Thousands gather for ‘Øya’ festival

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There’s no island to support it’s “Øya” (Island) name this year as the annual Øyafestivalen got underway in an inner-city park in Oslo on Wednesday. Neighbours were skeptical about the crowds and noise, but organizers claimed they had more space for the popular four-day music festival than ever before.

The annual "Øya" music festival in Oslo has moved this year to an inner-city park at Tøyen, but with more space than ever before. PHOTO: Øyafestivalen

The annual “Øya” music festival in Oslo has moved this year to an inner-city park at Tøyen, but with more space than ever before. PHOTO: Øyafestivalen

“We think we’ve improved all the concert arenas,” Jonas Prangerød, festival spokesman told newspaper Dagsavisen. “We’ve calculated that we have 50 percent more space this year than we had in Middelalderparken (where the fesitval had been held in recent years) and it will be roomier for the public in front of every stage.” Prangerød could also boast of more space in the areas devoted to service and rest areas with cafés and bars.

The festival, which replaced the old Kalvøya festival on the island by the same name along the Oslo Fjord west of Oslo, moved to the Middelalderparken on Oslo’s eastern waterfront in 2001, but was uprooted this year because of construction projects in the area on roads and train lines. This is the first year it’s being held at Tøyenparken on Oslo’s east side, adjacent to the Munch Museum and the botanical gardens.

The festival site is also in the middle of a densely populated residential area, though, and several local residents oppose the prospect of having an estimated 16,000 people trooping through their neighbourhood for outdoor concerts that will last until late in the evening. Some have hung protest banners on their apartment balconies, while several told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that they intend to move out during the festival run. “We have a small child and he can’t be kept awake every night for four nights,” one young woman told NRK. “We’re moving to my brother’s place in Drammen.” Others said they were heading for their hytter (holiday cabins) for a long weekend, to avoid the crowds and noise.

Ringside seats
Still others welcomed the festival, though, and bragged of having ringside seats from their balconies. The festival is officially sold out, but an unspecified number of tickets will be sold at the gate every day starting at 11am, to limit ticket scalping.

The Øya festival will also be bigger this year in terms of ticket sales, with booking chief Claes Olsen saying the organizers “carefully” increased the number of full-run passes by 500. “We don’t want to get so big that we compromise the festival’s intimacy,” Olsen told Dagsavisen. He’s proud that top artists who often perform at festivals that attract 100,000 people want to perform at the much smaller Øya for audiences of around 12,000. “I think that’s cool,” Olsen said.

The festival, which will offer concerts on five stages this year, features many up-and-coming artists as well as some bigger-name stars. Among them this year are Bryan Ferry and the Norwegian-Swedish act Röyksopp & Robyn, who recently had a string of successful appearances in the US. The music was starting with Norway’s Monica Heidal at 2pm on Wednesday and ending with Todd Terje and Oslo Ess Saturday night. The music continues in local clubs and bars all over Oslo late into the night.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund