From Iceland — Hátíðni: A Space For Those Without One

Hátíðni: A Space For Those Without One

Published August 11, 2022

Hátíðni: A Space For Those Without One
Photo by
Joana Fontinha

Cowboy hats, fisherman’s sweaters, retro sneakers, and denim—so much denim—mark Hátíðni as a music festival that’s alive with mismatched cohesion. It’s a wear-what-you-want and do-what-you-want sort of event. Organisers, musicians, and guests are one and the same, sharing responsibilities like preparing meals and picking up trash.

Those who come to Hátíðni—whether it’s their first time or fourth—are here to be part of the Post-dreifing family, bound by the underground arts collective’s love of art and community. Ranging from the more traditional singer-songwriter style to heavier screaming and a lot of experimental pieces, this festival features just about every genre imaginable.

Friends through music

Snæbjörn Helgi Arnarsson Jack—Snæi Jack to his friends—planned the first Hátíðni as a party. Little did Snæi know, this small party would turn into an annual festival bringing together all of his friends, new and old.
“In 2017 I had just moved into this awful basement that had only one window. It was super hot and there were flies everywhere—it was just the worst place ever! But I really wanted to have a party, so I decided to rent a community centre in the west of Iceland and invite everyone,” Snæi says.

Unfortunately, many of Snæi’s friends didn’t show up. But this turned out to be a blessing in disguise and paved the way for what we now know as Hátíðni.

“I was working at Stofan Café at the time…most of the other people working there were artists and they wanted to come and play,” Snæi explains. “All the bands showed up, but very few of my friends came. And so now, my friends are the people from those bands.”

Snæi and his new friends keep coming back to the festival year after year, gradually expanding the group to welcome more like-minded people.

Though Snæi has an undeniable role in starting the festival, everyone shares responsibility for organising it. The ‘do it together’ mindset is evident—you don’t have to look far for help and even first timers are willing to lend a hand.

A subculture

Walking into Hátíðni is overwhelming. You quickly realise that it isn’t your average festival. Instead, it is more like a homecoming for a large group of friends.

In addition to the music, workshops are offered during the day allowing people to tap into a different side of their creativity. Whether in feminist self defense or creative writing, participants are encouraged to express themselves in whatever language or manner they feel comfortable.

This dynamic is a stark contrast to what many may expect when they hear the word “festival.” Despite the warm welcome from those involved, the close community environment can at times appear exclusive. Unless you are familiar with Post-dreifing or their organisational style, it’s easy to feel like an outsider at Hátíðni. And yet, this feeling is set against a backdrop of unwavering acceptance, encouragement, and support. You might feel like you don’t belong, but at the same time you know you absolutely will not be judged.

Bonded together

Ironically, though, the strong sense of fellowship that can leave outsiders feeling distant, is the same thing that strengthens the internal community’s bond, enabling each person to fully embrace themselves and their art.

The opening act, performed by “one-gig-wonder” band S😎FTFISKUR, provided the perfect summary of what to expect from the weekend. Truly an experimentalist’s fantasy, their set included techno beats, artistic autotune, and poetic screaming. But even if that sounds enticing, you’re already too late—this is the band’s first, and likely only, performance.

“Maybe it’s because we are so involved in the scene and the festival itself,” says band member Simón. “But it’s the perfect festival to try something new. We also encourage new bands to play for the first time, so it felt perfect. It’s not intimidating, we know that we can have fun, and people appreciate pretty much everything.”

Another performer, Áslaug Dungal, used the festival to perform songs from her new album. Even though Áslaug is new to the Hátíðni and Post-dreifing scene, she really values the experience.

“I think it’s awesome. I really like the town and the venue,” beamed Áslaug. “I like the idea of camping and having a festival. Also, everybody is just helping everybody.”

Community Abroad

A number of foreign performers joined the festival this year, bringing their unique sounds with them. Artists came from across the world, from Finland to Argentina.

For some, performing at a festival abroad was nerve-wracking, but they recognized that Hátíðni is the ideal judgement-free place to try it out.

“Even with this festival, I’ve only performed maybe four times,” says Lilly Montague, known by their stage name Monty, who is visiting Iceland from the UK. “Applying to play at a festival abroad is something you’re like, ‘I’ll do that when I’m a bigger musician.’ But I thought I may as well try.”

Lilly said they felt comfortable performing at the festival because their friends always talked about how welcoming and encouraging everyone is at Post-dreifing.

Safe spaces

Hátíðni takes pride in ensuring its community members feel secure and have the spaces they need. Hátíðni provides a room called “Safer Space,” where people can go for any reason if they need to escape the festivities.

Beyond tangible safety and inclusivity measures like the Safer Space, Hátíðni has spent time and energy ensuring the atmosphere is safe as well. Volunteers wearing neon vests were available at all times to help anyone needing support.
Organiser Bjarni Daníel mentions that when it comes to managing safety and wellbeing, the festival owes a lot to grassroots political organisation, Andrými.

“[Andrými has] many different techniques to make sure that people feel safe, especially because they’re working with a lot of minorities,” says Bjarni. “They have this safer space policy and communication rooms, so these are things we took influence from when we were starting.”

Overall, Hátíðni is a festival that really cares about its community and ensuring the inclusion of people who may not otherwise have a dedicated space to socialise, make music, and be themselves. While it may be difficult to find your place at first, it’s impossible to deny the value of the community, and what they can achieve together. Almost everyone interviewed wanted to encourage readers to “come to Hátíðni next year!”—if you’re looking for a new creative clan, then you definitely should.

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