Sigurður Harðarson, aka Siggi Punk, is a man on a mission. If he weren’t an anarchist, you might even call him the leader of the Icelandic anarchist movement. But anarchism is not about leaders, it is about taking initiative and doing things yourself. This is precisely what Siggi Punk has done.
Last September Siggi took the initiative and opened an anarchist library in Reykjavík. This is his way of spreading ideas and doing political reform. “Icelandic politics are so colourless. There is no radical thought. I wanted to relay ideas to the society, how things could be different and what people could do for themselves. The library is here for people to get ideas from.”
The library shares a former fish-freezing plant by the harbour with the Musical Development Centre, which is an independently run centre that provides musicians a place to practise and play their instruments. A small section of the library is also on display at the store Ranimosk on Klapparstígur. So far the library contains about 700 titles about anarchist theory, activism, biographies, radical gender issues and revolutionary history. But the collection keeps growing as Siggi brings in books on radical theory from far away countries. “I just brought over 30 kilos from Holland,” he says, referring to books, rather than another common import from the country of tulips.
Siggi splits his time between Reykjavík and Arnheim, a small city in Holland, where he works as a nurse. He buys a substantial part of the books in radical book shops in Holland, but the selection of stores is diminishing. “There used to be 50 radical bookstores in Holland about ten years ago. Now there are four left. I buy books there and in second-hand bookshops in Holland and bring them with me when I come to Iceland. I also went to the Anarchist Book Festival in England last fall and bought some books there.”
He also receives help from friends and fellow anarchists who bring books when coming to Iceland, or simply send donations. “A friend of mine is coming over from the United States for Christmas and he will be bringing about 30 books with him and recently an American anarchist who heard about the library sent me three boxes full of anarchist literature.”
The purchases are financed by a concert series organised by Siggi, called the Resistance Festivals, held at the Musical Development Centre. The festival features local bands that volunteer to play in support of the library. “I get a bunch of bands to play for one night, and split the admission 50:50 with the Musical Development Centre. I get to keep the library here for free instead. Then I use the admission to buy books for the library.”
The Anarchist Library is currently open for four hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. But Siggi is always looking to expand the opening hours. “If more people would volunteer the library would be open seven days a week.” He says, and adds that the time invested there should not be viewed as a sacrifice. “People ask me if it is not a big sacrifice to be here three nights a week. But it’s not, I do this instead of watching TV.”
The Anarchist Library is located in The Cave (Hellirinn), Hólmaslóð 2, 103 Reykjavík. Phone: 824-3001.