It all started with a private screening of the Norwegian film King of Devil’s Island, followed by a Q&A session with the mighty Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, back in the summer of 2012. Only a few months earlier we had launched our Nordic Noir DVD label on the back of the release of the first series of Borgen and then The Bridge, and our investment in all things Scandinavian, as a UK film and DVD distributor, was ever-growing.
Fired up by this success, we followed it with ticketed screenings of False Trail with Rolf Lassgård (Wallander) and new episodes of Borgen with Birgitte Hjort Sørensen (who plays Katrine Fønsmark). And at the beginning of 2013, we invited Sidse Babett Knudsen (Birgitte Nyborg herself) as part of what had been dubbed the Nordic Noir Film Club. The latter event, at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh, was so oversubscribed that we realised we had to lay on an earlier showing in the day — and the interest in that additional booking was so huge that we staged a third screening on the same day. We watched with amazement all three showings crammed with excited fans, and we knew we were on to something special. Nordic Noir TV, it was clear, worked on the big screen just as well as the feature films — and fans were eager to hear from the stars themselves.
Inspired, we went to work on what would be an idea for a UK-based Nordic Noir fan “convention” and, in a very short space of time, Nordicana was born. The concept we were aiming at was a two-day festival of Nordic film,
TV and fiction, and we set our sights upon the atmospheric historic location that is the Farmiloe Building in Farringdon — a building so eerie that it had been used to film the Gotham City Police Department scenes in The Dark Knight!
Work began in earnest, and with the help of English PEN and the Danish Embassy in London we built a programme that would span both days… and then just hoped people would come. And by “people”, I mean both members of the public and the stars of Nordic Noir themselves — none of whom had been secured at the point of placing the deposit on the venue!
Before nervously opening the doors in June, we had managed to import the author (and pretty much the entire cast of the show named after him) Arne Dahl, plus Adam Price, the creator and writer of Borgen, along with the Statsminister herself, Sidse Babett Knudsen, cast members of Wallander, The Killing and Borgen. The rest, of course, is history, and Nordicana was a huge (if at times flawed and slightly chaotic) success, with the public clamouring for more.
Turning our attention to a follow-up event was daunting at first, but positive feedback came flooding in — none more so than from Ben Preston, editor of Radio Times, who was still buzzing from having interviewed Sidse Babett Knudsen live on stage in front of over 400 adoring fans. We found support for a new event being pledged, so we set about finding a way of building upon what we had started with the aim of creating an even bigger and better event in 2014.
So, with an earlier, more Nordic-inspired cool-feeling slot in the year, a new venue in the Old Truman Brewery in London (boasting two purpose-built event stages, tiered seating and a fully immersive cinema experience along with personalised headphones for total noise reduction), we are now all set to welcome visitors to the second Nordicana on 1 and 2 February.
The preliminary schedule is already taking shape nicely, with stars, writers and producers of The Bridge, The Killing, Borgen and Wallander all confirmed, sharing the stage with international best-selling authors such as Arne Dahl and Håkan Nesser, as well as the British author and actress Emma Kennedy and our resident expert Barry Forshaw — it really will be an unforgettable weekend for fans.
Of course, it’s not just the staged events that attract our crowds, as we have plentiful Scandinavian food and drink on offer as well. The Nordicana marketplace will boast the very finest in home furnishings, fashion and other Nordic delights, and the Nordicana Nippers area will return again with fun, supervised activities. Other changes this year include a one-ticket “access all areas” system, so once you’ve got your pass you don’t need to pay for any additional entry to events, and everyone under 16 gets in for free too.
And the best thing of all is that the stars and authors of the books, films and shows will be signing DVDs and books in the signing area, as well as simply mingling with fans and having a chat over a drink at the bar. Such interaction was one of the most popular elements at the first Nordicana — we say Skål to that!