A photo of Christina Hesselholdt
Christina  Hesselholdt ihas published fifteen novels, the latest of which is Vivian (2016) which won the Danish Broadcasting Corporation Best Novel Award in 2017. Photo (C) Robin Skjoldborg.

"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."


See below for additional acts from Denmark who will be featured as part of the Nordic Matters festival.

A scene from the production "A journey into The Faroes". Photo by Kirstin Helgadóttir
A scene from the production "Operation Valentine". Photo by Beinta á Torkilsheyggi.
A scene from the production "A journey into The Faroes". Photo by Kirstin Helgadóttir
A scene from the production En Rejse udi Ferø (A journey into The Faroes). Photo by Kirstin Helgadóttir.

More about Nordic Matters

The Nordic Matters programme is curated and presented by Southbank Centre, which has been supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Nordic embassies in London and the national arts agencies in Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland.

Following the official launch of Nordic Matters in January 2017, the British Council will be focusing on an evolving selection of artists participating in Nordic Matters through its dedicated websites and Facebook channels for Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

Jude Kelly CBE, artistic director of the Southbank Centre , said: “It is a great honour for the UK and Southbank Centre to have been chosen to host Nordic Matters in 2017. The Nordic countries have long been at the forefront of social change, from championing young people’s rights to environmental concerns and gender equality, and their enlightened approach to culture and education chimes with Southbank Centre’s own belief in the power of the arts to transform lives. We are delighted that this year-long partnership will enable us to present a truly authentic cultural exchange showcasing the richness and diversity of the Nordic countries, including the lesser known Greenland, Åland and the Faroe Islands. In an ever-changing world, it is even more crucial that we celebrate the ways in which culture can bring us together, rather than driving us apart. Let the collaborations commence.” 

The Nordic Council of Ministers said, “Nordic Council of Ministers is proud to collaborate with Southbank Centre on the Nordic Matters initiative. It is an excellent way to facilitate and showcase Nordic art and culture abroad - especially in the context of gender equality, sustainability, and children and youth. Cultural exchange between participating Nordic artists and British artists and audiences is a central and important feature of Nordic Matters. With a venture of this nature and size we can put our shared Nordic values and culture under the microscope and hope to be able to both inspire and be inspired beyond the borders of the Nordic Region. We might even learn something about ourselves and the links between the Nordic countries.” 


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."


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.

External links