Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir is an award-winning actress (Falcons, The Seagull’s Laughter) who has been working mostly in the Icelandic theatre for over ten years. More recently, she was approached by the environmentalist group Hætta (Stop) to help organise one of the largest benefit concerts in recent memory, featuring such acts as Björk, Damon Albarn, and Damien Rice.
/// What made you get involved in this project?
Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir: I was given the opportunity to take part in this from the Hætta Group, and I was honoured to accept it. As an Icelander, it’s something I was naturally interested in.
/// So you think most Icelanders are concerned about environmental issues?
Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir: Yes, I think that for an Icelander, caring about the natural world comes easily. It’s typical of our childhood to travel around the country, seeing such wonders as some isolated fjord, or the mountains and rivers. You grow up with a sense of love and respect for the environment.
/// I didn’t think there was that much of a consensus on the subject, considering.
Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir: There are of course money-minded people, but I think that’s a part of the human condition. You have to be careful with greed, and getting caught up in just taking care of the here and now. This issue matters for the future; it goes much deeper than just today. The fact is, the damage that could be done by the dam is irreversible – it’s a glacial river, which means that there’s a great deal of sediment in the water that will eventually fill up the reservoir.
In a recent Gallup poll, 75% said that they want to see more land preserved and protected. This project literally goes against the will of the nation.
/// When you began organizing this event, what was the general reaction of the musicians you spoke to?
Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir: People were just really pleased to be taking part in this. No matter who I phoned, whether it was a big name musician or a relative unknown, they were always very thankful for being invited to take part in this. In terms of the audience, we didn’t really advertise this at all, but it sold in record time.
/// Do you think such a concert can influence the way government acts?
Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir: The whole idea of this concert is to make a point, asking them to reconsider their position, because aluminium smelters aren’t the only way to make money. But the government hasn’t really given us the opportunity to be involved in the discussion. The people need a venue to make their voices heard.
I also want to emphasise that this is just the beginning. We have to follow it through. It doesn’t mean anything if we have this concert and then do nothing else. We need to get more information out to the public. A recent study came out that showed glacial rivers, upon reaching the ocean, can help reverse the greenhouse effect. This information isn’t reaching the public, and it should. This isn’t a hippie thing anymore – this is about the future.
/// So you don’t think there’s been enough interaction with the public, on any side of this issue?
Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir: No. People need information, and they need to be able to communicate. Maybe more ideas will come. There needs to be more interaction between everybody, no matter how they feel about this issue. This concert is just the beginning. And we’ll keep fighting until we win.