Words and pictures by Joel Meadows
Scandinavian crime is big business, its popularity is booming, and the second Nordicana festival took place at the beginning of February. It was held at the Truman Brewery on the edge of the City of London, and was a celebration of all things Scandinavian: from brown bread and smoked salmon, through Danish vodka to sweets and crisps from the region, Nordicana brought Nordic culture to London for a weekend.
The food was a novel aspect to the festival but the main draw for visitors, some of whom queued for hours, was the presence of actors and writers from some of their favourite Scandi TV shows.
The British interest in Nordic fiction began when The Killing (made back in 2007), was broadcast on British TV with subtitles in 2011: the Danish/Norwegian series made a star of Sofie Grabol, playing police detective Sarah Lund.
There were two sequel series to The Killing and, since then, shows like The Bridge – a thriller series that uses a Danish policeman, Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia), and Saga Norén, a Swedish policewoman with Asperger’s (Sofia Helin), to examine the differences between the two cultures through a murder investigation – and Borgen – which looks at politics in Denmark – have attracted huge viewing figures.
Scandinavian shows like The Killing and The Bridge have been remade for the US market, desperate to copy the success of their subtitled progenitors. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has been remade for the US market and it could be argued that British TV shows like The Fall and Broadchurch have used the Scandinavian model as their template.
The Bridge is riding high, so at Nordicana both Kim Bodnia and Sofia Helin were on hand to sign DVDs and Blu-rays and speak on one of the show’s scheduled panels. The Killing’s Sofie Grabol was also present, as was David Hewson, the man who wrote The Killing books, and Arne Dahl, a Swedish author whose work has been translated to the small screen.
Borgen was also represented by its stars Sidse Babett Knudsen and Pilou Asbæk. Even Barry Forshaw, a writer who has published two guides to Scandinavian crime and a guide to Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, was present.
Nordic crime and dramas have a very loyal following and Nordicana reflected this, with hordes of fans packed into the three screens at the Truman brewery, listening to actors discussing The Bridge, taking part in a cookery competition, voting on Scandinavian food and talking about Swedish crime novels.
In publishing and on TV and film, what began as a niche has grown to become a significant player in world popular culture. The festival attracted national and international press interest, with all of the main papers giving Nordicana coverage. It’s only into its second year but it’s obvious that Nordicana will become a regular fixture on London’s cultural calendar. With a third series of The Bridge announced and a number of other Nordic shows and films, appetite for this sort of material is unlikely to abate soon.