The funfair tradition

A funfair is a form of amusement park that is often moved around to various locations in Sweden.

Location: Nation wide

Tivoli med upplysta karuseller kvällstid.

There are funfairs all over Sweden and it is also part of an international tradition. As they return to the same places, traditions live on and are normally included in a local range of culture events such as Midsummer celebrations, festivals and other events. Many have preserved older traditions but also changed over through time and adapted what they offer based on new regulations and laws.

They often run as a family business with many years’ experience and professional knowledge and with a connection to performers in both Sweden and abroad. Normally the funfair is the first workplace for younger performers who get an opportunity to work with older performers. The current tradition is being preserved through the knowledge being passed on but also through photographs and tour diaries.

The European funfair movement started in Paris at the end of the 18th century and then arrived in Scandinavia and Sweden in the mid 19th century. The range of entertainments was more limited and consisted of competitions, games and various rides. The funfair often formed the first step in a long career as a performer and many people went on to join circuses. For others the funfair meant a way of life that was passed down through generations, and these strong traditions have kept the business alive.

Svartvitt gotografi. Tält och karseller längs en folktät gata.

Västerås 1903. Foto: Eskilstuna Fotografiska Magasin/Västmanlands läns museum.

The number of funfairs has steadily decreased and funfair owners today face a number of challenges. There are now only a small number of Swedish operators left, which is due to reasons including the need for investments and rental costs to cover for a comparatively short season. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has also had a strong negative impact. The funfair movement has pointed out the need to preserve traditional funfair locations and that the funfairs’ need for space should be taken into consideration. Today the industry is striving to reinforce its status as a cultural institution.

Upplyst tivoli i mörker.