Friday 13 January sees Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley and Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Matt Hancock, join their eight Nordic cultural ministerial counterparts to launch Southbank Centre’s Nordic Matters – the first year-long Nordic programme of arts and culture that the UK has seen.

Nordic Matters, which opens to the public tomorrow, is a major international collaboration between Southbank Centre and eight Nordic countries and territories – the Åland Islands, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Nordic Matters is supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers – the inter-governmental body that supports and promotes the interests of the Nordic region. Southbank Centre won the opportunity to curate and present Nordic Matters against competition from organisations representing 17 other cities, including Berlin, New York, Paris and Rio de Janeiro.

Nordic Matters features much-loved Nordic favourites, from the Moomins, Lego®, hygge and a sauna to Nordic art, literature, dance, design, theatre, talks and music. The programme explores the idea that play fosters curiosity and creativity in all ages and focuses on three areas where the Nordics are perceived as world-leaders: children and young people, gender equality and sustainability.

Programme highlights include:

  • the first anthology of Nordic contemporary literature, co-edited by poet and novelist Sjón (Iceland) and published by Pushkin Press; Neil Gaiman’s retelling of Norse mythology; and best-selling authors such as Kati Hiekkapelto (Finland) author of The Hummingbird and Karl Ove Knausgaard (Norway), famed for his series of six deeply personal autobiographical novels;
  • a Swedish Baby Rave and the UK debut of Finnish dinosaur heavy metal band Hevisaurus;
  • mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter (Sweden); Thordis Elva, writer, equality campaigner and Icelandic Woman of the Year 2015; and comedian and performer Sandi Toksvig (Denmark/UK) who bring a Nordic spin to Southbank Centre’s WOW-Women of the World festival;
  • Wall of Dreams by artist Morten Søndergaard (Denmark) with dreams of Danish migrants and refugees digitally projected onto the Royal Festival Hall;
  • music performances by conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen (Finland); pianist Leif Ove Andsnes (Norway); Huutajat-Screaming Men’s Choir (Finland) – who will establish a London choir of screaming men – and all-women rap collective Daughters of Reykjavik (Iceland);
  • the UK premiere by Iceland Dance Company with work by Icelandic artists Erna Ómarsdóttir, Ragnar Kjartansson, Gabríela Friðriksdóttir and Valdimar Jóhannsson and Matthew Barney (US); and Scandinavia's leading contemporary circus company Cirkus Cirkör, who address the consequences of tightening international borders;
  • Nordic gastronomy and design will feature in Southbank Centre’s retail spaces and markets throughout the year with a spectacular Nordic Winter Festival to close 2017.

Rt Hon Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, said: “Nordic culture has much in common with our own, and I hope Southbank Centre's year long Nordic programme of cultural exchange will offer us all a fantastic opportunity to build further on our relationships, showcasing the huge depth and breadth of talent across the Nordic countries. From literature to dance, design and everything in between, I have no doubt the events at Nordic Matters will be hugely popular and inspiring."

Jude Kelly CBE, Artistic Director, Southbank Centre, said: “The Nordic countries have long been at the forefront of social change, from championing young people’s rights to environmental concerns and gender equality. Their enlightened approach to culture and education chimes with Southbank Centre’s own belief in the power of the arts to transform lives. This year-long partnership will enable us to present a truly authentic cultural exchange showcasing the richness and diversity of the Nordic countries. It’s always exciting and meaningful to witness the many things that societies share — cultural exchange shines a spotlight on these and makes us realise how much more we have in common.”

Norway holds the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers this year and Linda Hofstad Helleland, Minister of Culture for Norway, said: “For The Nordic Council of Ministers, supporting Nordic Matters at Southbank Centre will enable knowledge about culture and society to be shared between the Nordics and UK. We live in a time where mutual understanding is crucial to preserving a stable world. Art plays an increasingly essential role in securing that stability. Visitors to Southbank Centre have an exciting and stimulating year ahead of them and, we hope, will gain new perspectives on Nordic culture and society.”

Throughout the year, Southbank Centre will programme standalone events, as well as embed Nordic arts and culture, into its annual festivals. Imagine Children’s Festival (February), WOW–Women of the World (March), Chorus (July), London Literature Festival and Poetry International (October), BAM–Being A Man (November), and Winter Festival (November-December) will include significant Nordic programming. Around a third of artists, authors and performers participating in events at Southbank Centre during 2017 will have a connection to the Nordic region.

The first UK iteration of one of the world’s oldest music festivals, Nordic Music Days (September-October), will include pioneering works by living Nordic composers performed by leading ensembles and soloists from the UK and the Nordic region. Across the year, education and learning projects will draw on Nordic influences including the twinning of UK schools with those from Åland Islands, Faroe Islands and Greenland for International Day of the Girl on 11 October.

The opening day of talks, events and workshops on Saturday 14 January gives a flavour of the year ahead, from Nordic mythology and folk music with Icelandic poet, novelist and lyricist Sjón and Norwegian musician and social activist Moddi to the unveiling of a year-long installation Falling Shawls by Sami artist Outi Pieski, a selection of recent films by visual artists, and a billboard art installation viewed from Waterloo Bridge - Euro, 2012 by Superflex (Denmark). Authors Anu Partanen (Finland, Nordic Theory of Everything); Katrine Marçal, Swedish author of Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?; Emmi Itäranta (Finland, Memory of Water); and Faroese author and sailor Durita Holm are among those to participate in panel discussions on gender equality and the role of landscape in Nordic literature. A flat pack hack, Lego 6-Brick Challenge, a cinnamon bun bake-off and how to pickle, smoke and cure workshops are interspersed with fika - Swedish coffee breaks. Adventures in Moominland, the UK’s first major exhibition devoted to the Moomins and their creator Tove Jansson (Finland), continues to April.


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