From Iceland — Ten Years Of Hafnarfjörður's HEIMA Music Festival

Ten Years Of Hafnarfjörður’s HEIMA Music Festival

Published April 21, 2024

Ten Years Of Hafnarfjörður’s HEIMA Music Festival
Photo by
Supplied by HEIMA

Hafnarfjörður residents turn living rooms into music venues on April 24

I remember one spring day in 2023 when a quiet evening at home was suddenly flipped on its head. Thunderous punk music emanated from my neighbour’s house on the other side of the street in downtown Hafnarfjörður. “Nice to hear some garage rock in the neighbourhood,” I thought to myself, wondering whether this would lead to housing prices going up or down. To my surprise, a 30-strong group of people suddenly rushed up the street toward the sound. 

Homey, friendly, intimate

The source of that ravageous rock music was Faroese punk band 200, who were preparing their set for that year’s edition of the Heima í Hafnarfirði festival. From the comfort of my balcony, I got a closer look at the crowd who stood anxiously outside the open garage, waiting for the show to start. A few faces familiar looked my way, waving me over to come and join the fun. 

Although this memory is unique to me, it’s an evocative experience of the HEIMA festival. Every last day of winter for the past 10 years, Hafnarfjörður residents have opened up their homes to musicians and guests. The festival takes place entirely within the confines of people’s homes (plus local venues Fríkirkjan and Bæjarbíó), producing intimate moments between artists and spectators.

I want to organise a festival where it’s just about people and music. Nothing else.”

This year, a total of 14 acts will occupy the various Hafnarfjörður houses — the largest line-up to date. Artists take the living room stage as curious guests travel between the makeshift venues to lay eyes on the next act. 

The Faroese connection

Inspired by the Faroese festival HOYMA, HEIMA was spearheaded by Hafnarfjörður locals Ólafur Páll Gunnarsson (“Óli Palli”), known for his staple radio shows Rokkland on Rás 2, and Kristinn Sæmundsson, also known as Kiddi Kanína. “I invited Kiddi to see Yo La Tengo at Iceland Airwaves in 2013. Afterwards, we met a Faroese man named Jón Tyril [member of band Clickhaze] which Kiddi had known since 2001 through a festival called Fairwaves,” Óli Palli reminisces. 

“And there he tells us he’s starting a festival in the Faroe Islands — a concept he called an anti-festival,” Óli Palli continues. “He said, ‘I want to organise a festival where it’s just about people and music. Nothing else.’ So he came up with this idea, called HOYMA festival which would take place in people’s homes. Kiddi and I looked at each other and said, ‘Wow, that’s a great idea. We should do it in Hafnarfjörður.’”

While living in Hafnarfjörður at the time, the pair found it to be a fitting spot for a festival of this calibre. “Suddenly [the organising team] was having talks with the town council and assumed the management of Bæjarbíó theatre,” he explains. The historical theatre, opened in 1945, went through redevelopment and was transformed into a live venue during the first years of HEIMA. “So this short meeting at Iceland Airwaves created HEIMA festival in Hafnarfjörður and reopened Bæjarbíó,” Óli Palli says proudly. 

An inspiration to towns across Iceland

According to Óli Palli, the establishment of HEIMA has inspired several similar festivals around the country. During the festival’s first year, guests from Keflavík were enamoured with the idea and decided to try it in their hometown. “That developed into a Friday night show during the Ljósanótt festival,” he recalls. Additionally, the Westman Islands have their version named Hljómey and Sauðárkrókur is preparing their iteration of the festival this year, called Heima í Stofu. 

“We emphasise all kinds of music, we’re not focusing on a particular genre,” Óli Palli remarks, explaining that the festival’s lineup does its best to reflect a catch-all music taste. “And then there’s this special element of visiting people’s houses and standing in a crowd.”

In addition to locals’ homes, both Fríkirkjan and Bæjarbíó venues are used for performances. This year’s lineup features artists Rebekka Blöndal, Klara Elias, Margrét Eir, Brek, Elín Hall, Tómas R. Einarsson, Rock Paper Sisters, GDRN og Magnús Jóhann, Hipsumhaps, Emmsjé Gauti, KUL, Soffía Björg og Pétur Ben, Ceastone, and Faroese songwriter Døgg Nónsgjógv. Since the concept hails from the Faroes, Óli claims the organisers attempt to book at least one Faroese artist every year. 

Heima í Hafnarfirði happens on Wednesday, April 24. Tickets are available for 7.900 ISK at Wristbands are picked up at the Ægir 220 brewery until 19:00. The first show starts at 19:30 at Fríkirkjan and the last concert is at 23:15 in Bæjarbíó. 

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