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Hallongrottan/Hallon TV: An Interview with Bitte Andersson

Grassroots media in Europe
LGBT and queer issues
Queer feminism
Teaser Image: 


Bergsundsgatan 25
Stockholm , 117 37
59° 18' 56.9196" N, 18° 1' 46.92" E

Jenny: Can you introduce yourself?

Bitte: My name is Bitte Andersson I’m 28 years old and currently living in Stockholm. I am an illustrator, comix- and alternative TV producer and proud owner of the queerfeminist bookshop Hallongrottan. I was previously involved the zine Tigerskott i brallan, the band Dyke Hard, which was later renamed to Lick it Good and the queer club Defekt. Most recently I have been involved in the queer feminist TV-project Hallon TV that is being broadcasted locally in Stockholm and online on I have a background in Gender Studies and art, and dropped out from the University Collage of Arts Crafts and Design (Konstfack) to start up my bookshop in 2006.

JGP: So how and why did you start up Hallongrottan?

BA: Well, it was Mina (with whom I used to make Tigerskott i brallan) Sabina (who I met when I studied Gender Studies) and I… We sat down and had a chat, and Sabina had travelled a lot in the US, and had fallen in love with the North American dyke- and feminist culture. Over there, there are more women’s bookshops, both in larger cities and smaller towns, so it’s not as unusual as it is here in Sweden. And over there they aren’t so heteronormative, but they are including all sorts of women, and children (like children’s books and stuff). Sabina was very inspired by this and thought it would be great if there was one in Sweden. She’s a librarian and, like, a real book nerd and I really hated the art world at the time and thought that Konstfack had deprived me of all my activist energy… Well, anyway, after a while I hooked up with a new girlfriend, who just so happens to be in possession of the rental contract of this place, and she said we could start up the shop here already within a few months. However, Mina and Sabina had other plans and thought we would have to wait for another few years, but I thought that in a few years someone else might have done it already or that I might be doing something else, so I decided to start it up myself, with Minas and Sabina’s blessing.

JGP: I remember from last time I interviewed you for Tigerskott i brallan that we talked about queer and feminism, and I remember you saying that you intellectually agree with queer, but that you were a radical feminist at heart. Is that something you would still agree with?

BA: Well, not in the meaning of trans phobia, which is what many people associate with radical feminism at the moment, like, that the big difference between radical- and queer feminism revolves around issues regarding trans phobia and separatism, and I do feel quite critical against both of those things. For example, Hallongrottan is open for anyone who wants to arrange an event here, and there are some feminists who are having feminist crafts evenings here once a month, and they wanted it to be separatist. At first I had some issues with whether I should discuss this with them or not, because the risk that some men would take over here is basically equal to zero. There are almost just women and trans people who come here anyway, as well as some gay men, and perhaps the odd straight guy, but that’s extremely rare… The whole point of Hallongrottan is, like, to strengthen women’s egos, and I want it to be as open and welcoming and open as possible for everyone. But then again the whole idea of Hallongrottan is that it should be open for all different varieties of feminism, even separatist feminism—which is also part of my own background—so I decided not to interfere in the end. But it has to be trans inclusive, of course, so it includes every kind of trans identity.

But perhaps I didn’t respond to the question? Well, about radical feminism, I think wanted to say is that I am a man hater at heart, and I think I still am in a sense. I mean, I am not a man hater in practical terms—I even have a boyfriend at the moment—but I can be rather critical against queer. I feel like a queer sympathiser, and I am queer myself, but I think sometimes it can be rather individualist and relativist, which is why I think you always have to acknowledge who is being listened to and who gets all the space. Like, if it happens to be a middle class, middle age man, perhaps it’s just not a coincidence.

JGP: So, the different things you sell in Hallongrottan—in addition to books, you also sell fanzines, gift wrapping paper, shoe laces…

BA: Yes, I have fact and fiction literature, children’s and youth books, sex toys and gift items, t-shirts, post cards, fridge magnets, music and buttons and stuff.

JGP: And the different activities you have...

BA: We have reading groups, author visits, lectures, workshops, ‘crafts readings’ (people take turns in reading, like for two hours so that people have enough time to do their crafts at the same time), film screenings, seminars and we’ve had lots of activists coming to talk about their own work, also from other countries. Often these contacts are initiated by RFSL (The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights) and RFSU (the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education) who have international collaborations, so that when people come here to talk in the Government or come to Sweden to apply for aid, they are often invited to come here and give a talk as well. So that’s cool, because we can’t really afford to pay for anything—it’s all just organised through contacts. All our events are free of charge, and the speakers don’t get any money for it. We offer them, like, leek and potato soup, a cheese/hummus sandwich and a gift from the store.

JGP: So the cultural program is done completely on a voluntary basis?

BA: Yes, except from that we received 36 000 Swedish kroner from the Ottar fund, which we have spent on Hallon TV. It cost us 12 800 to buy broadcasting time at the local Open Channel and then we’ve bought materials to sow costumes and make scenography, to buy DV-tapes and a video camera and stuff like that. And then we receive some money from Sensus Studieförbund.

JGP: Tell me about Hallon TV!

BA: It’s a TV programme which we broadcasted for the first time in May 2008. It’s an entertainment show we’re doing for the Open Channel [community TV] here in Stockholm, which has a very traditional format—a bit like The Muppet Show. For our show host we have a non-gendered hand puppet called Elle.

The puppet is sown and designed by Ina Wood [who has worked in Hallongrottan since 2007]. She also plays it and it’s got no script so everything it says is improvised. The programme itself begins with a vignette, which is a caricature of television vignettes, or children’s programme vignettes… First you see a number of sad and lonely feminists and HBT-people, or, rather, you just see that they’re lonely people. And then a ball comes bouncing in from above and they start throwing it between each other, and then the program host enters the picture and welcomes the viewers to the show.

We’ve had announcements for and contacted lots of people and asked them to contribute, so we’ve received short films, music videos, slideshows and other contributions which we have added to the programme. The show host puppet also has its own story, which frames the whole programme, like its own world, so many of the contributions we’ve made ourselves revolve around this puppet in the Hallon TV world. We had a soap opera in three parts called Päronsoppa [Pear Soup]. It’s all improvised and it’s all filmed at Ina’s house at that time, in Tensta, which is located in an area which bizarrely enough is called Päronområdet [The Paer Area].

The aim of Hallon TV is to create a forum for queer feminist culture—or really, I mean feminist and/or LGBTQI, because it doesn’t have to be queer, it can just as well be purely gay, or dyke, trans-, or hetero-feminist. So everything within queer and feminism can be included. We’re thinking that it’s important for activists to share each other’s cultural expressions, because otherwise you’ll get lonely, and you have to reinvent the wheel all the time. The more you see, the larger your frame of reference becomes, and you can refer to each other’s stuff and develop each other’s ideas… I once interviewed a Chilean photographer who said that you can’t own culture—all her own work was copy left so that anyone can use it. She said that you can’t own culture because nobody ever invents something, but one always builds on what has already been made. Therefore, it’s nobody’s property, but a common cultural heritage, and that’s how I think about Hallon TV as well, as a way of sharing queer culture. Mass media aren’t really that interested in queer culture, so we just have to do it ourselves instead. Unfortunately, the communication—internationally or nationally—isn’t great and we want Hallon TV to be a forum for precisely this, as well as serving emancipatory aims for feminists and HBT-people. We’re thinking that since media have an enormous influence over our self-perception. If you never see yourself represented in the media, it’s almost like you don’t exist, or like there’s something wrong with you. And I think most people feel like this, because the media, in principle, don’t represent anyone, really, as it just consists of super-edited people that are all perfect and popular, young and slim. So, the aims are to be a forum, to be emancipatory for the own group, and to change representations of men, women and trans people and just people in general. I realise that we don’t have the same influence as [mainstream] media, but you have to start somewhere.

JGP: Have you had any response from your audience?

BA: Well, we have had some feedback from people who have watched it on the Open Channel, and who would never have found it on the Internet, or people who don’t have access to the net. We have some regulars who, without ever needing to buy anything, are hanging out here at Hallongrottan, because we have free coffee and cookies every day. Some of these people are mentally ill or have drug problems, and they’re older than me, between 40 and 70. And if you’re poor or have problems like these you might not have followed the whole Internet craze at all… It’s quite fun when they’ve watched Hallon TV on the Open Channel because it feels rather unexpected that they would have seen it at all. Otherwise the whole feminist- and queer movements are rather segregated by age and class (and other aspects), so in this way we can reach out to other generations as well.

JGP: I’ve read on your website that you can also assist people who might not have finished material, or who are just generally interested in making TV. How do you do that?

BA: First of all, it’s easy to make such big promises, because hardly anyone is getting in touch, but we have done one thing with FHOBIT, an organisation for HTB-people with disabilities which we made a reportage on. They wanted to contribute, but they lacked the technological equipment and they didn’t really have the time and energy to organise it. But they had made an exhibition for Stockholm Pride, a series of still pictures and a series of texts, so together we decided to use some of the images accompanied by a reading of one of the texts. In addition, they would write an explanatory text about the exhibition. So what we did was to record the sound and film them when they read, and then we used some of the images to illustrate the text. This was their own choice, as they didn’t want all of the attention to be focused on their bodies. So, although they had spent a lot of time putting together the exhibition in the first place, we did most part of the work with the media production. We’ve also made a couple of slideshows from Uppsala and Oslo Pride, when we have received images and non-copyrighted music from the organisers to work with.

JGP: Do you have any plans or visions about developing Hallon TV even further?

BA: We should have made a DVD-box now for the Christmas rush (in 2008), including all the six episodes of the season as well as some bonus material which would all have been like a fictive ‘behind the scenes’ documentary, some background info and interviews with all contributors—all of which would have taken place in the Hallon TV world. We did record some of that on a parking lot already, using a van to tell a story of the fictive road show Hall-On-Wheels (you know, like ‘hell on wheels’) which preceded Hallon TV. So we dressed the van in silver materials and invited some cabaret artists who had already been involved in the project, and directed them to sing and do some tap dancing and stuff, all watched by an audience who just thought it was rubbish! We were going to use this as bonus material for the DVD, but in the end we didn’t really have time to do it and we didn’t get the funding we had applied for. [Instead you can watch this material at: ] The plan was to send the whole DVD-box to all feminist and queer organisations we could come in contact with world wide. We also planned to include a film-making school in the material and invite people to send us their own work. I thought it was a great idea, so it’s a shame it didn’t work out. On the other hand, we’re working with translating the show to add subtitles to increase the possibilities for international distribution.

JGP: Any other plans for projects?

BA: Ideally, I would rather like to continue to work with Hallongrottan for like 50% of the time and then use the rest of my time drawing—because I have a wonderful shop where I can sell my stuff. My favourite idea is that I would make drawings and then reproduce them and pretend that I’m Walt Disney, and make my own book marks, posters, bed linen, stationary and stuff like that. I’d like to make a series with cards, like “Congratulations to the residence permit”, “Congratulations for the sick leave”, or “Congratulations for the hysterectomy”, rather like the ones you can by at any florist, but with different messages.

JGP: Is there anything else you would like to add?

BA: I’d like to invite everybody to throw cultural events in Hallongrottan, contribute to HallonTV, try our free (now vegan!) cookies in the shop or just contact us for any type of cooperation. We’re currently working on a series of “Summer letters” on our website where we invite different activists, journalists, artists, writers, nerds, enthusiasts, voluntary workers, book worms etc to write letters to Hallongrottan about what they are up to, anecdotes, manifestos, fiction, reflections, or whatever. The letters can be about any subject as long as there is some kind of connection to feminism and/or LGBTQI-issues. We’re posting a new letter every Tuesday and Thursday until 1/9 2009. You’re all welcome to join! E-mail me at infoathallongrottan [dot] com. More information is available on

I’d also like to encourage everybody who tries to produce their own platform. If you ask me, it doesn’t really matter if very few, or even nobody, notices or cares about your stuff. It’s still more fun and stimulating than just consuming whatever the mass media feeds you.

Bitte Andersson
Affiliated organisation: 
Hallongrottans Vänner
Jenny Gunnarsson Payne
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