Saturday, August 18, 2012

Odense Flower Festival 2012

Once again the Flower Festival is here, so it must be August. Each year Odense City, Denmark has a flower festival with huge displays of flowers based on a new theme each year. This year the theme was Nordic Children's Literature, but like the past 3 years, the flower displays were a huge disappointment. I don't understand it. In the early years of the festival, the displays were beautiful and imaginative with floral sculptures made in the shape of dinosaurs, the sights of European capital cities, the French revolution etc., but nowadays the festival has turned into just a few flowerbeds and a lot of nursing schools selling their flowers. Not much to look at, which is a shame, as people come from all over Europe to see the flower sculptures that are no longer there.
Over the years, the festival has got smaller and smaller, no longer covering the entire city. This year it was even smaller than the very small one last year. In fact it only covered three streets and three squares this year as opposed to two parks, three streets and five squares last year. Very disappointing. As for the displays, 99% consisted of flowerbeds with cardboard cut-outs of characters from Nordic children's literature. Except for a few dogs from Hans Christian Andersen's "The Tinderbox" none of the characters were made by flowers, which was also very disappointing.
Although the makers of the displays could have used any character from any book, they all concentrated on characters of only three authors, namely Danish Hans Christian Andersen, Swedish Astrid Lindgren and Norwegian Thorbjorn Egner. These three are of course some of the most famous and beloved authors of Scandinavian children's literature, but it would have been nice to see characters by other authors, too. What about the Moomins by Finnish Tove Jansson, Aunt Green, Aunt Brown and Aunt Lavender by Swedish Elsa Bescow or the Eight Children by Norwegian Anne-Cath. Vestly? The only other author represented was Swedish Selma Lagerlöf as there was one, ONE, display showing "The Wonderful Adventures of Nils". The funny thing here was, that the display was situated in a square that usually houses a sculpture of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes", but instead of using this sculpture in a display, it had been covered up by trees and cloth in order to give room for Nils!
Of the three authors represented, the same characters were used again and again to the extend that the displays used the exact same cardboard cutouts! The ones used the most were Thorbjorn Egner's tooth trolls "Karius and Bactus", Astrid Lindgren's "Pippi Longstocking" and Hans Christian Andersen's "Thumbelina".
 Apart from that, Thorbjorn Egner was represented by his "Climbing-Mouse and Other Animals in the Hunchback Wood" and "When the Robbers came to Cardamom Town."
 Astrid Lindgren was represented by "Karlsson-on-the-roof", "Nils Karlsson, the Elf", "Emil of Lönneberga" and "The Brothers Lionheart."
 As for Hans Christian Andersen, you could find displays inspired by his fairytales "Clumsy Hans", "The Emperor's New Clothes", "The Nightingale", "The Steadfast Tin Soldier", "The Woman with the Eggs" and "The Ugly Duckling".
 The reason why you'd find so many Hans Christian Andersen-inspired display is, that Odense is in fact the hometown of Hans Christian Andersen and many of the displays had already been shown at earlier flower festival in town!
It's safe to say that the flower displays were disappointing this year, but at least the different activities connected to the festival were great. There were design exhibitions, storytelling, free theatre performances and kids were able to play with water and get a makeover in order to become trees and flowers.
Norwegian actors went around town, acting out scenes from "When the Robbers came to Cardamom Town", Swedish actors made a "Pippi Parade" and Danish child actors and actresses acted out scenes from Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales. The festival also included a lot of free concerts with everything from gospel and church organ music to rock and pop. My childhood friend Claus performed there with his poetic pop band "Tankens Bager" ("The Baker of Thoughts") and they gave a great 2 hour concert for free.
 While they were on stage, the festival got a visit from the Danish Crown Princess Mary who was there to open the festival and name a new plant. I hadn't expected to meet her, but I did, which of course was one of the more interesting moments of the festival for me.
All in all the festival was a disappointment, though, and I'm seriously thinking of boycotting it next year like I did in 2010. Just saying…

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