GRASSROOTS: Change

The second Grassroots event in September was a success. My backyard was outfitted with a large tent, artwork, lights, a dual speaker and mixer setup, an “art wall” that people could draw/write on and candles to set the mood.

It was beautiful to see people I’ve never met before working together with people who have become close friends to build the event. I was full of gratitude. I put together a 30-second teaser of the event to help you get a feel for the environment:

The atmosphere of the event was full of openness and authenticity, which is what Saga Fest is all about. It was a beautiful gathering. It got me excited to see what an even larger community can build at Saga Fest in May.

Nearly 50 people showed up for this month’s Grassroots. Photo by Scott Shigeoka.

The participants at this month’s GRASSROOTS were an extremely diverse group. It was intergenerational, which is an important characteristic for storytelling and sharing: the youngest was 3 years old and the oldest in her 60s. There were slightly more Icelanders than international visitors/residents, and four houses of neighbors showed up, which gave it a community feeling.

Three young participants at GRASSROOTS check out my camera to make sure the shot is set up right. Photo by Inken We.

GRASSROOTS featured five musicians—four from Iceland and one from France. The setlist was organized from chill acoustic to heavier electronic to increase the energy as the night progressed and also for logistical reasons (separating acoustic and electronic sets since they required different mixer settings / audio setup).

The Line-up:

slowsteps (Iceland)
Fannar Ásgrímsson and Ólena Simon (Iceland, France)
ROBO R1X2 (Iceland)
Sindri Vortex (Iceland)

slowsteps performed an acoustic set of his original songs. A full band usually accompanies him, and they are currently recording their first EP. In my next blog, I’ll feature an interview I did with him before the event (you can hear a snippet of his track “Colour Calling” in the teaser video). Photo by Scott Shigeoka.

Fannar Ásgrímsson and Ólena Simon make-up two-thirds of the group Asonat, an electronica pop band. Fannar is from Iceland, Ólena is from France, and Jonas (not pictured) is living in Estonia—this gives their music an international and unique vibe. I interviewed them this week about the recent release of their second album; that blog post will be posted soon. Photo by Scott Shigeoka.

ROBO R1X2 is an Icelandic electronic artist and DJ. He also has a studio in Reykjavík—we used one of his speakers for the concert—and helped set-up the A/V for the event. Photo by Scott Shigeoka.

Sindri Vortex is an electronic artist and DJ. He literally boiled potatoes on a portable stove while he was performing so that he could “time his set” properly. Brilliant. Photo by Scott Shigeoka.

I spent two days prior to the event crafting 10 Icelandic krona coin necklaces by tying wire around the coin and attaching a string through a standard wire loop.

I made these necklaces because the theme of this month’s GRASSROOTS was “Change,” so I was creating art that played off the loose change. A big part of the event is to incorporate art, but to also take it a step forward and use art to facilitate a community building activity.

If you take a look at the Vimeo video above, you’ll notice everyone gets up and starts talking to each other about 16 seconds into the video. Everyone was participating in a necklace exchange activity. I gave all the participants a necklace and prompted each participant to meet someone he or she didn’t know at GRASSROOTS and ask this question:

“What is one intention you’d like to set to make your next year more positive?”

When their partner finished sharing, they were instructed to tie the necklace around his or her neck. My partner was a 3-year-old girl who was excited to “play more.” I told her that I wanted to “call my family more.” (This type of facilitated partner work will also be built into Saga Fest in May.)

The necklaces cost $20 total (including the coins) and the only tool I needed was a wire cutter/bender. Photo by Scott Shigeoka.

The finished necklaces dangled off a table near the stage. Photo by Tiphaine Magnetiphi.

GRASSROOTS—like Saga Fest—is a co-creative effort and required the concerted participation of many people.

Along with the community members who helped construct and design the venue, we received generous support from Robert (ROBO R1X2) and a company called Hljodx to rent A/V equipment for a low price. The five artists above put in a lot of work to build their sets and offer their time to perform for the community. Tiphaine and Inken helped photograph the event (some of their photos are shared in this blog post).

I want to especially give major love to co-conspirator and collaborator Csaba Suto, who has become a close friend here in Iceland. He helped with organizing and setting up this month’s GRASSROOTS. Since it was also his birthday, Ilmur (whom I mentioned in my first blog post about seeing the Northern Lights) baked him a beautiful and delicious cake.

An Icelandic woman came up to me after the event and said, “I really enjoyed the event and I want to do something like this in my backyard soon.”

It was such an inspiring and wonderful thing to hear because the whole idea behind building communities is to plant seeds of change. I felt like the community behind this month’s GRASSROOTS was doing something right. As the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”

This photograph best describes my complete awe and happiness during the event. Photo taken by Inken We.

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