Stelpur Rokka is in the business of diversifying Icelandic music
“We‘re actually changing our name,” is the first thing Ólöf Rún Benediktsdóttir, project manager at Stelpur Rokka! (Girls Rock!) says at the beginning of our conversation. Now transitioning from the decade-old name to Læti! (Loudness!), to accommodate a broader gender spectrum, the organisation has been imperative in increasing diversity in the Icelandic music scene. Through their “rock camps” – music workshops – and courses, Læti! empowers girls, women, trans, intersex and queer people to make music, perform and express themselves artistically.
Inclusion, not exclusion
“We’re here for everyone but cis men,” Ólöf continues about the new name. Instead of excluding cis men, the organisation aims to include those less privileged. In Ólöf’s experience, all-gender music programs are quick to fill up with boys, “which is great because they‘re interested and ambitious. But we want to create a space for other genders, who lack the courage to start playing music, or those who are more shy to get into the scene,” she says.
One of the ways Læti! operates is through their rock camps, where kids are invited to participate in bands and learn how to make music through doing. They’re given tight deadlines to write songs and to perform at the end of the camp. Læti! primarily focuses on catering to kids aged 10-16 but it also hosts music programs for adults. Additionally, their schedule includes a program for people aged 16-25. “The goal is essentially to increase their confidence through music, create spaces for artistic expression, experiment and make a lot of noise,” Ólöf says. Currently, Læti! hosts one annual workshop for each age group, with more hopefully to be scheduled.
“I emphasise a ‘just do it’ atmosphere,” says Ólöf. “I think that for people who are raised as female, you encounter a lot of messages like, ‘You have to do everything nice and everything has to be perfect.’ When you’re doing something creative, that’s not what you should focus on. So I always tell my students, ‘You gain more from doing something wrong than not doing anything at all.’”
Bigger than Iceland
The association is currently seeing a renewal in the core group of coordinators. “The group that started Stelpur Rokka! has decreased its participation and there’s a new generation assuming their place. So we are very open to new kinds of programming,” Ólöf says.
Læti! operates an office space and a fully equipped performance and rehearsal space. One wall of the space acts as the canvas for their logo, recently painted to commemorate their name change. Another is decked out with old posters, of which one is an ad for the Faroese rendition of Stelpur Rokka! called Gentur Rokka!
Judging from the posters, it’s clear that cooperation – both local and international – is a vital part of the organisation’s operations. In previous years, the initiative formerly known as Stelpur Rokka! supported similar projects outside of Reykjavík. These days, there aren’t any groups to support, but Læti! is hopeful for the future.
Læti! participates in multiple international exchanges to improve its work. Ólöf recounts one trip through an Erasmus Mobility scheme to Poland. “We visited the feminist organisation Fundacja Autonomia. They’re dealing with all kinds of different challenges over there,” she says. “You really could tell how far we’ve come in women’s rights in Iceland, although there’s always room for improvement,” Ólöf continues, referring to the hostile opposition their feminist colleagues in Poland encounter.
Læti’s! work is completely run on public grants and donations, and they rely heavily on volunteers to operate their schedule. If you’d like to reach out and give them a hand, they’d surely appreciate it.
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