Google translate told me that the word ‘Hátiðni’ meant ‘radio’ but my friend shook her head when I told her. “It’s more like noise,” she said. “Like static.”
“Hátið” also means “festival,” meaning “Hátiðni” is a play-on-words and also the name of a small, curious three-day music event pulled together by the amorphous group that is Post-Dreifing, an independent collective of artists and musicians based in Reykjavík. The festival, like everything Post-Dreifing does, is DIY in nature. It took place in Borðeyri, a good two-hour drive away from the capital city, which seems an interesting choice. The tiny hamlet is barely a village, and is part of the smallest municipality in Iceland. There are 16 people living in the village, and 100 in the wider area.
At the very least, it’s not a bad place to make a lot of noise.
The festival was a three day affair, running the entire weekend. Participants, volunteers, musicians and attendees—the line between any of these groups was intentionally vague—stayed at the campsite or in the school building that was also the main venue. Classroom doors were adorned with hand-painted signs declaring ‘No party here, only sleeping!’ These rooms were filled with mattresses and often a few folk taking a siesta.
Hátiðni-goers wandered back and forth between the school and the campsite, filling the town with their voices and bright clothes. Often you would find a group of them flopped in a corner of the car park like over-sized puppies, enjoying the sunshine. They ran down the lupine-filled hill, played football on the tiny pitch, hung their coats and wooly jumpers up in a line on the pegs in the school’s foyer. The whole thing felt like summer camp meets Peter Pan’s lost boys.
The weather added to the dreamy, surreal atmosphere. The sun beat down ferociously, gleaming off the sea. A yoga class took place outside in the campsite and slowly collected participants who congregated quietly on the warm grass. The sky was the bluest it seemed possible for the sky to be.
In addition to the yoga, there were a number of other ‘fringe’ events, mostly taking place in the old slaughterhouse. The organisers had cordoned off a section of the building and pulled in a variety of sofas and chairs to make a cosy communal space. This was the site for poetry readings and the like, as well as a well-attended presentation on the history and nature of Post-Dreifing.
Waffles for days
The other main congregation point was the oldest building in the village, the Riishús, named after the rich merchant who built it in the early 1900s. This compact building has many functions: museum, a store selling both second-hand and hand-made goods, an information point, public bathroom and a cafe of sorts, albeit one that only sells hot drinks and waffles. During Hátiðni the benches outside were heaped with young adults drinking coffee, like some incredibly hip cafe in the city had accidentally been unceremoniously dropped on a tiny corner of northwest Iceland. Inside, a small group of local women beamed at their new customers and kept a steady stream of waffles flowing. There was literally no other food available in the village, other than what Hátiðni was providing for volunteers and performers at the school. Just waffles.
I was interested to know what the waffle-making women thought of this strange influx of noise-makers to their normally quiet home. They told me they were delighted. I asked one particular woman in a bright pink sports top, with a warm, matriarchal air, “Will you be going to see any of the bands later?” She laughed uproariously. “Oh, maybe,” she grinned, with a conspiratorial wink. I wasn’t surprised to not see her or any of the other locals amongst the crowd later on.
A forgotten place
While Hátiðni momentarily boosted Borðeyri’s population, even the joyous rapture of young people enjoying music and sunshine and pals couldn’t distract from a town that has clearly seen a drastic change in fortunes over its history. In the 18th Century, Borðeyri’s natural harbour made it a thriving port and commercial centre for the surrounding area. In more recent years, the town obviously stayed significant enough to have a shop, cafe, slaughterhouse and various other facilities. But even these are now gone, most likely due to the rapid reduction of farming communities and depopulation as people seek different opportunities in larger towns.
It was hard not to feel deep sadness about all the derelict buildings and other remnants of a once-thriving small community. As lovely as it is to see Hátiðni fill the village, one weekend of visitors is not going to turn Borðeyri’s fortunes around.
The (new) sound of music
Later on, full of new Post-Dreifing knowledge and innumerable waffles, we made our way up to the school to see some of the bands. The lineup for Hátiðni was impressively extensive, running from 4pm on Friday to 3am on Sunday. Producing a programme of more than 12 hours of live music is quite an achievement. The quality of the acts was high and bands were well-received by an unsurprisingly supportive audience. They performed in a small theatre space in the school with curtains and other material duct-taped over the large window behind the stage—this set up proved to be not entirely reliable, but was fixed in true ‘D.I.T.’ (Do It Together) style.
Highlights included Captain Syrup, who played a dynamic and energetic set so loud that we eventually had to listen from outside the building. In the car. Note to self—never forget to bring earplugs to a music festival. MSEA—all pink ruffles, effect pedals and ambient vocals—captivated the crowd. I was particularly blown away by Saturday evening’s opener, Salóme Katrín. Impossibly together and cool for her age, she and her two band members wove a tapestry of utterly enchanting sound. In particular, a semi-improvised piece stuck in my mind for days. She is one to watch for sure.
It takes a lot of energy to make anything happen and to create something out of nothing. For that something to be a three-day event featuring 30-odd bands and catering to almost 200 people is a testament to the hard-working nature of the Post-Dreifing clan. Where exactly Hátiðni will go next, both physically and metaphorically, is unclear—but I think that’s just how they want it.
Hátiðni took place in Borðeyri on July 5th-7th
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