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Mayor Ib Kristensen, Source: Municipality of Billund

Ib Kristensen: We want to be the best place in the world for children and families with children

Ib Kristensen: We want to be the best place in the world for children and families with children

An interview with the Mayor of Billund, Denmark

Ib Kristensen was born on 29 November 1951 in Grindsted. Prior to pursuing a career in politics, he worked in the construction industry. In 1997, he became a member of the Grindsted Municipal Council and in 2001, he became its mayor.

Following the Danish municipal reform in 2007, Kristensen continued his role as the mayor of the new Billund Municipality.

Now, he has spoken to TheMayor.EU to discuss the Danish city and its prestigious title “The Capital of Children”.

Mr Mayor, could you please describe Billund Municipality and its main attractions?

Billund Municipality is home to the Capital of Children. We are lucky to have some of Europe’s most creative companies and tourist attractions that create happiness amongst children of all ages.

We involve children in our projects. Whether it is about buildings, infrastructure, or democracy. We believe that it makes better solutions – for both children and adults – when we involve children. We believe in that because children have a curiosity and playful approach, which we adults need to work a little harder to achieve.

UNICEF recognized our work with children by making us the first UNICEF Child-Friendly City and Municipality in Denmark.

How has the municipality evolved since you assumed office in 2007?

We began “Billund Byvision” (A vision for how the city of Billund should develop), which has developed Billund both visually and how we see ourselves in the whole municipality. The idea of the Capital of Children (Børnenes Hovedstad) started in 2010, and in January of 2011, we formally started working with The LEGO Foundation by creating the company Capital of Children. Billund Municipality and The LEGO Foundation both own half of the company. The goal is to develop Billund to be a global centre for, about, and with children.

It is politically agreed that the good things for the children in Billund will also spread to be good for the children in the rest of our municipality. An example is our very high percentage of educated employees in our kindergarten.

As you have mentioned, Billund is known as a “Capital of Children”. Can you expand on where this title comes from?

It started as a competition of ideas for the town centre. The winning architect company had a concept named “Børnenes Hovedstad/Capital of Children”. The idea of developing Billund to be a global centre for, about, and with children fitted perfectly into what we were already working with.

In the beginning, it was a project for only Billund Municipality, but The LEGO Foundation found it to be such a good idea, that they chose to join us.  It is about valuable play on all levels. We want to see it in the city, in our kindergartens and even in the town hall.

Playing is about staying open-minded in life, and in that sense, The Capital of Children is for all ages. Whether you are 3 or 73.

What is your municipality doing to prevent the decline of the population?

We want to be the best place in the world for children and families with children. We want to have an open, curious, and playful approach to life. In that way, it can benefit all age groups.

To say it short: We want to be a great place to live, work and have fun. We already are, and every day we work to become even better.

How was Billund impacted by the outbreak of COVID and what initiatives has your administration launched to ensure the economy’s recovery?

In general, that is a job for the state of Denmark. But we helped our local associations by making funds for those that were particularly affected by COVID.

We also made a campaign for “Visit Billund”, which is our office for tourists. Other than that, we started some of our building investments to help the craftsmen, and we made an event with the shops in our largest cities, Billund and Grindsted.

Expanding on the previous question, how is the vaccine rollout progressing in your municipality?

We are a little above average for Denmark. That is very good, especially if you see it from an international perspective. 75,8% of our citizens have gotten their first vaccine, and 71,8% have gotten their second vaccine.

As a mayor with many years of experience, what would you like to share with other European leaders on our platform?

It is important to be ambitious. To set some goals, which at first can seem a little unrealistic. Then you reach some of it. And suddenly you look back and see just how far you have come.

To make Billund a global centre for children is ambitious. But we do not only want to be The Capital of Children in Denmark – we want to be The Capital of Children in the whole world. Silicon Valley equals IT, and when someone says fashion, you think of Paris. When someone says children, we want them to think of The Capital of Children, Billund.

It is about being persistent through many years. Piece by piece you make a puzzle, and over a lot of years, it makes sense.

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