This week we are talking with Ingimar Oddsson, organizer of the Steampunk Festival in Iceland.
Airship Ambassador: Hi Ingimar, thanks for joining us across the pond.
Ingimar Oddsson: Thank you, happy to join you.
IO: Steampunk Iceland started in 2014 and we have had the festival annually for three years now. It is a live action role play with an ongoing story and of course a festival with events such as concerts and shows. The scene is the kingdom of Bildalia with it’s king, queen, flag and guards. The participants and guests have been from 24 up to 400 people. The festival has taken place in the small village of Bildudalur in the westfjords of Iceland.
AA: Having attended other conventions over the years and being a project manager, I have an idea of the work and details that go into producing a convention. Some people might consider it an insane, masochistic undertaking – what motivated you to produce a steampunk event?
IO: I have had the idea for some time to create some sort of a fantasy land similar to Disneyland but on much smaller scale. I am fascinated by the aesthetics of Steampunk and in my mind steampunk combines my ideas rather than limiting them.
I had already written the online fictional diary Bildalian Chronicles. I was looking for an opportunity to expand the project when I saw an advertisement for a competition; “best project and business plan”.
My project got 4th place and I received equivalent of $ 17,500. One part of the plan was creating an annual festival or a playground with the kingdom of Bildalia as the scene. And since I got the reward there was no turning back.
AA: Impressive! Why a steampunk convention? Why a convention, at all?
IO: A steampunk convention with its vendors and panels is more like the bigger steampunk events. Steampunk Iceland has yet not grown to be a convention though I wish it would. We have one week of cosplay and LARP-ing and in the evenings; concerts, cinema and shows. It is a wonderful event as it is and causes a lot of attention throughout Iceland. A convention is in my opinion where the advanced steampunks meet to exchange ideas and creations. Our event has been more like participants and spectators and though the guests sometimes are caught into the scenario by surprise, they look at it more like a one time only experience rather than a lifestyle. A convention would be a goal for the future, when steampunk has expanded a little further in Iceland.
AA: How does this festival express your vision of steampunk, and what does it add to or differ from the existing events in the community?
IO: I think every event has it’s own characteristics. My vision is to create a fantasy world where each and every person contributes to the whole picture with its own creation of character and story. We have had a little village to work with, where the marketplace is in the middle and games and events dance around the church square as they would in real situation. The activities are mostly under open skies but in the evenings the concerts and shows are located in different houses or restaurants surrounding the area. The fictional kingdom of Bildalia is made as if it was real, vendors and panels fit perfectly within the scene.
AA: That’s a unique hook for the event, and one that sets it apart. How did this get started for you?
IO: I guess I have always been a steampunk fan, but I didn’t know the word until 2009 when I started for real to create my own steampunk wardrobe. I have been in music since I was a kid, writing stories, painting and drawing designs that were mixture of fantasy of future and past.
I moved to Bildudalur in 2012 where I also started my first steampunk project. Very soon I had help from the people in the village and from the community that includes two other villages.
AA: You mentioned in a panel at Steamposium 2016 that getting to Bildudalur is something of an adventure in itself. Very beautiful and scenic but still an adventure. Can you share some of why that is?
IO: Bíldudalur is a five hour drive from Reykjavík and you have to cross fjords and mountains to reach it. The gravel roads are narrow and winding sometimes with canyons on one hand and cliffs on the other, deep blue fjords, rock beaches and natural hot pools.
AA: Yep, that’s an adventure , alright! What is the full story behind the event, the Brigadoon-like city of Bidalia, and the King, Queen, and Princess?
IO: As a child I often came to Bildudalur to visit my grandparents. This is how I remember it. The stories of the people who build the first village at the end of the 19th century where tales of king, queen and great minds. Bildudalur really was an independent town around 1900 it even had its own currency. The novel Bildalian Chronicles is based on these historical facts and the names and places are correct. Only the storyline is fictional.
AA: Not only are you using your own personal history, you are including real history, too. Some of the most engaging steampunk stories do the same thing. Word on the aetherwebs is that Bildalia disappeared and the festival will be held elsewhere this next time?
IO: In the ongoing story we had found a rift into the “Otherworld” where the “huldufolk” or elfish people live. The otherworld is another dimension in time and space, parallel with our own. This summer the otherworld expanded (due to experiments made by mad scientist of course) and swallowed the kingdom of Bildalia. Bildalia is lost for now, but only to be found again in the future. We the Bildalians have formed a “kingdom in exile” government in a safe haven in the town of Akranes, only 20 minute drive from Reykjavik capital of Iceland. There we are going to have the next Steampunk Iceland festival.
Twenty minutes and levelish roads sound so much more inviting than five hours on razor thin roads.
Let’s break here in chatting with Ingimar. Join us next time when he talks about event programming and location.