I would have done it for anyone

Northside is a great festival, everyone. It’s big enough to attract bands that I have wanted to see live for ages and it’s small enough that there is not an excessive waiting time for most things (and consequently people are friendlier).

Roskilde is friendly-ish but tempers flare from time to time.

Also, there is no camping at Northside, so people have less opportunity to get tanked up at their tent and then roll into the festival ground half cut. If you want to get drunk at Northside, it’s pretty much at regular festival prices.

Here’s a little compare/contrast for you. On the Saturday, I sat with a friend from work at a picnic table. I was not that bothered about any of the bands on Saturday, so was happy just to hear their sets from afar. I spoke to loads of people that day. Some of them were friends of friends, some of them were randoms. I spoke in mostly English but did have a couple of Danish conversations (with drunks) too. It was pretty great.

On Sunday, before the bands I wanted to see came on, I explored the indie area and watched some poets on the little stage. I also checked out an area for encouraging people to have conversations. There were little signs up about ‘don’t use mobiles’, there were games and a ball pit. There were also some conversation starters. As friendly and fun as that area was, it was pretty much just being used by children. The adults that accompanied them, they were sitting staring into space, not talking to anyone. I was only there for a short time so maybe it was a hotbed of conversation and contact between strangers at other times.

I felt sad for Danish people at that point. Their cultural expectation is that it is very rude to talk to anyone. That’s pretty much the same in the UK, unless more rudeness is committed by NOT talking. So, in the UK, it is possible to start conversations with randoms if you are, for example, in a special area dedicated to starting conversations with randoms. Or if you need to communicate or negotiate something vital (for example: it’s super rude not to ask “Can I pull this blind down/open this window/move this bag/get past you?” and a tiny bit rude not to say “Those doors don’t open at this stop, you need to walk down the carriage.”), whereas in Denmark, it appears to be rude to say anything in any of these scenarios.

This means they only get to speak to people they know and, I guess, friends of friends. Except Danes aren’t that good at blending friendship groups. I’ve heard of parties where the row club friends sit in the kitchen and the colleague friends sit in the living room and both groups try to pretend the other does not exist. Not to mention, these sort of parties with separate friendship groups are rare. No wonder they have no time in their calendar to meet new people, if they need a separate event for each of their sets of buddies.

Not that groups of Danes aren’t trying to get this to change. After all, I got to make these observations at a place set up by Danish people trying to get Danish people to talk to each other. There is definitely a movement to get these conversations going. They are needed, not just on a purely social level, but also to spark new ideas. Cities accelerate development and  innovation partly because people bump into each other and exchange their thoughts.

Anyway. On the way back from the festival ground, there are no buses past 11pm or something, so you have to walk a couple of kilometres to the next bus stop. It’s not as if the city council of Aarhus could lay on extra buses on that weekend, jesus. While I was walking to the bus stop, I noticed a man who was in a bad way.

He was weaving left to right in a drunk manner. Every time he veered left, he ended up in the bike lane. Bikes were coming past regularly and at a fair old whack. All he needed to do was badly time a left swerve with a bike and it would be goodnight Vienna.

So. I ran to catch him up and stood on his left. I marked him like it was netball, he slowed down: I slowed down. He sped up: he sped up. Then the inevitable happened and he swerved hard into me. I caught him and smiled. I said

“You alright?”

and he said

“No.”

I said

“Aww. Is there anything I can do to help?”

And he looked at me and he started muttering about how great this was and he hugged me. So we walked along, his arm around my shoulders. He asked me if I was Italian. He said that this would never happen. Never ever happen. This is so great.

I asked him if he needed to catch a bus or anything and he didn’t understand me. I tried in Danish. Even less understanding. He took my hand and said “I don’t understand you. Sorry. I’m Danish. But I understand THIS.” and squeezed my hand.

He asked me where I lived and I asked him where he lived. He pointed across the junction

“Just over there.”

Then he smiled and said

“Sorry but I have to run.” and he let go of my hand and ran across the junction. I yelled

“OK, well be careful!”

I think Danish culture is ready for people being more friendly and kind to each other. I know I saw a lot of people helping walking wounded after the many inevitable drunk-on-a-bike accidents all along that ring road. But it really needs more people being up for making contact and saying “You alright?” Prevention is always better than a cure.

5 thoughts on “I would have done it for anyone

  1. Did you by any chance saw a woman struggling to push a man in wheelchair up the hill? That was me and my partner. Nothside is a nightmare for disabled people and frankly is just a gig on a dusty hill.
    It also doesn’t have a lot of music options you can chose between. Roskilde scores more points here.
    Plus I know danes are rather minimalistic than flamboyant but it’s a festival and I don’t mind it being a little more ”pyntet op”..It doesn’t have to a fairytale like Glasto, just not a gig in the dust.

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    1. I did not see you guys. That’s extra annoying that there is no public transport, then.

      At the time, I did think it was crap for wheelchair users. Some of the counters for food were super high and the toilets were all accessible by stairs…. not to mention Roskilde had wheelchair viewing platforms for the gigs, didn’t see any of those at Northside.

      I was ok with the musical options, though, I bought the ticket for Arcade Fire alone, really. But yeah, Roskilde is AMAZING in terms of choice!

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      1. It is annoying there’s no public transport after 11-12 because it was impossible to order a wheelchair taxi in Aarhus. We tried to do it in advance and we were told by the two big taxi companies to call in the evening and in the evening we got a ”we are sorry, we don’t have cars”. So one night I ended up pushing the wheelchair to the hotel, up the hill (4 kilometres) at 3 o’clock at night.
        There was a wheelchair accessible toilet but that toilet was as far as possible from anything else (they didn’t even bother to put it on the map).
        There were no platforms because they said that the stages were build in such a way that you will be able to see from a wheelchair. Well, you can’t!
        The National were great and Arcade Fire amazing but the whole festival experience was so frustrating that I could write a book about it. From now on we’ll just stick with Roskilde because they are as handicap friendly as possible.

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      2. Yeah, it’s frustrating as fuck that they don’t think about this stuff.
        Ok, so it’s a ‘young’ festival and they have a lot to learn but I really don’t blame you for not wanting to come back. I wouldn’t!

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