How Stockholm inspired a Nordic fringe revolution
In seven years, the Stockholm Fringe Festival has spawned a network of events across the region, as its director tells Nick Awde
From the moment Stockholm Fringe Festival (Stoff) was launched in 2010, it was hard to ignore the flood of requests from overseas applicants about opportunities to perform elsewhere. They wanted to maximise the value of their trips by using Stockholm as the launchpad to the rest of the interlinked Nordic nations.
But Stoff’s organisers were too busy guiding the festival’s rapid expansion to address the demand until two years ago. Then, co-founder and director Adam Potrykus recalls, after an event in Stockholm “a whole bunch of people came up to talk with us, saying that there’s a new fringe in Gothenburg being put together”. Stoff offered to mentor them and ended up helping last year with the launch of the Gothenburg Fringe Festival.
“And then, at the end of last year, we got a phone call from Norway. And they said, ‘Hey, we want to start a fringe’. We replied: ‘Well why don’t you shadow us and see what we do?’ And then they were in our jury for the Stockholm Fringe festival 2016 and came to the festival that we did for Gothenburg.”
The result was Bergen’s Norway (NO) Fringe Festival.
“Then we got a phone call from Reykjavik, saying, ‘Hey, we want to start a fringe too’,” says Potrykus.
Unexpectedly at the heart of an expanding network, Stoff launched the Nordic Fringe Network at the World Fringe Congress in Montreal last November. “It’s kind of based on the Canadian model and on the Australian circuit. We’re currently a loose network linking Bergen, Gothenburg, Reykjavik and Stockholm, but we have aligned our dates – we actually moved the Stoff dates by a month to accommodate the network.”
He continues: “We also created joint artist calls so that artists only do one application and can pick if they want to do one or more festivals.”
The inaugural 2017 global call brought responses from 2,200 artists and companies from 82 countries who sent in 721 projects. Meanwhile, two cities in Finland have got in touch, not knowing about each other, saying that they also want to join the network.
Stoff typifies the Nordic model: highly multidisciplinary and, unlike the UK, North American and Australian circuits, it is not dominated by comedy. “In terms of size, Stockholm is probably closer to Prague and Amsterdam. We present 100 acts over 10 stages in six days. Norway presents a smaller amount – it’s a pilot episode,” Potrykus says.
The network’s next big idea is to link up the different fringe awards and use them to generate a pool of artists from Nordic fringe seasons to perform at overseas festivals. Amsterdam has pioneered this very successfully.
“We want to do something in Brighton, San Diego, Paris, Prague and probably one of the Canadian fringes – and also offer a fringe in Cyprus that exists in the zone between the Turkish and the Greek sectors.
“We want to be as much a launchpad for Nordic artists going overseas as a gateway into the Nordics for overseas artists. When you visit overseas festivals, there aren’t that many Nordic artists on the bill. We would like to change that.”