Geiteberg Folk Festival: Small is Beautiful

Guest blog by Mairi McFadyen

Photo credit Simon BakerOne month ago I took a Ryanair trip across the North Sea to help out at Geiteberg Folk Festival in Southern Norway. Running from the Friday evening to the Saturday night, the festival aims to ‘showcase the best of Scandinavian, Celtic and Roots music’ with a focus on close kinship, historical ties and the strong relations between people, music and culture.

This year, the fantastic Manx trio Barrule, Scottish/Irish trio McKerron Brechin Ó hEadhra and Edinburgh-based band Dallahan travelled over from Scotland to join Scandinavian acts Fromseier Hockings from Denmark, local singer Ingunn Skjelfoss, Sunniva Berg & KuLokkCall from Norway and Norwegian/Swedish/English band Doggerland, among others. One of the highlights was the 20-piece big band Store Norske Seeger Sessions – not a usual spectacle at folk festival but fantastic good fun! On the Saturday there were workshops on offer for both adults and children, including ceilidh dancing for tiny wee people led by our very own Sandy Brechin.

Geiteberg is a fledgling festival, only in its second year – a collaboration between musicians Brian Ó hEadhra and Kjetil Haugbro. While there are a few well-known folk festivals in Norway – such as Førdefestivalen or Telemarkfestivalen – the area of Østfold in the South East is not so accustomed to this kind of music. For this reason, the festival is small, but this is part of its magical charm. The location is a traditional countryside farm less than an hours’ drive from Oslo’s Rygge airport (the family home of Kjetil and his partner Guri). The big red barn has been transformed into a music venue decked out with hay bales and fairy-lights. As well as celebrating local music, language and culture, local Norwegian beer and food is on offer (as well as a great selection of Scottish whiskies in the bar!).

The fact that this is a family home really adds to the atmosphere and ethos of this festival. Largely run by a team of volunteers, everyone is a welcome part of the festival family for the weekend – in large part thanks to the hospitality of Guri Holt. One punter tweeted, “Possibly the world’s smallest but friendliest Folk Music Festival in the world.” I’d highly recommend it!

Flights over to Oslo Rygge are not expensive. There are a range of options for accommodation and there is camping available on site (including hammocks in the woodland for relaxing in the Norwegian sunshine). 

With more to follow…

Mairi McFadyen is an ethnologist, writer and speaker