‘The Norwegian Option’ by Rosie Goldsmith

‘SILK’ INTERNATIONAL ARTS AND LITERATURE FESTIVAL.
SKUDENESHAVN, NORWAY. NOV 4TH-8TH 2015

The week before our annual SILK Festival, our eurosceptic British Prime Minister David Cameron had been in the Nordic North discussing ‘alternative European models’ and reform of the European Union in advance of the UK Referendum on Membership. The Norwegian Option is one of his mooted ideas: Norway is not a member state of the EU but is closely associated with it through its membership in the European Economic Area and the European Free Trade Association. Could this work for Britain?

These EU discussions (as usual) completely ignored any arts connections, so, in a spirit of fostering The Norwegian Cultural Option, for this year’s annual SILK International Arts and Literature Festival, in the beautiful heritage town of Skudeneshavn in South West Norway, we created our own ‘Norwegian Options’ by bringing together a brilliant creative clutch of European literati. In addition to the popular mix of crime writers and football nuts from all over Norway and Scandinavia, the organisers had also invited some special guests such as Stieg Larsson’s widow the writer Eva Gabrielsson, Lyndy Cooke from the Hay Festival, Marella Paramatti from Italy’s Mantua Festival and UK-American illustrator Sarah McIntyre, who wowed adults and children alike with her talented drawings and art work. And I was able to indulge in my own crazy arts and craft addiction when I met the famous Norwegian knitting duo Arne and Carlos, who entertained us with their knitted figure of Kim Kardashian (flesh-coloured yarn for the notorious bottom) and with their knitted version the Norwegian Royal Family. As well as the scores of Norwegian-language events (I sat through two of them in the hope that I would finally learn Norwegian by osmosis – but no luck!), there were several events in English – which is where I come in.

This was my 5th year hosting the international events at the SILK Festival. And my contribution to this year’s Norwegian Cultural Option was to interview ‘Associate Members’ from Birmingham in England, Derry in Northern Ireland, Turkey and Uzbekistan. They were: the blow-away-brilliant thriller writer and funny man Mark Billingham; international lawyer-turned-crime writer Desmond Doherty; writer, translator and former activist Izzet Celasin and Hamid Ismailov, the supremely talented novelist, poet, journalist and throat singer (!) from Uzbekistan.

So, our very own Norwegian Option this November was a cultural union of creative Europeans – not actually an option but a reality. Worth thinking about in the current European crisis is the fact that Izzet and Hamid were both once exiles and refugees. Today Izzet is a valued member of Norwegian society (writing in Norwegian) and Hamid is Editor of the BBC Central Asia Department.

Enjoy our SILK 2015 Photo Album. Each photo is named if you hover over the picture with your mouse. Spot Kim Kardashian’s knitted bottom!

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