Approximately 100 thousand people flocked downtown to partake in the annual celebration, Reykjavík Culture Night, on August 18 this year. Culture Night is the day when street performers, artists, musicians, dancers and actors almost outnumber the 101 population and suburban residents drive to the centre to witness. Swarms of locals, and a whole bunch of confused tourists, crowded the city centre to see and bee seen, sample free drinks at gallery openings and check out what the young art generationis spending all that free time creating.
More than 400 happenings were scheduled during the day. With no time to waste, the Grapevine photographer and me, eager to breathe in as much culture as possible, hit the town at 14:00 sharp. Strolling down Laugavegur, the street slowly transformed into a vibrant cultural party-zone. A few hours later, the crowd would triple in number.
After witnessing a fairly dull street-dance session at Ingólfstorg, we got stuck in a terrifying and smelly “traffic-jam” on Lækjartorg square. Wally the clown can be funny and all, but when cramped between two tall and sweaty men and surrounded by hyperactive kids, we found little joy in the whole extravaganza and wanted nothing more than to get the move on, and finally breathe fresh air.
We passed families with dogs, kids sitting cross-legged on the streets feasting on grilled hot-dogs and candy, their parents ate waffles and teenagers ran around with beer-stuffed backpacks. DJs and bands played on every other street-corner. Miklatún park attracted a huge number of pedestrians for a family friendly outdoor show while bar Dillon hosted the first Icelandic championship in hot-dog eating. The record now sits at 14 hot-dogs in 12 minutes so you can now prepare for next year’s competition. Note that any vomiting will leave you disqualified.
Around dinner-time we headed to NASA where ultra-trendy teenagers jumped around to party-band GusGus while two three-year-olds played around with their balloons, somewhat unaware that they were probably among the youngest GusGus concertgoers ever.
It had passed 21:00 when rock-band Mínus crowded the backyard of bar Dillon on Laugavegur. Soon after they finished their set, fireworks lit up the cloudless sky as the annual fireworks display marked the end of the official programme. At this time, the street was packed. Some groups were heading home, others just beginning to celebrate. To conclude our challenging day, funk-masters in Jagúar brought the crowd into a frenzy at bar Organ and much to my surprise, I actually had some energy left to get the groove on.
At 5 AM it was finally time to call it a night. The 15 hours of cultural overdose left us crawl up Laugavegur the last time that day. By now, family folks had fled the scene and intoxicated patrons had taken over the city centre. The cultural charm was lost. Police officers, dressed in neon-lit vests, stormed en masse around the centre, picked up drunken teenagers and passed-out adults and secured that everything would run around safely. And for the most part it did. But as Icelandic party-animals aren’t exactly the tidiest breed of the animal kingdom, I can’t say that I envied the city cleaning-team, now arriving for work.