Art and Culture Iceland Iceland Reykjavik

Reykjavik Children’s Cultural Festival

Reykjavik Children's Culture Festival
Written by Kirstie Pelling

Reykjavik Children’s Cultural Festival

Kirstie Profile SmallWhat’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.

Playing Board Games Reykjaviks Childrens Festival

Playing board games in another language is an interesting challenge

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.

Contemporary Music Making Iceland Reykjavik

Musicians read from an alternative score while playing alternative instruments as part of the 2012 Festival

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.

Harpa Conference Centre Reykjavik

The Harpa Conference Centre in Reykjavik became a giant mirror ball inside when 1000 kids performed there.

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.

Parcels of happiness

All around the city – signs of family’s creative participation. Here in the library.

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.

Man walking balloons Reykjavik

How else do you take a cat for a walk in Iceland?

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.

Drumming Workshop Reykjavik

Families drumming up some inner something at the happiness workshop

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.

Iceland Landscape  near Geysir

The return of the sun and summer is a cause for celebration in Iceland

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…

Childrens Craft at Childrens Festival Iceland

Childrens Craft at Childrens Festival Iceland

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

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