Visby became the obvious choice when the Public Health Agency of Sweden was going to hold its fifteenth national congress.
That Visby was the right choice was confirmed by 350 delegates when evaluationg the content and arrangement of the congress. Ninety-eight per cent of the delegates were very satisfied.
The environment, the premises, good lectures, well organised, wonderfully good locally produced food and, not least, helpful and happy Gotlanders everywhere. The best thing? Mona and the whole arrangement!
Mona? That’s Mona Wahlgren, a nurse from Gotland specialising in tobacco prevention. It was Mona who was given the job of being the hostess and programme-maker when the fifteenth tobacco prevention LUFT Congress (Swedish and Nordic tobacco prevention and its public health effects) was to be held on Gotland in 2011.
– Of course it was a bit nerve-racking to be given responsibility for everything coming together when 350 delegates from around Sweden were going to come to my island, Mona says. My nervousness disappeared, however, as soon as I had the first discussion with the Gotland Convention Bureau (GCB). Once the travel, accommodation, conference hall and, most importantly, the content of the congress, had been fixed, Mona could put all her energy into the welcome.
– I knew from the beginning that I wanted to give the visitors a glimpse of Gotland, its culture and tradition and, not least, the enthusiasm and generosity of the Gotlanders.
However, two days on Gotland with a busy programme doesn’t leave much time for social and cultural elements. Therefore, Mona decided to create a Gotland in miniature inside the congress hall.
She invited small businesses and entrepreneurs from Gotland, and together they created a traditional market square with a range of delicacies and traditional handicraft from Gotland. Anything from lambskin, limestone whetstones, homemade sweets, cave-matured blue cheese, smoked flounder and wild garlic pesto was to be displayed and sold.
The congress dinner would be dominated by Gotland produce and the entertainment would of course be by Gotland musicians.
I simply wanted to give the delegates a taste, a glimpse, of Gotland.
Mona’s eyes radiate with happiness when she thinks back on the reception she got when she sat down and started to call the Gotlanders she needed to involve.
– I don’t recall being turned down by anyone, instead I got lots of new ideas that developed the concept.
Even though it’s been more than two years since the LUFT Congress was held in Visby, Mona still gets happy comments from colleagues, co-organisers and participants who remember the Visby conference.
– It is probably the most fun thing I’ve done, and I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment if anyone asked me to do it all again, concludes Mona.