Harpa played home to three big names from the world arts stage yesterday when Björk, Darren Aronofsky and Patti Smith joined two Icelandic conservation agencies to launch the ‘Stopp – Gætum Garðsins!’ benefit concert.
At a press conference held outside Harpa’s Eldborg hall, it was announced that Stopp! has raised a combined 35 million ISK for the preservation of Iceland’s virtually untouched highlands, which are under renewed threat of large-scale industrial development, including infrastructure like roads and buildings and 15 new power lines.
The Pálmi Jónsson Nature Protection Fund contributed 24 million ISK. The rest was raised from ticket sales to the Stopp! concert, with performances from Björk, Smith, Of Monsters & Men, Samaris, Lykke Li, Mammút and more. All of the artists involved contributed their work for nothing, with profits going to the campaign. Additionally, some tickets included entry to the Icelandic premiere of Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’ at Sambíóin Egilshöll.
Representatives of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association (INCA) and Landvernd sat alongside Airwaves head-honcho and STOPP organiser Grímur Atlasson, members of Noah’s production team, and the three celebrities, each of whom gave an impassioned speech.
“The Icelandic landscape is special, and unlike anything in the world,” said Aronofsky, who shot his latest film ‘Noah’ in Iceland in 2012. “Noah was heavily inspired by the colours and textures of the landscape. Untouched nature is increasingly rare, and it’s a great treasure of the future. It will only become more special over time—and only if left unspoiled by roads, fences and power lines.”
Iconic singer Patti Smith gave an emotional appeal for the preservation of the highlands. “I came here first as a young girl aged 22-years-old, way back in 1969,” she recounted. “Of all the beautiful places I visited back then, many have since been destroyed by man. To come back to Iceland and still find much of the country as I found it then is a gift. Industry has raped nature again and again—there has to be some place where Mother Nature feels safe and beloved. Iceland is one of the few places in the world where Mother Nature can feel herself. Once this damage is done, that can never come back. In this matter, count me as one of your servants.”
We asked Björk what people could do to get involved. “The focus for this event here is to protect the Icelandic highlands, with the aim of making it into one big national park,” she said, “and to accomplish this, we ask people to be become members of these two Icelandic Nature Protection Societies. One is more about activism, and the other is dealing more with legal things, and on this matter they have united. People can go online on their websites and donate money if they want, and become members of these societies.”
And can such a show of strength-in-numbers make a difference? “We’ll see—there’s a lot going on right now,” Björk said. “People are not agreeing with the government from many different angles. I think it’s curious to see what will happen.”