On this page we have collected answers to the most common questions that arose in social media around the beginning of June 2022. Additional questions and answers might appear before camp 2022.
What has happened?
In the last few years some members of the community have raised questions mainly around compensation for the camp’s staff, processes around sexual harassments prevention and management, the inclusion of the LGTBQIA+ community, BIPOC and more in general cultural appropriation. When a video was posted on the HDC Facebook page depicting a scene from camp 2017, a discussion started on social media resurfacing all the above-mentioned issues, with requests for answers from HDC; we would like to answer the recurring questions below.
Do you not care about people being safe from harassments at the camp?
Of course we do. Everyone should feel safe at Herräng, and we have a zero-tolerance for all kinds of sexual harassments. We are currently working on a safe space policy which will be implemented at the camp 2022. At the same time, we ask for your understanding that the process for handling incidents must be in accordance with the law, meaning that we can’t disclose details.
So this will change now but why have you ignored the safety at the camp, mainly regarding sexual harassments, for all these years?
No, we haven’t. We have a professional procedure in place for dealing with incidents, outlined leveraging the expertise of professionals in this field as well as formal regulations; our staff follow this protocol, which also requires the staff to keep names, episodes and measures taken strictly confidential. We have applied a zero-tolerance approach towards all abusive or harassing behaviour, in strict accordance with human compassion and kindness as well as with Swedish law and regulations. We do, however, believe that we could have been more communicative about our framework, guidelines and intentions, which we are now correcting by launching and publishing our Safety & Values policy. We are also looking into how to further improve in this area.
Why haven’t you been more transparent around how you have dealt with some of the issues related to sexual harassments?
We are bound by strict principles of confidentiality to safeguard everyone’s safety at the camp while maintaining legal compliance. We kindly ask everyone to have trust in the integrity of this process as it is subject to continuous review by external experts and relevant authorities. We can not comment on individual cases in accordance with Swedish law. But we can certainly improve on being more transparent on how we deal with sexual harassments.
Why haven’t you been more inclusive to the LGBTQIA+ community?
Everyone, regardless of their background or identity, is welcome at our camp. This has always been a cornerstone at Herräng throughout our 40-year history. For us, the love of the dance is the focus, and we believe in its unifying powers, transcending boundaries and bringing people closer. In an attempt to avoid labels and categorization, we have not explicitly said that everyone is welcome regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, economic status and other diverse backgrounds. Our intention has always been to allow everyone, in their uniqueness, to come to the camp, without the need to “fit” into a specific group. We now see that this has had the opposite effect of what we were trying to achieve. Going forward, we recognize the need to emphasize this firm commitment to inclusion more, and we have reached out to members of the LGBTQIA+ community within the Lindy Hop scene to help us in this work to make everyone feel recognized.
Why did you refuse to listen to LGBTQIA+ people before?
For years, Herräng has been a place where passionate dancers meet across boundaries, and we are proud of the many testimonials of how diversity has flourished at the camp. For a long time, we believed this diversity and inclusion was best served by a sole focus on the dance itself. We now acknowledge that addressing these issues more would clarify our intentions better and allow the camp to remain a place to welcome everyone, every summer, in a more inclusive way.
Why did you refuse to feature a Pride flag at Herräng?
While immensely proud of the large number of dancers from the LGTBQIA+ community at Herräng over the years, our policy has been to focus solely on the dance, believing this would be the best way to attain inclusion and diversity. On different occasions, several flags or other symbols occurred without permission, and our response was then to ban all of those. This is however one of the things where we have reconsidered our position, and going forward, we recognize the need to express our commitment to inclusion of the LGTBQIA+ community, for instance by featuring the Pride flag during the Swedish Pride month, among other things.
What is your view of cultural appropriation – have you stolen an African American dance?
It is undisputable that the dance originates from the African American culture, and it is also a sad fact that its context was one of deep discrimination and a segregating and oppressive society – that in many ways remain to this day. Herräng has actively raised the awareness of these issues to a global audience under its entire lifespan. Frankie Manning and many others came to Herräng and the dance vastly increased in interest, with the greatest respect and admiration of its founders and the heritage. Over the course of the last decade, relevant objections have been raised and we have initiated a process of reflection and insight. To help us in this important work, we have now begun to consult leading experts in the area, and also invited the community to provide constructive feedback in an online form on how we can evolve. We hope this work will result in BIPOC feeling more welcome and included at camp.
Why has it taken Herräng so long to acknowledge these problems while the rest of the Lindy community has been much more accommodating?
Herräng has believed in a philosophy of combining a discussion around the heritage and roots of the dance, with an artistic approach to entertainment and training. This will remain our core principle, but we have realized the need for a revised approach to drive diversity and inclusion further at Herräng.
Why do some people seem to think Herräng is more or less racist?
Herräng has been trying to represent the very opposite for 40 years. To hear allegations like that is quite surprising as well as painful. We have hosted one of the most featured Lindy events in the world, with dancers joining from all over the globe, unified by the passion for this dance, its heritage and roots, and the spirit of Frankie Manning.
Has there been Nazi symbols displayed at the camp?
In 2014, there was a limited number of flyers distributed during one night where Lennart was depicted as a Nazi. We took immediate action to remove this. Many dancers at the camp were for obvious reasons very upset about these allegations as they knew Lennart being the very opposite of such ideas. We still today do not know who was behind this, or even if it was seriously intended or in some twisted way meant as some kind of joke.
Has blackface occurred at Herräng without the camp action?
One dancer once dressed up as a matchstick during a masquerade, unaware that his look could be misinterpreted as a blackface, although that was never his intention. The camp acted by informing him and also the people who reported it so that the misunderstanding could be cleared.
Did you ask the community for money while still receiving public subsidiaries and ended up putting money in your own pockets?
No. The reality is that the pandemic was a financial disaster for Herräng. It is true that we asked the community for contributions, and we are very grateful to everyone who were willing to help, but all funds were needed to cover previous losses and fixed costs, apart from modest salaries for the people who devote all their time to save the camp. During most years, the camp does not generate any surplus but rather a deficit, which was the case last time, in 2019, where the camp despite having many attendees ended up with a loss. The squeeze between being able to offer prices that can accommodate many dancers, and our cost, means that we cannot pay people who work for us, but try to compensate them in other ways by building a great experience, offering free staff classes, etcetera.
Why are you not paying people decent salaries while you make a profit?
In order to run this camp, we rely on voluntary work during camp. A few people, including the main organizers, work all year around to plan and organize the summer event with a workload corresponding to a full-time employment, sometimes more, for which all receive a salary below the local median income. Herräng is a company, and as such it has been able to exist independent of public subsidiaries for a long time, to the benefit of all its dancers. To pay for fixed costs, personnel and start up the event every year, the total cost lands on approximately one million Euros. Then it takes around another one million Euros to produce the actual camp. The total accumulated profit during the company’s last 25 years is 30.000 Euros, in effect a non-profit operation.
The pandemic has, however, had a substantial impact on the company’s finances with significant deficits. In order to cover those, the camp has received some public support generating a nominal profit in order to start up the camp in 2022 and to pay off debts to dancers that had registered and paid for the cancelled event in 2020.
In reality, beyond spreadsheet accounting, Herräng has struggled during the pandemic like so many others and measures have had to be taken in order to turn it around and make a return in 2022 possible.
What actions are you taking now going forward?
We have initiated several processes to listen and improve. Among measures taken is a specific survey asking for feedback, a safe space policy, in-depth dialogues with members of various communities such as African American and LGBTQIA+ dancers, previous personnel and an extended post-camp survey that we will start applying where we will ask all participants to review safety, diversity, and inclusion. We believe in allowing this to take some time, as these are too important topics to be reduced by a pressured timeframe, and we look forward to implementing continuous improvements based on the outcome.
How will you recover from this crisis?
By listening, learning, and also focusing on arranging the first camp after the pandemic, that we know so many dancers look forward to, and hope to make it a truly great experience.