SOMETHING’S FUNNY ABOUT THIS YEAR’S SOLFESTUKA: Coal copulation, screwy sleds and cheering the sun’s return on the wrong day on the horizon during week-long celebration


Let’s start with the main event – the brightest moment during the most popular event in Longyearbyen: it’s on the wrong day this year. Everybody’s going to show up to cheer the return of the sun 24 hours (or maybe 48) after it actually happens.

Accept the fact nobody’s really going to care and you’re now in the proper mindset for the annual Solfestuka festival that starts Friday – one day later than usual if counting the days since New Year’s thanks to leap year. If you’re still not in the right mindset, the festival’s first event at 7 p.m. at Huset – the annual revue of skits/songs satirizing local happenings of the past year – can at least ensure you’re firmly rooted in something beyond dark reality.

Unless, of course, you don’t have a ticket since Friday’s show sold out late in the week. But while while waiting for the second and final show Saturday night (which has a music/dance party after, so there), it’s possible to chill out your mind (and body) by wandering over to the ski hill at 1 p.m. Saturday to watch/ride a likely bizarre assortment of sleds vying for a likely bizarre assortment of “honors” in the “Take a Chance” sledding competition.

After that is when things get really weird.

The “main event” of welcoming to sun’s return – the first official sunrise was actually more than three weeks ago on Feb. 16, but that’s a distraction for lower in this story – is at 12:30 p.m. near Svalbard Church at the wooden steps from the old hospital destroyed in World War II. Songs, speeches and some other stuff will culminate in the sun peeking over the horizon about 20 minutes later to chants from the crowd – but of course the sun will have already shone its rays on the same spot 24 hours earlier due to leap year (and rays have also sometimes been seen a day earlier during normal years).

Anyhow, about five hours after the main event ends the festival will officially open.

The ceremony at 6 p.m. at Galleri Svalbard will feature the debut of the moving-image exhibit “AnthropoScenes” by Adam Sébire, a researcher and filmmaker who said he’s trying to capture the impact people (including himself)  unwittingly have on the environment and climate change through their activities. He made multiple trips to Svalbard, Greenland and Iceland to record him images (often while doing other work such as research), which is told in eye-raising video clips such as when he’s dropped off alone on a small ice floe to float away and “vanish” alone – a journey captured by a drone that turned out to be more shaky than expected.

“Before I went I thought ‘this will be like a desert island fantasy, it will be great,'” he said, noting the instability of the flow and vanishing of the fisherman while he went to do other things for an hour didn’t help his cool. “Actually it was scary. In fact, it was stupid.”

Also part of the opening will be a display of “Lights in the North” images by the Longyearbyen Photo Club in the arts and crafts center within the gallery’s building, as well as works by other artists with studios that will be for sale.

Among the other featured events for the festival that ends a week from Saturday are a concert by Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes at Kulturhuset on Monday night, a “Solcafe” singalong Wednesday evening at Huset, and a multi-concert music/dance party on the final day at Kulturhuset. Full details are available at the festival’s website (and it’s not-quite-perfect English version via Google Translate).