Stockholm is gearing up for the height of the summer festival season, and Kulturfestivalen looks to space for inspiration.
The rumoured death of the large festival might be a slight exaggeration, but there’s no question about the rise and rise of the niche festival over the last five years or so. Organisers have turned to smaller, more specialised events in response to an audience that seeks a comfortable, streamlined experience that suits their particular interest. The trend is the same in music festivals as it is in food- and drink events – nimbler, savvier and aimed at giving the guests a unique experience.
The Stockholm summer attracts an ever-increasing number of festivities and events that all provide that unique flavour, and here on these pages we highlight some of those niche treats. But apart from the smaller summer festivals focused on things like books, artisanal food, classical and indie music, there’s also Stockholm’s Kulturfestival. A cultural behemoth with a wide appeal that attracted over one million people last year with a range of exhibitions, talks, workshops, concerts and performances centred around Gustav Adolfs Torg in the city centre.
This year, you will find all the events and happenings you would expect to see at Kulturfestivalen, plus an unexpected theme in Space, celebrating 50 years since Neil Armstrong’s giant leap for mankind. I track down Kulturfestivalen’s Philippa Staffas to find out why.
“Since it’s 50 years now since the moon landing, The Swedish National Space Agency contacted us to hear if we wanted to collaborate around the subject. We don’t highlight the moon landing, but focus on science, knowledge and obviously cultural expressions to do with space,” she says.
How do you place this within a cultural context?
There are various ways. Through film, talks, exhibitions. Approaching space from a cultural angle is a new way to handle the subject.
Could you tell me how you view Kulturfestivalen’s role in Stockholm? And what’s the importance of having a large cultural event, that’s also free-entry?
I think it’s of great importance. Our assignment from Stockholm City is to organise a free festival during the last week of the summer holiday, as a parting gift to Stockholmers. What we have seen through the years is that the festival creates encounters between people who would otherwise never meet. We attract people from the whole city, and all kinds of different backgrounds and it leads to fantastic encounters that mean a whole lot.
What do you see as the highlights of this year’s edition?
The absolute biggest thing is the opening ceremony at Gustav Adolf’s Torg, where we will have an in-flight call from the International Space Station, ISS, when astronaut Luca Parmitano will speak live with the audience. There will also be the world premiere of an interactive art project dubbed Space Station Earth. It includes newly-composed music performed live with a large orchestra, an electronic band and a choir combined with a documentary film with images from the astronauts who photograph Earth from ISS. The composer’s name is Ilan Eshkeri, he’s been working with astronauts trying to capture the existential feelings they have when they are up in space and look down towards Earth. It will be screened on giant screens so the audience will feel like they are up in space.
Another highlight on the space theme is a screening of cult classic Blade Runner which of course takes place in the year 2019. In connection with the screening we will have a talk titled ‘What is an authentic human being?’ about what’s going to happen when AI becomes a larger part of our lives. This will play out in Jakobs Kyrka, which will add another dimension.
The last highlight I want to mention is the joint concert with Janice and Grant where the two Swedish singers join forces to create a special one-off performance for the festival.
Stockholm Kulturfestivalen, Aug 14-18. For more info see kulturfestivalen.stockholm.se/skf/
Photo: Kulturfestivalen Press, by Herman Caroan