Jens Kristian Kristensen (Kesse), Sexton, Thorum and Junget Churches and Chairman of the Citizens Association Erik Høgh, pensioner, former manager, Skive Abattoir and Chairman for Thorum Gamle Købmandsgård. Both live in the village.
Our meeting takes place in Thorums Gamle Købmandsgård, which after renovation includes a small park, the Local History Archive, a carpentry workshop, a smithy and an activities house.
After waiting for some minutes in the wind-blown car park, we give up on the third interviewee and repair to the main hall, where the following conversation happens over a couple of cold, locally produced soft drinks.
The ill-advised art in Selde
We had been able to follow the process in Selde at a distance, and it’s no secret that little of the “ill-advised art over there in Selde” was to our liking. So when Grasslands approached us, we were on our toes, because we weren’t just going to accept any old suggestions. We wanted some influence on proceedings.
We were already busily at work
Of course, this is because we’d been working on renovating the building we’re sitting in, for years. These renovations are now completed and the building functions as an activities house for the village. At the same time, the idea for a village forest was already in place, even before we had decided that it would be the right solution. So with that in mind, we weren’t interested in Grasslands setting a new and totally different agenda. We wanted to develop some of the ideas we were already working on. So in the beginning there was a lot of resistance, lots of prejudices and it wasn’t easy for Grasslands to get across their abstract thoughts to a group of practically minded people like us.
That German guy
But we’re not deaf, and little by little, we began to listen to each other. All the talk about that German guy (Joseph Beuys) and the oak trees and the basalt stones in that town in Germany (Kassel) where they hold some sort of world famous art exhibition (Dokumenta), did get us interested, despite everything, and bit by bit we got behind the idea of the oak trees and the basalt stones standing as a marker for the village, out by the main road.
It was a good idea and it’ll be lovely when the trees are fully-grown and the grass is cut so that you can see the stones. But the idea of “Crowd funding” and planting hundreds of trees afterwards was silly – anyway, it’s not going to happen, because it’s way too expensive. And the stones have to be brought from China – that makes no sense at all.
The art of binding things meaningfully together
Anyway, after much toing and froing, we finally reached a decision that in addition to the basalt stones and oak trees, that we would, in cooperation with Grasslands, work on establishing a village forest on a plot of land in Thorum. When these two ideas were brought together it became a “win-win situation” and things quickly began to take shape: The State Horticulturalist from Skive Municipality had already made plans for the distribution of fourteen species of trees. That set the ball rolling, and many people got involved and the area was quickly cleared – the farmers willingly helped as much as they could. Everyone could see it was a good idea, so there was lots of support. We were going to plant all these trees by hand, but then Hede Denmark1 got involved and planted 7000 trees by machine in one go. The inauguration on the 4th of August was a totally fantastic day. There was a 125 people in the afternoon and 50 that evening – even though the weather was appalling! It was great to see all that enthusiasm and we celebrated with a party, barbeque and the works!
A new situation
Even though it is still young and not yet full-grown, the village forest already contributes as something beautiful – it is “cultivated” and close to the community hall – there is now “traffic” in the area. People go for walks with their families on birthdays, people sit on the benches, chatting and relaxing. This didn’t happen before. The process of transforming Thorum Gamle Købmandsgård began in 1995, the house opened in 2000 and this was the beginning of better possibilities for the community in the village. The forest is a natural continuation of this.
Something to laugh about
We probably still think that art is a bit lofty and that internationally it’s expensive, difficult and not necessarily good. We also see things a bit differently in the different villages and towns – for example, no one here is very keen on murals on houses – they can keep that kind of thing over in Åsted.
But art has contributed something new in all the villages, obviously. It’s also brought new vigour to our yearly Review, which now attracts people from the whole hinterland, because the spread of art here in the Fursund region has meant that here is something to laugh about and be challenged by! It’s really fun and believe it or not over a 100 people came two nights in a row to our little community hall, with its stage and everything!
The “way we’ve always done things” is dead
You could say that the “way we’ve always done things” has died a death here in Thorum, we’re more open and curious, thanks to this process. We’re still on the lookout for new ideas and we’re more effective when we spot them. It’s broken the ice and there’s more confidence in the village now, even though we still hear people say “It’s great what you’re doing” despite the fact that they’d never lift a finger themselves.