With her playful pixie cut and crystalline laugh, project manager for culture and events at AAkureyri Cultural and Marketing Office, Hulda Sif Hermannsdóttir puts you straight at ease. Alongside event manager Almar Alfreðsson and director of Akureyri Art Museum Hlýnur Hallsson, she has agreed to meet me on a late Sunday morning to chat about Listasumar, the arts festival that will turn Akureyri into a live platform for art performances from June 24 to August 26.
Founded by the Gilfélagið art society in 1992, Listasumar was originally seen by both professionals and arts enthusiasts as a way to fill a huge gap in the town’s social and cultural life. Only later did its management shift into the hands of the municipality.
“You can think of Listasumar as a hat or an umbrella event,” Hulda explains enthusiastically as she stirs brown sugar in her espresso macchiato with a repetitive ding. “It starts with the summer solstice festival Jónsmessa and it ends with celebrations for the town’s birthday in August, encompassing all sorts of small events within those two months.”
The cultural heart of the North
Organising the details of such a long festival is no easy job. To give me a good visual aid, Almar rolls out a schedule spreadsheet that’s chock-full with events of all kind. However, far from being a string of passive exhibitions and shows, it’s clear that the festival demands interaction.
Besides the classics such as art exhibitions, theatre and dance performances, I also spot skating courses, circus visits and punk events, in addition to Friday movie evenings (“It would be fun to see ‘Jaws’ at the pool, I think”), meditation sessions and creative art workshops for kids of all ages. Thus, for two entire months, an entire city becomes the natural platform for a collective creative endeavour, with the Arts’ Alley being its central core—the beating heart of it all.
“Akureyri is a cultural town, there’s no doubt about it,” Hulda affirms.
“It is,” Hlýnur echoes her. “But you have to understand that in 1992 almost nothing was happening here during the summer, so we were in dire need of something like this. Now Listasumar creates work for the artists in the area and it provides a platform to perform for those who come from other towns—whether it’s visual arts or music or dance.”
Besides keeping track of events that are happening in town, Listasumar’s main goal is to promote diversity. Thus, the festival is void of limitations when it comes to themes or concepts, in order to accommodate all tastes and provide something interesting for everybody. Grassroots organisations will find here an easy-access platform for their endeavours, and tourists will get to experience the active arts scene of the hidden North.
“I think tourists often assume nothing interesting happens here,” Hulda says. “Instead we have organised something for almost every single day, with fixed dates for specific venues, so you always know where to look for events.”
“We are trying out new things as we go,” Hlýnur adds. “Details can change but if something has been going on for so long and it’s successful, we should keep up with it, right?”
Arts festival Listasumar comprises all kinds of creative performances and events from June 24 to August 26—find more info here.