Festival in the north
Ever since 1965, the Arctic Arts Festival has been taking advantage of the long June days to welcome festival-goers. It's Northern Norway's premier festival, featuring the widest range of music, and combining high artistic standards with diversity and accessibility. The event always takes place in the last week in June, from Midsummer Day onwards.
A festival with ambitions
No festival in Northern Norway covers a wider range than this one. Every year, around 500 different artists perform at around 100 different events, and through the years, such diverse artists as Zap Mama, Bajofondo, Ute Lemper, Lory Andersson and the famous jazz singer Patti Austin have all performed at the festival, along with Jan Garbarek and the superstar of Balkan music, Goran Bregovic. Every year, the festival presents a new, inclusive, diverse and innovative programme covering a wide range of genres.
The festival is one of the highlights of the year in Harstad. The midnight sun is at its highest in the northern skies, the heat of the summer has arrived (hopefully!), and the students are still here. The streets, quayside and cafes are full of Harstad residents and visitors, all buzzing with the joys of summer. Demanding, discerning and popular performances are juxtaposed with informal, atmospheric and accessible shows, and could be in the concert hall or right in the middle of the town. The festival takes place all over Harstad, in acoustic arenas between the 700 year old walls of Trondenes Church, in the Nordic Hall, Harstad Church, in bars, tents on the quayside, and of course in the Cultural House.
If you stroll around Harstad, you can't help but notice that something's going on. The Midsummer Festival on the quayside has become a festival tradition. The Norwegian Armed Forces Bank plays in the town centre every day. NRK broadcasts festival radio live from the square in Harstad. The 'Outer Space' festival tent on the quayside is anything but soundproof, and presents numerous diverse performances, some of them free.
Children and young people
The festival has always had a wide ranging programme for children and young people, with courses, workshops, concerts and children's theatre productions. Also running parallel to the festival is NUK++, the Northern Norway Young People's Festival, with a broad cultural programme for both able-bodied and disabled children. Hip-hop performers, street artists and rock artists work for the NUK++ workshops as instructors, motivating young people to become more interested in youth culture.
Plenty of room
The Arctic Arts Festival takes place every year in the third week of June. It can be hard to find a hotel room in the weeks and months leading up to the festival, but last-minute rooms can often become available just before the event. It's also worth remembering that towns like Sortland, Narvik, Finnsnes, Setermoen and Tromsø often have rooms, and a day trip to Harstad will give you the chance to take in some concentrated festival atmosphere.
www.festspillnn.no has all the details, while www.destinationharstad.no has information about Harstad in general. Harstad is easy to get to via Harstad/Narvik Airport, and there are excellent bus connections to other exciting destinations in Northern Norway, like Vesterålen, Lofoten and Narvik, while express boat is the best way of getting to Tromsø in the north.