For a week in July LungA pulled together a group of young and talented to the easternmost part of the country, the little village of Seyðisfjörður. The LungA Art Festival was organized for the eighth time this year. The week-long festival aims to offer young people aged between 16 and 25 a possibility to engage in arts, and, though Seyðisfjörður serves as an inspiration, the festival is open to youngsters from all over the country, with a group of visitors from Norway attending the circus workshop as part of this year’s events.
“The festival was originally established out of the need for possibilities for young people to engage with arts,” says Aðalheiður Borgþórsdottir, cultural director of the municipality of Seyðisfjörður. She is practically the only adult organizing the festival, the real mother figure of it. She describes her role as mainly taking care of the practicalities, while the festival is largely organized by the young people themselves, with the help of the rest of the community, countless volunteers, as well as the municipality and a few sponsors.
The whole festival from accommodation to the final gala takes place under one single roof of the labyrinth-like local sports hall. The days stretch from 9 to 4 in the workshops. Teachers Petri Heikkilä and Henna Kaikula from the Cirkus Cirkör group tell me that the participants, some of whom have perhaps never tried circus arts before, are introduced to different sides of the art form, from juggling to using the trapeze. In addition to the workshops, there are performances, concerts and other programs, everything from yoga to a Doors-tribute-concert during the festival week. Kaikula and Heikkilä praise the atmosphere of the festival, explaining the special character of LungA: “The small place makes the participants especially motivated and interested. They are open to influences and eagerly learn everything they can.”
The whole festival culminates in the final gala on Saturday when the youngsters present what they’ve learned in front of a packed audience in the municipal sports hall. The show ends in a huge pyramid of all the participants, wild applause by family members and friends supporting the young artists, bouquets of natural flowers brought in with a wheelbarrow, and speeches by the mayor and the organizers.
“When I see the youngsters on stage, feeling safe enough to show what they have learned and enjoying it, I know we’ve succeeded,” says the Cirkus Cirkör workshop teacher Kaikula.
Around us the youngsters exchange contact information, workshop groups hug and the youngsters give homemade presents to the “festival mother” Aðalheiður. The final celebrations of the festival then continue with a Sveitaball, a traditional Icelandic countryside ball with live music (Todmobile) and, of course, extremely drunken participants.