Tromsø world festival

Tromsø: this «little town» far, far North is the biggest in the region. It rounds about 70 000 people. It has grown since I moved here, almost 20 years ago, with about 1000 inhabitants a year. It has to do with the University, student life, and the fact that many people want better opportunities and a better lifestyle, and they move away from villages. There are many immigrants, too, about 160 nationalities, I hear. Still, currently, the region struggles with a lack of people who can work: labor power. Corona sent many working immigrants back to their countries and did not return.

When I say better opportunities, young people want, among other things, a more prosperous entertaining life: pubs, concerts, clubs where they can practice a hobby together, etc.

November 3rd to 5th, 2022, a new festival occurred here: Tromsø World Festival. It is a festival that people with big hearts and commitment to the city’s international population have managed to put together after several years of trial and failure with other attempts to bring famous artists to Tromsø.

When I say “famous artists,” I do not mean big names known to the Western World, but names known to the Asian world or African world. Names which, even if they are big outside Norway and Europe, people in Tromsø didn’t hear of – because people are much more interested in their local artists than from abroad.

I had the pleasure of attending two concerts (Fatoumata Diawara – photo- and Bombino) and a three hours seminar dedicated to integration and inclusion through music and theater.

Living in such a small town as Tromsø, the advantage is that one can get very close to the artists or members of a panel discussion. Like many others, the concerts I have been participating in give a unique feeling of intimacy and coziness due to the small number of people attending, especially if the concert is indoors in a small pub. It feels like the artist is there only for you, which is great. And I always see a slight shade of astonishment and surprise on the face of artists used with much more people attending the concerts that they have in front of them in Tromsø. Nevertheless, the performances are good, and everybody seems to enjoy them. I certainly did, even if I also would have expected a more significant number of people to attend.

Yet, we don’t need to forget that Tromsø is a small place where people have many entertaining possibilities, and they choose their favorites. At the concerts I was present this year, I’ve seen many immigrants or second-generation immigrants. I have also seen many people who have jobs working with refugees – people who’ve heard something about the artist presented through their background and life. And I know that many Sami and Norwegian people have been present at the concerts where local people have performed. It’s natural to look for what we know and similar to us.

Saying that I wonder when I will see at Tromsø World Festival Polish artists, for instance, Check, Romanian, or from Thailand and Indonesia. After all, there are lots of working immigrants from South Easter European countries in Norway and many wives from Thailand and Indonesia. It would be nice to see their artists here as well. After all, they pay taxes as well, taxes which are contributing to all festivals supported by government funds.

Yet, the festival needs to keep taking place at the same time each year, for many years ahead, so it can create a name for itself and continuity, like the other festivals here: Filmfestival, Norlysfestivalen (classical music), Bukta festival, etc. And this way, more people will attend the concerts, which will be announced in the Newspapers beforehand, attracting more locals.

That being said, I am grateful for the experience this year and look forward to the next year’s Tromsø World Festival.

Best wishes from Tromsø

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