Discover the nordic way of life with the FIKA(S) Festival

March 7, 2024

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From March 9 to 15, the city welcomes the Immersive Festival of Scandinavian/Nordic Kultur and Art – FIKA(S), whose mission is to promote the Scandinavian and Nordic way of life through the prism of multiple artistic disciplines. With the 5th edition of the festival about to get underway, we spoke with the event’s founder and executive and artistic director Christel Durand. She told us about some of the 2024 edition’s most compelling events and discussed the unique spirit of this wide-ranging festival.

By Sara Fauteux

How did FIKA(S) originate?

First, the event was the product of my own interest in Scandinavia and the Nordic countries. I have always been drawn to the region’s music. When I moved from France to Montreal, I told myself that it would be great to bring those musicians here, a place where audiences are very curious and open to new sounds. Then I discovered that several people I knew were passionate about aspects of Scandinavian culture such as literature or design. The fascination with the Nordic countries was undeniable, and it led to the idea of starting an event. Beyond artistic programming, I wanted to explore all of Nordic culture. I think it seems normal to people who are from Quebec, but to me, having been raised in the South of France by parents who came from the desert, it seems clear that there is a characteristically Nordic way of life. Soon, I was focused on the idea of starting a multidisciplinary festival. I managed to get several people on board with the project, and we got started – with NO idea what we were getting ourselves into! On March 15, 2015, we said: “we’re going to launch our festival one year from now.” It was a completely insane deadline, but we did indeed hold the first edition of FIKA(S) in March 2016.

What is the festival’s mission and how is it reflected in this year’s programming?

Our mission is to introduce Montrealers to Nordic creators. Of course, we’re also interested in Scandinavian artists who live in Montreal. For example, singer Erika Angell of Thus Owls, whose first album is coming out on March 8, will perform as part of FIKA(S) on March 12. We also want to showcase local artists who draw inspiration from Nordic culture. We like making new connections. This year, we organized an international collaboration in the form of a residency with the multidisciplinary Métis artist Moe Clark and Norwegian singer-songwriter Marthe Halvorsen. They will give a joint presentation on March 14.

Over the years, FIKA(S) has built relationships with several local organizations. This year the Cinémathèque québécoise is presenting a retrospective of the works of Rúnar Rúnarsson, and the Gallimard bookstore is organizing a conversation with Danish author Anne Cathrine Bomann, whose second novel is published in French by Éditions La Peuplade and in English by Book*hug Press.

We’re an open window on Nordic culture, so we’re also interested in social issues and Scandinavian values. Among other things, we’re hosting a discussion on the role of women in Viking societies. We also want to appeal to families, so we have several activities for kids, including story time on Saturday, March 9, with actress Chloé Germentier.

What makes FIKA(S) a unique event, in your opinion?

Since the start, our top priority has been to build a human-scaled festival. An event where the public can meet artists, share a snack, have a drink together. That’s where the festival’s name comes from: in Sweden the fika is a coffee break, a time to socialize over a snack. Our events are on the intimate side, and even our concert venues hold only 200 to 300 people. We want people to be able to communicate easily. In many cases we provide some food and drink to facilitate that. Another thing that makes FIKA(S) unique is the fact that several of our activities are exclusives. We present artists who have never before been to Quebec, and in some cases North America, and sometimes we pair them with other artists to create something truly original. When we work with local talent, we take them somewhere new. For example, this is our third edition that we’re opening with a local musician who we’ve asked to perform a Scandinavian repertoire. This year, Frannie Holder will sing the songs of several Nordic musicians.

If you could give festivalgoers one piece of advice for exploring your program, what would it be?

One of the things that we love best is inviting people to discover new things, to be curious! In that spirit we try very hard to make all of our activities affordable. We have three price categories suited to people of different means, as well as several free events. It’s good to be open to surprises and take a chance on something unfamiliar. I want festivalgoers to come to FIKA(S) and let us surprise them!

Immersive Festival of Scandinavian/Nordic Kultur and Art – FIKA(S)
From March 9 to 15, 2024