Klaus Bondam: I always wanted to be a changemaker

“I am born on the island of Bornholm, Denmark, 19th of November 1963 by a Danish mother and a Dutch father. I have since the 1st of January 2011 been the director of The Danish Cultural Institute in Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg – The Benelux. I live in a small apartment in Brussels, where the institute is also located. My husband Jacob Kamp, who is a landscapearchitect, lives in Denmark. We don’t have any children.”

That is how Klaus Bondam presents himself on the website of the Danish Cultural Institute. To me he is one of the most interesting and diverse individuals I have ever met. He has been a Mayor for the Employment and Integrations administration (2010) and a Mayor for the Technical and Environmental administration (2006 – 2009), a member of a number of committees of the City Council (2002 – 2010), subsequently General and Administrative Manager (1995 – 2005) of three theatres in Copenhagen, a freelance actor (1992 – 2010) at theatres, in films and on television including several major films and theatre productions and long running TV-series, Customs Officer at The Danish Customs Service (1985 – 1986), A Chair, Vice-chair or Member of over 20 bodies in the fields of culture, environment, employment and commerce, a juror in several international architectural competitions (e.g. Carlsberg and North Harbour), film festivals and admission auditions…He is also, together with film-director Hella Joof, the author of the script for the Danish movie block buster “Shake it all about” (Angel Film, 2001). For sure I am missing things, but it is hard to grasp everything he has done in an introductory paragraph.

Yet Klaus Bondam has got a warm, down-to-earth and open personality. One of those people you feel comfortable around. And I am absolutely delighted and honoured to have him as my guest.

Your CV presents you as a person with diverse talents and skills. How do the artist, politician, teacher and top manager co-habit in your personality?

For me it has always been quite simple to keep a red thread in my career, since the whole point in everything that I always have been doing circles around the desire to be a ‘changemaker’, to make a difference, to try to influence as much as possible.

How did you manage to combine your actor’s career with your very responsible position as a Мayor of Copenhagen?

When I was appointed deputy-mayor In 2006, I stopped working as an actor. The two things – or any other job in civilian life – was not possible to combine with a political full time post. Having said that, it may have confused the public a bit suddenly seeing a well know and established actor and comedian as a part of the political leadership of the city. I tried always to be as well prepared as I could in all political matters, so the public would take me serious. Mostly I succeeded in this.

Have you ever been faced with prejudices regarding your suitability for this high political position because of your artistic side and practice?

Off course there where people that used my background as an actor – and a gay person – against me. But first off all; there will always in politics be people who are strongly against you. Unfortunately few of them crosses the line and become hateful and express hate-speech, but the majority where kind and open to debate and dialogue despite differences. Secondly I always during my years in politics tried to be so open and accessible as possible, which made people act the same ways towards me.

Which of the things you have done as a Мayor have given you the biggest satisfaction? And what would you have done differently if you could turn back the time?

I am most proud of the fact that I got to be known as “The Bicycle Mayor”. In my time in office major investments in bicycle infrastructure was secured, so that as of today 38% of all work- and study places in Copenhagen are reached on bicycle everyday – all year around. Would I have done things differently? Hmmm … normally I do not regret anything, but off course there are things where my restless soul and impatient personality has made me rush certain things.

Which do you consider your star moment as an actor?

I am very very proud of my participation in the first Danish Dogma-film “Festen” (“The Celebration”) that got know all over the world. The Dogma-films where also a game changer for Danish film and television internationally.

How does it feel to be the envoy of your culture in the capital of Europe? What is your mission in this function?

I am proud of my job and the contribution that Danish art and culture – despite that we are a small country with only 5 mio. People – do as a significant part of European contemporary culture. Denmark is as a modern and sustainable society a frontrunner in the European development of green growth of the future. I do find that Brussels as the Capital of Europe lacks a little bit of modernity in its urban planning to rightfully call itself the Capital of Europe. A lot of European modern cities have worked with measurements to decrease the amounts of cars in the city. In Brussels the air is not good and there are cars everywhere! Brussels needs to invest in better public transport amongst other things.

What was your first contact with the city? Did you feel immediately connected to it?

I came to Brussels after I stepped down as mayor at the end of 2010. My first visit to the city was in 1975, and I very often came here as a politician. I think it takes a long time to fall in love with Brussels, which I am today. But the disorder, the pollution and the noise scare you in the beginning. You need some time to find the pockets of relaxation in the city. But once that’s done, you start loving this wild, free-spirited, play-full city,

Do you see Brussels as a city of respect and tolerance towards the differences?

I see Brussels – together with London – as the most multicultural city in Europe. I find it a bit sad, that the segregation in Brussels is so obvious and challenging for the city.

Which are your favourite spots here?

My favorite spot is walking through Park Royal, which I find very old fashioned, but a very nice and relaxing place. I love the fountain.

You are one of the persons behind the Tasting and Living blog. And how are you involved with it?

I very rarely write some articles for them. Very rarely! But I consult them for input on where to go. I like dining out, and there is so much to try in Brussels.

How does your “private Brussels” look like?’

A bit messy. Very charming. Friendly – and in a desperate need to love itself a bit more.

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