“We Are Stronger Together” An Interview with Pipaluk Lind, Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival

The Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival (Nuuk Nordisk Kulturfestival) is definitely one of a kind. It is a Nordic multi-arts and multicultural festival organised in every other year in Greenland. It aims at promoting Nordic collaboration and Greenlandic arts & culture, so it’s not a real surprise that its three core values are Nordic collaboration, co-creation and participatory culture. We sat down with project manager Pipaluk Lind to learn more about what it is like to organise a festival close to the Arctic.

Please briefly introduce us the Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival.

The festival, founded by the Capital Municipality of Greenland, Kommuneqarfik Sermersooq and the Nordic Institute in Greenland (NAPA), started out in 2014. There was no playground for arts and culture where people were able to meet on equal terms and was welcomed to contribute with everything they found interesting, important or relevant to society or each other. So the Municipality and NAPA came together and gave birth to the idea of forming a multicultural and multi-arts collaborative festival.

What was the first edition in 2015 like?

PL: It was a huge success. 120 artists came to Nuuk from other Nordic countries, twenty volunteers joined the team of organisers, and a pretty big audience attended the festival. Everything was free, so no festival pass was needed that time. Everyone came together in such a unique way, and everyone was so energised and hungry for exploring more Nordic collaborations. It was pretty clear for the founders that they had to explore the concept more and repeat the event.

What is the reason for organising the festival only in every other year?

It’s too big of an event to do it annually in Nuuk. We don’t have the resources – both manpower- and accommodation-wise. Of course, we think this is the best project in the entire world, but there is a limited amount of money for art and cultural events in Greenland. So the fundraising work that has to go into also takes a lot of time.

How did you get involved in the festival?

My colleague and I were hired for organising the festival in 2017. We took a look at everything that had been going on in 2015 and quickly agreed on that we would have to turn the volume up: Nuuk was ready to host something bigger and produce more Nordic collaborations. Our motto is that “We are stronger together”. This is what I believe in, and I could actually experience it at the festival last year.

Was it easy to get sponsors on board to support the festival?

It took some work, as it is a limited market for companies that do sponsor arts and culture as well as events of this size. Luckily, a number of larger companies saw the potential in arts and culture, but some were not interested in it for their own reasons. However, I do think that arts and culture can be used in different ways, and we can certainly elaborate further how we use sponsors. We do hope that we can challenge the way in which one thinks about sponsorships in Greenland.

What kind of events did you organise last year?

We have 275 artists from ten different countries. We had 200+ events including workshops in schools where artists participating in the festival would go and do something with local kids. We truly had an overwhelming audience interest in our events where 130 volunteers – locally from Nuuk as well as from Iceland and Denmark – contributed to the festival’s success.

What was the most popular event last year?

The screenings of Greenlandic and Arctic films were really popular, and our club nights at Manhattan with Nordic DJs and rappers were packed. We also had a dance and music performance for infants between 3 and 18 months, which was a great success.

Is your audience mainly from Greenland?

For now, yes. However, we are working on strategising how to be more open towards a more Nordic and international audience. Last year we had a deal with Air Greenland, one of the main airline companies in Greenland. They set up a travel package including a festival pass, so one could get a pretty cheap ticket between Copenhagen and Nuuk and be in town for the entire festival. We had a good sale on that, so we are hoping to be able to repeat that and also expand it to other Nordic cities. We also have a pretty stable connection with Iceland via air now.

You had hundreds of events, so I’m wondering how you programme the festival.

Everything we do at Nuuk Nordic is based on collaboration. So everything we do we really try not to do alone; we always look for partners with expertise and knowledge both in Greenland and abroad. So it’s really not much about us, but, of course, we have an influence and respond to everything.

Do you also visit other festivals to get inspired?

Yes, we definitely do. We work a lot with a number of music festivals and performing arts festival in the region. It’s important for us to stay in touch with the Nordic and international art scene.

Whom did you collaborate with last year?

For instance, our entire literature programme was developed together with the Association of Writers in Greenland, and we also talked a lot with the Nordic Institute and the Nordic House in Iceland. Regarding the film programme, we worked together with Greenland Film Makers – FILM.GL. We asked them a few questions: What do you think it is interesting and relevant in your field in Greenland right now? What do you see in the Nordic region and internationally? What should we pick up on and what subject should we reflect on in this festival? How should we do this? I’d say we did spend a lot of time to talk back and forth about what subjects we should pursue in the film programme.

Was last year the first year you had film screenings or did you have screenings from that start?

There were films screened at the first edition as well, however, Film.GL had huge ambition last year. The president of the association, Pipaluk K. Jørgensen, and her team really did an amazing job pulling it off. They basically created a film festival within the Nuuk Nordic Cultural Festival. They’ve had the idea of establishing an international film festival to be named Nuuk International Film Festival for years.

What kind of cinematic events took place beside the screenings?

Film.GL invited the International Sámi Film Institute and had a number of panel talks on film production and co-production, funding, and distribution in the Arctic region. They saw this as an opportunity to gather a lot of different voices together in Greenland to also give them a Greenlandic perspective on these issues. We have a vibrant field and lots of creative minds here in Greenland, but we don’t get to let our voice be heard outside Greenland, due to mainly the logistical issues.

Please explain that…

We have some challenges in Greenland that may not be considered as such in other countries at all. We have to consider logistic details because it’s pretty hard to get to Greenland, and we also have some challenges with the Internet. For example, when we need to download a larger file, such as a film, we have to work out how to do that and who is going to pay for that Internet connection.

Do you think it is easier to promote Greenlandic arts and culture outside Greenland now with the help of the Internet?

Definitely! The Internet has a huge influence and it has also played a vital part internally in Greenland as well. We don’t have any roads or railway system between the cities in the country, so if you have to go from one place to another, you have to take a flight or sail by boat. While the former is expensive, the latter takes a lot of time. So the Internet has definitely helped; we are able to co-operate across the ice in a completely new way now.

We can also experience that the festival and our collaborators get a lot of attention. Film.GL gained a lot from participating in this festival; they’ve been able to facilitate some meetings that have been in the works for a long time but the opportunity was here and the time was now.

You’ve mentioned the challenges of using the Internet. Did you have the capacity, though, to live-stream the festival events?

Some of them, yes. We have ambitions to do more during the next edition. Fortunately, we have a good collaboration with the national communication company called TELE-POST that is the sole Internet supplier in Greenland. If we want to live-stream events, we need to talk to them. As you may have guessed, similarly to flying, live-streaming is not cheap because of the limited number of customers in Greenland.

Are you already planning the next edition or do you have a little bit of break now?

Of course, you need a break pulling off something of this size, and I think many collaborators had a moment to breathe now. But I think the break is over! We’ve already started the conversation on what to do differently next time, what we can do more. In a month or two we’re going to start the fundraising process.

Do you have any specific plans or is everything is rather vague right now?

It is vague, but we’re sure that we want to do a festival of the same size. We also want to include more art forms and have more visitors from abroad.

Barbara Majsa

Barbara is a journalist, editor and film critic. She usually does interviews with film-makers, artists, designers, and writes about cinema, design and books.