"British literature has inspired my own writing immensely...I'm determined to read more that’s written in English"
Danish writer Christina Hesselholdt
What is Nordic Matters?
Over the course of 2017, London’s Southbank Centre will be inviting audiences to look more closely at what’s happening in Nordic art and culture. The programme for Nordic Matters will embed Nordic culture and artists in London and other parts of the UK and provide a platform to some of the ‘hidden voices’ from Åland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, as well as Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. This is the first time that Southbank Centre has programmed a year-long festival dedicated to one region of the world. It is expected that around a third of artists, authors and performers participating in events at Southbank Centre during 2017 will come from the Nordic region.
Focus on Literature - Denmark
Christina Hesselholdt is a Danish writer based in Copenhagen. She has published fifteen novels, the latest of which is Vivian (2016) which won the Danish Broadcasting Corporation Best Novel Award in 2017 and is nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize. Her first novel to appear in English is Companions which will be published by Fitzcarraldo in 2017. As part of her debut at the Southbank Centre’s Nordic Matters Festival, offers some insights about literature in the UK and Denmark.
"I am really looking forward to presenting my book Companions to an English audience, at Southbank and at the bookshop Libreria this coming October. It’ll also be an opportunity to meet new authors and hear about their work. Overall, British literature has inspired my own writing immensely. For instance, a long story in Companions is based on a ramble through the literary landscapes that belong to William Wordsworth, the Brönte Sisters, Viginia Woolf and the American-born Sylvia Plath. There are so many British writers who have inspired my own writing. Most recently I reread The Wide Sargasso Sea by the Dominica-born British author, Jean Rhys. I found it truly amazing. When it comes to living writers, I’m familiar with many of the best-known British novelists, such as Julian Barnes, Zadie Smith and Ian McEwan. But I am determined to explore the field, and also read more that’s written in English. I have Claire-Louise Bennetts book Pond lying on my desk at the moment. That’s the next book I am going to read.
"The best thing about being translated into English as a Dane is opening the possibility of reaching much wider audiences. So when I visit London for Nordic Matters this autumn, it’ll be an excellent opportunity to come face to face with readers of my work who, helped by translation, will know who I am as a writer. In this sense, maybe festivals are really helpful when it comes to drawing attention to literature on a wider scale. So if I were to suggest that British readers read Danish authors, I’d put forward the works of Inger Christensen, Niels Frank, Thomas Boberg, Peter Højrup, Pia Juul, Helle Helle, Naja Marie Aidt, Kirsten Hammann, Ida Jessen and Harald Voetmann. To name just a few!
"When it comes getting going as a writer, the most important thing is having enough time and not being too busy with other things. Teaching, for instance, really diverts my attention. I usually sit in my bed to write, with my dog resting next to me, under a blanket. Right now, I am drawing inspiration from the recent rallys and events in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA."
SPOTLIGHT ON DENMARK
See below for additional acts from Denmark who will be featured as part of the Nordic Matters festival.
MUSIC AT NORDIC MATTERS
Bent Sørensen: Introducing new Danish music to Britain’s ears
On the 6th April, the music of the great Danish composer Bent Sørensen was performed in London by players from the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Southbank Centre. The concert forms part of Nordic Matters, and introduced to Britain a composer whose work is little known outside of his native country and specialist circles. Since 2008, however, he has been a visiting professor of composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Sørensen studied composition with Ib Nørholm at the Royal Danish Academy of Music and with Per Nørgård at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus. His mature works are said to create a sense of decay and beauty by treating major and minor tonalities with microtonal inflections and blurring the harmonies with glissandi. Examples of this technique can be found in his trombone concerto Birds and Bells, a work for orchestra and choir, as well as Echoing Garden and his violin concerto Sterbende Gärten, for which Sørensen won the prestigious Nordic Music Prize in 1996. Compositions are predominantly contemporary in language, albeit using a variety of mediums from opera (Under the Sky was premiered in 2004 at the Royal Opera House in Copenhagen), orchestra, choir, chamber ensemble and solo instruments. Echoes of folk song can also be detected in his early works.
Southbank audiences experienced the brilliant and labyrinthine Minnelieder, the nocturnal and wistful Weeping White Room, and the classic The Deserted Churchyards, which has been described by composer Karl Aage Rasmussen as "a flickering, glittering world ... pervaded with memories, wisdom of experience and old dreams."
OTHER DANISH WORKS AT NORDIC MATTERS
Lego Build the Change: Meet the Master Builders
This event allowed people to discover how LEGO® Master Builders turned their passion into a profession. Highlights included exciting stories of LEGO Certified Professionals, who have turned their love for building and creating with LEGO bricks into a career. Audience members also helped to create of a Nordic-inspired mosaic.
Debate: How do you say "gender equality" in Faroese?
Pioneering artists and cultural activists discussed the unfinished business of gender equality. From being the first countries to give women the right to vote, to pioneering paternity leave, Nordic countries have produced many landmark achievements on the road to gender equality. But is there still more to be done?
My Friend Manna
This workshop featured published children’s author Bolatta Silis-Høegh. Born in Southern Greenland in 1981, the part-Greenlandic, part-Latvian artist now lives and works in Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen. Bolatta debuted as an author in 2011, publishing her first children’s book, Aima, which she wrote and illustrated. The follow-up, Aima Shush! was published in June 2014.
Andreas Tophøj and Rune Barslund
An array of captivating tunes from two leading folk musicians. Andreas Tophøj and Rune Barslund performed a unique concert with violin, accordion and viola. The two Danes emerged from the folk scene formed arond the Academy of Music in Odense, and their sound is closely linked to Danish folk tradition.
Hans Christian Andersen, You Must Be An Angel
All your fairytale favourites came together for a dinner like no other. A long table was set for Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday party and two waiters experienced the job of their life: to wait on a table of fantastic personalities.