#kbhlæser: Copenhagen reads!


All quite highbrow, compared with British book festivals – you’d be hard pressed to find many bestsellers.

Kbh Læser 2015 (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter: @kbh_laeser#kbhlæser), a literary festival masterminded by Copenhagen Libraries, took place from 27 February to 8 March with the theme of kærlighed (love). The seemingly now obligatory A3 magazine/newspaper stated:

Dette års festival er også en kærlighedserklæring til alle de fine steder i København, der huser litteraturen, plejer den og giver den plads. Hele året. Brug festivalen til at opdage de mange københavnske litterære kringelkroge, som tilbyder intime og unikke oplevelser.

This year’s festival was a “declaration of love” to the literary places of Copenhagen, not just its libraries and bookshops, and to that end events took place in some unusual venues, such as a football club and a public bathhouse. In line with their public library mission a number of experimental and innovative formats were also on show, such as speed literature, bookshelf dating and bedtime stories in Nørrebro, aimed at attracting under-represented user groups to the festival and to libraries more broadly.

Event website critique…usual fish in a barrel stuff. With 159 events from 77 organisers, and 58 venues, you need several ways of finding your way around the programme, but as ever there was no way in via theme or audience. A map/app would have been nice, although there was a list of what’s on at each venue. No search…and while the design is contemporary enough, you are diverted to Copenhagen Libraries’ rather creaky site for full details, where when it’s gone, it’s gone. In archive terms, there is one page on the festival’s history plus brief summaries of the festivals in 2014 (the body in literature) and 2012 (Copenhagen). Coverage limited other than some fine pictorial broadcasting, with the 46 #kbhlæser tweets during the week mainly from organisers.

A very dansk affair, with only one event på engelsk and just a smattering of the usual suspects in translation – and slet ikke anything contemporary. And, just the Copenhagen council area, so no input from literary Lyngby etc. Here’s what caught my eye.

Cellars were a thing. Københavns Radiobiograf, normally found in Gloria Biograf, performed in the cellar of the central library, while Kælderlæsninger, a series of monthly events at Islands Brygge library this time out started in the central library and than travelled by metro to Islands Brygge.

Golden Days’ morning lectures at Atheneum were back (see Facebook), still pulling the crowds and still streamed. Nice work. Listened in on Knud Romer on German Romanticism, highly entertaining. It stopped, as ever, on the dot, which made me wonder if events in Denmark ever run over? I’ve known them start late and finish early too.

A popular view of Kierkegaard in Denmark is as doomed lover, and he made two appearances courtesy of Pia Søltoft, author of Kierkegaard og kærlighedens skikkelser – at the Sorte Diamant with philosophy rethinker Mads Vestergaard.

Denmark has a whole host of literary societies, all tidily organised under umbrella organisation Samrådet for de Litterære Selskaber i Danmark; they held an afternoon of short readings in the central library, from Chrétien de Troyes to James Joyce. There was also a bit of a Jane Austen thing going on, with a read-along of Emma from online chicklit bookclub Lovebooks, an embroider your favourite Jane quote session at Vanløse Kulturhus and a salon in Perch’s Tea Room.

Finally, a Kærlighedskaravan (lit: love caravan) saw five libraries selecting 10 love related texts each, performed by TS Høeg (2016 travel book) and AN Other, with the best chosen and then the best of the best voted for somewhere and a final event on Sunday evening. The events took place in cafes and bars close to the participating libraries, concluding at Din Nye Ven in the heart of the city.

All these festivals do start to blur into one, as the same actors plough on regardless, rolling out the same formats each time or simply rebranding a regular event – looking at you Assistens Kirkegård, SMK Fridays. Are there too many?

Next up: new festival/fair on history, Historiske Dage, which in another developing festival meme includes walks.

Postscript: København læser – IVA læser med: nice article from the kulturformidling perspective. And in unfair comparison time, see Cityread London, a month long celebration around one book.


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