After two years without a festival, the Boréales are back in Caen

Jérôme Rémy has been the artistic director of Les Boréales since 1994. (© Franck Castel)

For nearly 30 years, Les Boréales invite us to discover all the artistic richness of Scandinavian and Baltic countries. An event unlike any other, which made Caen (Calvados) a benchmark city in terms of Nordic culture.

Meeting with Jerome Remy, the artistic director of this beautiful event, the 29th edition of which takes place from November 18 to 28, 2021.

150 events in 65 cultural venues

News: When was the festival born?

Jérôme Rémy: In 1992, at the initiative of Lena Christensen and Éric Eydoux, teachers of Danish and Norwegian. They had realized that the Nordic culture was not sufficiently known, and that Caen was the ideal city to remedy it. They started with a purely literary festival, the time of a weekend, in 92 and 93.

And when did you join the team?

JR: In 1994, a pivotal year since it corresponds to the release of Björk’s first album and the Palme d’Or for Lars von Trier. Suddenly there was an interest in Nordic culture in France. I started by traveling a lot to understand how it is thought, organized and structured in Scandinavia. I quickly realized that there was no hierarchy at all between the different artistic fields, with opera at the top and current music at the bottom. These are small countries, and artists cannot make a career out of a novel or a film, so they are forced to open up to other forms of expression.

What is your part ?

JR: There are only two of us to organize 150 events in 40 cities and 65 cultural venues, which bring together 40,000 to 50,000 spectators per year! So we are trying to be 18 months early. There, for example, we have already been working for several months on the 2022 edition. I take care of the artistic part and relations with the partners, and my colleague Rémy Carras is in charge of all the logistics and production.

“We are reinventing ourselves at the same time as these countries”

When did you join the Baltic States?

JR: In the early 2000s, when their integration into the European Union took shape. The Nordic countries understand very quickly that it is necessary to reach out to these three small countries, at the risk of seeing them switch back to Eastern Europe. So we too made this movement in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Geographically, you are limited. How to renew over the editions?

JR: We reinvent ourselves at the same time as these countries. Coming back to Denmark or Iceland every 5 or 6 years allows us to see how these nations have evolved socially and politically. There are strong markers, but we take almost everything from A to Z each time.

30 years that it lasts. What events have marked you?

JR: The arrival of Cirkus Cirkor in 2001, a Swedish company that has returned regularly since. We were among the first to present new circus shows, which fascinate the public. I also remember meeting Max Von Syndow in 1994, one of Ingmar Bergman’s favorite actors. More recently, Barbara Hendricks’ concert was also a highlight. Not to mention the Munch exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which attracted over 40,000 visitors for our 20th anniversary.

Björk and Sigur Rós, is it possible?

You have just gone through two difficult years with the covid …

JR: Thursday, we relaunch a festival that has not existed for 2 years, it’s dizzying. This 29th edition is therefore a bit of a leap into the unknown, because we see that attendance at cultural places is still timid in France. The idea is not to find the figures we had in 2019, but to recreate confidence with our 30th edition in the sights.

What do you have in store for this 30th anniversary?

JR: This is an important issue, but we are more in line with the logic of reinventing the festival for the years to come. We already know that in 2022 we will welcome Sweden, then Iceland in 2023, Finland in 2024, etc. We must also adapt to the habits of the public, which have been profoundly disrupted by the health crisis.

And bring Björk and Sigur Rós to Caen, do you work there?

JR: Björk is one of our fantasies. Sigur Rós is a complicated dream, but not inaccessible… We hope to succeed in setting up projects of this dimension one day, but without neglecting more intimate forms, because that is also what makes Les Boréales so charming.

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After two years without a festival, the Boréales are back in Caen