Reykjavik Children’s Cultural Festival
What’s your view on culture for kids? A waste of time? A developmental priority? A welcome distraction from online gaming? In Iceland, it’s highly valued. So much so that they’ve hooked one of their annual city festivals onto it. We checked out the Reykjavik Children’s Cultural Festival one Spring and this is what we found…
99 red balloons
I have one enduring memory of the Reykjavik Children’s Cultural Festival. It involves sitting in a room spotted with red balloons, playing a board game I don’t really grasp the rules of, while dozens of other families play board games they probably do grasp the rules of. A simple image. A very simple activity.
Most parents would agree that board games are great for family bonding. But how often do you play one together? In a room full of other families doing exactly the same? We never had. Until that day.
Some seriously complicated fun
Not every aspect of the Children’s Cultural Festival was that simple. Some parts of the festival were seriously complicated. The respected Reykjavik Chamber Orchestra tried out an experimental piece of music using audience participation. We joined in the chorus at the appropriate moment by biting the tops off carrots, while they blew into plastic cups made into impromptu beards held on with elastic bands stretched around their ears.
A touch of celebrity culture too
Just down the road, Bjork’s Biophilia workshops opened up her philosophy of music meets science to families; and as we all know, nothing about Bjork is ordinary. Meanwhile Reykjavik’s Harpa concert venue became a moving mirror ball when over a thousand 10 year olds from every primary school in the city performed a single dance along with a 300 strong choir.
And happiness in abundance
And then there was the happiness circle, sitting holding hands with strangers passing squeezes of happiness around the ring. Luckily there was no need to speak (we wouldn’t have understood a word) but we knew how to squeeze and everyone knew what it meant.
A great way to get to know Reykjavik
Navigating around this festival was a bit of a challenge too. It was spread all over the city, in schools, theatres, halls, libraries, art galleries and the outdoors. Some of it was highly choreographed while other bits seemed to happen by accident. Sometimes we weren’t even clear if the particular activity we were watching was actually part of the festival, or just Icelandic people being themselves; like when we discovered a man going for a walk with his cat in a rather unusual manner.
Wierd, wonderful and welcoming
The Festival programme was extensive, with a sometimes bizarre English translation, which all adds to the sense of creative confusion. And some of the activities just sounded weird. Even for us; a family who specializes in weird.
And very easy to get involved
This festival is literally made for families and there is something for everyone in the myriad activities, from toddlers to teens. But it also goes beyond the family; celebrating creativity, life and the beginning of life. It coincides with the official start of summer in a country where snow and dark swamp the land for many months. As if by magic the tall dark volcanic shadows of the previous month become sharp white glacial peaks once again.
So why not get involved
If you’re in Iceland and happen to have a child, or your inner child with you, you should go and attend one of the events. It could make you a more creative spirit this summer.
Want to read more?
If you want to read some more, check out some of these posts inspired by our time spent at the Reykjavik Children’s Festival…
- Culture and Happiness for children, by children – on the Children’s festival itself.
- 8 things that make Iceland the most creative and kooky place I’ve ever been – on the creative spirit in Iceland and the forces that shape it.
- Family making music with a carrot – on participating in one of the craziest music making workshops we’ve ever attended.
- Whale watching or whale eating – on whale watching from Reykjavik, the thrill of this modern hunt and curiosity about the appetite for whale meat.
- Letting go of the reins – on getting out of town to explore a little of the Icelandic countryside in a most tradition way, on an Icelandic horse.
- Not your usual Golden Circle Tour – on the perils of taking kids on a coach trip to see the iconic Icelandic Golden Circle.
- Does a happiness revolution sound like this? – on the pursuit of happiness and musings on whether the Icelandic crash did everyone a favour.