“Being a student at LiU is so much more than you think it will be, when you arrive. In order to attract folk and make an impression, we decided to create a happening. We wanted a celebrity, and we wanted to fill the Cloetta Center.”
If Kalas was to be a major event, the municipalities of Linköping and Norrköping would have to be involved, together with Region Östergötland.
“The municipalities and the region were very enthusiastic right from the start. They had the logistical and financial resources needed to bring a major artist here. But that’s not enough for an arrangement like this. It was necessary that they commit fully to the idea, and that’s what they did. The students are important to them.”
It is at Kalas that the vice-chancellor welcomes all new students to LiU. Göran Felldin describes how the vice-chancellor at the time, Mille Millnert, supported the event.
“He thought it was a good way to set LiU on the map, both in the region and throughout Sweden. And he also saw that it was a way to look after the students, and make them feel truly welcome.”

Photo credit Göran Billeson

Teddybears performed at Kalas in 2010. 


Didn’t know whether to expect 500 or 25,000 people

Then as now, the Kalas organisation includes some people from the university administration, who bring continuity, and some students who, led by the Kalas director, bring energy and a belief that anything is possible.
The first year, the student unions decided to employ two students on a one-month contract to work full-time with Kalas. One of these was Björn Lagerström, who can be described as one of the first two Kalas directors (although the title wasn’t used at the time). He was also master of ceremonies at the Kalas events in 2013 and 2016.
“We put in a lot more work than one month, just like everyone else. I came from StuFF, the student union for the field of educational science and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and worked with the trade fair, where both companies and student clubs and societies could exhibit. My colleague Martin Carlsson, from LinTek, the student union for students of the technical faculty, worked on the stage show, where the performers included the LiU-based choirs and orchestras.
Just as Göran Felldin, he was worried that the students wouldn’t turn up in sufficient numbers.
“The day before, we didn’t know whether to expect 500 or 25,000 people. It was probably only when the concert by The Ark was under way that I realised that the event was a success. I had been working all day, but during the concert I grabbed something to eat and looked out across the arena. It was packed, and I thought ‘Well - I think we can call it a success.’”
In 2008, Jean-Michel Housset was appointed head of the Division for External Relations. He worked with Kalas for nine years, and came to be known as “Mr. Kalas”.
“The first year we used the same ideas as previously, but Kalas changed as the years passed. It became increasingly larger. We moved some of the activities to outside of the Cloetta Center, and set up both tents and a funfair there.”

Photo credit Göran Billeson


The Kalas event is much more than a concert

Some people probably regard the evening party and its concert as the essence of Kalas, but Jean-Michel Housset emphasises that it is much more than that.
“What’s unique about Kalas is that it is a collaboration. This is where society and the university can meet. Student clubs and societies find new members. Companies create relationships with the students. And there were some effects that we hadn’t thought about. For Region Östergötland, for example, Kalas is a great opportunity to enrol new blood donors.”
Even during the first Kalas, providing information for the students was an important factor, since previously it had often been difficult to reach them.
“Providing information is particularly important for LiU, since more than 70% of students come from far afield, some from other parts of Sweden, and some from abroad. Kalas is a perfect arrangement for the new students. Everything they need to know is gathered in one place for the day”, says Jean-Michel Housset.


Göran Felldin still got his jacket from the first Kalas event.

Favourite memories from the Kalas event

Göran Felldin, head of external relationships at LiU, 2004-2008

At the first Kalas event, we hadn’t really thought about how hungry the students would become. So as the day went on, they started to go to Kantarellen, a hamburger bar across the road from the Cloetta Center. And it wasn’t one student, or ten, or a hundred, but thousands. The owner called in everybody he knew as extra personnel. We hadn’t given him advance warning about the event, simply because we had forgotten to plan food. I’m sure his daily taking for that day was an all-time high.

Björn Lagerström, Kalas director for the first year 2005, then master of ceremonies in 2013 and 2016

One thing I remember well are the first students who acted as master of ceremonies. They held a quiz with the audience. One of the questions was: “How did the email begin that the Kalas director sent to us in which she asked us whether we could act as master of ceremonies?” There were three answers to choose between, the third of which was the correct one: “Wotcher guys! I’m panicking. We have searched through the length and breadth of Sweden for performers. We haven’t found anyone who can take on the job of master of ceremonies. Please, please – could you...?”.

Jean-Michel Housset, head of external relationships at LiU 2008-2010, head of student information and guidance at LiU 2010-2017

I remember 2010 when Teddybears performed. At the time we had a VIP lounge in the restaurant at the Saab Arena for the vice-chancellor, heads of department, municipal leaders, etc. Everything was progressing nicely when suddenly we were assaulted by a wall of sound. The concert had started and some of the guests had probably never experienced such volume. Some of them stood up and pretty much ran from the room. It looked quite amusing. But some of the braver souls remained and wanted to try to get to know the music that young people listened to.

Translated by George Farrants


Photo credit MagnusAndersson


Kalas directors

2005 Martin Carlsson and Björn Lagerström
2006 Jonas Sarin Kac
2007 Lara Hultmark Varejao
2008 Sara Hellberg
2009 Petra Reimers
2010 David Sundvall
2011 Nike Hansen
2012 Johanna Bolander
2013 Sony Zoolander
2014 Jonathan Allvin
15 Alexandra Holmström
2016 Irma Hamzic
2017 and 2018 Hampus Back
2019 Julia Bjers
2020 Filip Elez

Performers at Kalas

2005 - The Ark
2006 - The Soundtrack of Our Lives
2007 - The Sounds
2008 - Mando Diao
2009 - Moneybrother
2010 - Teddybears
2011 - Johnossi
2012 - Veronica Maggio
2013 - Hoffmaestro
2014 - Movits!
2015 - Galantis
2016 - Sabina Ddumba
2017 - E-type and Timo Räisänen
2018 - Timbuktu & Damn! and Markus Krunegård
2019 - Thomas Stenström and Petter
2020 - Tjuvjakt

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