Island in the Sun

To imagine summer ever coming in the midst of slushy Swedish March and before even getting your winter coat off is hard. It gets easier with hot beverages and the prospects of great music and boats for summer. Maria Alm, the Project Manager of the Island In The Sun festival on Åland, helped to light up the mood on an almost spring day.

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A couple of years back, a group of youths on the island Jurmo in the middle of the Baltic Sea decided to do something for other young people in the surrounding archipelago. The whole island with its’ about 25 inhabitants and beautiful landscape got involved and Island In The Sun was born.

Maria Alm got involved by singing in a band, which got invited to play. She tells the story of a summer paradise: - It’s an amazingly beautiful place; it’s just like an Astrid Lindgren saga. We really make the festival out of the scenery. Immediately when you arrive at Jurmo, you are on the festival.  You take a ferry and then you take a car ferry and then you are there.  It starts in the harbour and one of the stages is a jetty so the visitors can go for a swim while listening to the concert. It is supposed to be a nice experience being at the festival, it’s not somewhere you go to ravage.

All the people working with the festival are volunteers. The community is really involved and arranges boat rides and sells their own-fished herring. It is like a vacation for us as it is for visitors. It is like the dream of Nordic archipelago. We go there about a week before and start to build things. Last year we made a round pole fence. One of the volunteers runs a gallery in Gothenburg and he is responsible for the artworks. We have the ordinary art exhibition and performances on stage. We once made a tunnel, which was like a kaleidoscope. With lights in different colours we got really cool effects and people sat in there and got the lights on themselves. We try to make the art being among the visitors.

The bands we book are from Sweden and Finland. Many are from the surrounding archipelago. We’re trying to keep it local in that context as well, bands have even started in the islands to play there. It might be obvious to say, but we book bands that we think are great. We really think about equality and get as even numbers men and women as possible. Last year we had nine male DJ:s and eight female and there were more female lead singers than male. It is possible and I don’t think that it affects the quality at all.

Our main genre is indie pop, but there’s a range of pop, electro pop, rock, folk and singer/songwriter.  We book up and coming as well as more of veterans. During the day, bands with calmer music plays, it gets faster towards the evening and even more upbeat during the night. It all ends in a party, it is supposed to be a party! The artists are funny and nice people. Last year, Frida Hyvönen decided to stay and join the festival for a day after her gig, even though her band left.

 The visitors are mainly from the Swedish speaking part of Finland but also many come from Sweden and there are some Finnish speaking fins. Many people from the archipelago who have moved away come back for the festival. Most of them are in ages 22-27 but there are also other age groups. Our oldest visitor is grandmother Betty, it is the grandmother of one of the volunteers. She is about 85.


Words: Lova Mattsson Kjellqvist