The Deer Park


Events of the past can shape the self-image of a community for centuries. Europe’s 20th century history, like our own troubled present, shows the importance of dealing with historical trauma. At a time when cultural heritage is often used as a battleground in simplistic and polarising debates, the non-profit association Chronotopia wants to use the power of musical drama to open a space for reflection and discussion. The choral drama The Deer Park, supported by the 2024 Signatur Programme, is about the Swedish island of Öland, but its theme of power and disempowerment is timeless and universal.


On 7 April 1569, Johan III claims the whole Swedish island of Öland as a royal hunting park. This marks the starting-point of more than two hundred years of oppression of the population of Öland. The Ölanders are banned from all hunting and it becomes an offence to extract wood and timber from the forests for domestic use. Powerless, the farmers are forced to watch the game trample and eat their crops. To survive, they defy the prohibitions. This is punished severely, with caning, heavy fines, forced labour in a fortress and, in some cases, exile. The Deer Park on Öland was abolished in 1801. But the memory of this harsh patronage, which hindered development and left human lives in tatters, lives on today as part of Öland’s historical identity.

In the choral drama The Deer Park, composer Hans Gurstad-Nilsson interprets history.Through preparatory theme nights, and a unique concert at Borgholm Castle on 12 May 2024, Chronotopia highlights local history. On the anniversary of the abolition of the hunting park, the audience will meet Vokalharmonin, one of Sweden’s leading choirs, with guest musicians Mika Takehara, percussion, Dohyo Sol, lute and Mats Wallin, clarinet. The Deer Park is a story about historical identity, power, disempowerment and self-determination on Öland, a fairy tale in the borderland between historical reality and fable, where the animals themselves intervene.


With the motto of high quality and popular support, Chronotopia endeavours to reach out and create a new context for classical music in rural areas. By highlighting and interpreting local history in newly written works and theme concerts, the organisation aims to make classical music accessible, creating and renewing audience interest. The Deer Park pilot project lays the foundation for a cultural practice with long-term growth potential. The project creates a working model that can inspire music and cultural heritage institutions and associations across the country.

A new, living context for classical music in the countryside

‘With The Deer Park pilot project, Chronotopia creates a new, living context for classical music in the countryside, in close collaboration with the people who live there. The local history is interpreted in newly written works and theme concerts with Sweden’s leading musicians. Signatur’s contribution makes this possible!”

Hans Gurstad-Nilsson, Artistic Director, Chronotopia

About Chronotopia

Chronotopia is a non-profit association that brings cultural heritage to life through classical music. The Deer Park pilot project is developing a new model for how classical music can reach rural areas. With unique theme concerts anchored in local history, Chronotopia enables participation and meetings between times and generations. The repertoire is renewed and the music is placed in a context close to the local residents.

Read more about Chronotopia on the website