From Iceland — 24-Hour Arty People

24-Hour Arty People

Published June 22, 2010

24-Hour Arty People
Photo by
Julia Staples

“Our original idea was that we needed one platform for different kinds of art. In Iceland we have a lot of festivals for film, art and music but nothing that has everything under one roof,” explains Hildur Maral Hamíðsdóttir, one of the organisers of the brand new Jónsvaka festival.

So they built a roof, they called it Jónsvaka and they claim it embraces all the corners and crevices of the local artistic world.

The bash makes its début on June 24th, over the Jónsmessa weekend (which is a sort of local version of Midsummer’s Day/Night). Indeed, that is when the sun reaches its highest waking peak and we all get a lil’ disorientated. Hildur and her co-organiser, Harpa Fönn Sigurjónsdóttir, plan to get Reykjavík buzzing with tangible creativity and imagination over the period, particularly amongst the young folk.

They tell us the festivities will be scattered all over Reykjavík in the form of art exhibits, street performances and evening concerts. If they are right, you are likely bound to stumble into something nifty downtown at that time. Designers will also take the stage in a fashion show on the opening night at the Reykjavík Art Museum, along with a PopUp store over the weekend selling all sorts of fashionable goods. Sounds fun!

The bash also plays host to a three-day concert programme at NASA, offering all sorts of hot young bands and their older scene brethren. They also plan to integrate music and artsy aspects into single performances with collaborations between artists.

It sounds good, right? At least it did to us, so we met up with Harpa Hildur to seek a lowdown:

Why now?

Harpa: We felt the timing was a little unique as it is a midsummer festival, and usually there’s nothing going on these days in Iceland compared to most Nordic countries. They have lots of festivals, always some art exhibitions or music festivals. But here? Basically nothing.

But aren’t people getting sick of all these festivals? It’s getting hard to keep up.

Hildur: We realised that it was possible to have a festival every month in Iceland, so we thought we could bring a fresh one this month. What this one does is bring together different types of art. So maybe someone who would normally go to a photography exhibition will also stumble upon a rock band they might like. We’re trying to create the feeling that people can always find something new and discover something exciting they didn’t know Iceland had

How did you pick the participating artists?

Harpa: Actually the theme was that anyone who wanted to participate could participate. There are some standards you needed to fulfil. You needed to fill out an application, but that was all. If they did that right they were basically in. There are so many participating artists. There are over fifty works on display, including performances, design and music. But all in all, it’s well over 200 artists.

Wow. That’s a lot. Is this an attempt to encourage younger people to be more involved with the arts?

Harpa: Yes exactly, we think this festival should be encouraging. Even people that haven’t finished their education are able and willing to participate. We even have a group of photographers between the ages of 15 and 17 years that are having their first exhibition at Hitt Húsið.

What kind of audience do you want to reach?

Hildur: Everyone. We are focusing on young artists, but there are also some older ones too, more experienced ones. But we’re mainly just trying to get everyone down town to pick up a brochure and just walk around to the different venues and see everything.

Is this the first time you’ve collaborated?

Harpa: Yes. We found out that you [Hildur] were going to open up a festival for young people. Our company FRAFL actually focuses on young visual artists and we’re constantly trying to create opportunities for them within the Icelandic market. So we thought “hmmm… this could be an opportunity for visual artists!” ‘Cause there are very few festivals for the visual arts scene. Jónsvaka is so accessible for everyone, everyone can apply and join. So we approached her and just after one meeting, there it is!

Tell us about your concert programme.

Hildur: There are 17 acts that make up 3 days. A mixture of new bands and some bigger ones. But we have one standard that anyone playing at the festival has released something. We have smaller bands like Rökkurró and Útidúr and big names like Hjálmar, Hjaltalín and Seabear. It’s a very nice line-up, I like it.

Are you hoping that this will make an annual event?
Hildur: If everything goes well, yes. We actually got some inquiries right away asking if it’s going to be held next summer. We’re like “okay, let’s finish this one first!”
Have you gained a lot of support since promoting the event?
Hildur: People are very positive towards this festival. We have got all kinds of emails, people willing to help out and lots of people applying.
Harpa: It’s amazing! I think the best thing with this festival is that it’s SO accessible. I mean this is something the average art lover should actually love. It’s not narrow or specific like some other festivals. Jónsvaka is really open and there’s something in it for everybody.
If you feel like getting off yo’ ass, rolling down town and lending them a hand, just send an email to 

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