For one short week in August, the city centre of Arendal turns into an arena for the big questions of today and tomorrow. Through shared ideas, reflections, discussions and debates, Arendalsuka (Arendal Week) aims to bring more understanding, with the hope that participants leave a little wiser than when they came.
Purpose and vision
“Arendalsuka is an annual national forum where delegates from politics, NGOs, industry and the public meet to debate and develop politics for the present and the future. Arendalsuka is politically independent, and aims to strengthen a belief in politics, political debate and the power of our democracy”.
Founder and year of establishment
A group of corporate national leaders with connections to the city of Arendal brought the idea of a festival similar to Almedalsveckan to the Mayor of the Municipality of Arendal and the Governor of the region. The festival was established in 2011, but due to the attack in Utøya and the executive government quarter of Norway in July the same year, the festival was cancelled. The first festival was held in August 2012.
The Municipality of Arendal owns Arendalsuka and the leader is therefore always the sitting Mayor of Arendal, supported by the City Council. The administrative leader of the Municipality manages the secretariat. In addition to the secretariat, there is a committee, which produces the main programme of the festival which works separately on the main programme with help from the secretariat. The festival also has an advisory board - the Council – that meets six times a year, and consists of political leaders of the southern region of Norway, regional heads from the workers’ union and employer organisation, and a representative from the regional university.
Location and length
The 6-day festival is held in Arendal and takes place in the middle of August. Arendal is located by the sea, 260 km south of Oslo and has 45.000 inhabitants.
Size – number of participants and events
The festival’s own estimate of participants is approximately 60.000 – 80.000, or 25.000 unique visitors. In 2017, 720 unique organisers participated and 2400 people had a role on stage in the different events. These numbers are based on head counts on site, but mainly on qualified guesses. There were 791 official events during the festival. 33 were part of Arendalsuka’s main programme.
People attending the festival
Attendees include politicians, NGO’s, corporate representatives, media and ordinary people. The age range is 35 – 55 years, with a 50/50 male/female ratio. Attendees are mainly from the southern and eastern part of the country. Arendalsuka has a special youth programme, Arendalsuka Ung (Young) that attracts approximately 2500 children and young people between the ages of 4 and19.
Involvement of the political parties
The secretariat meets with both regional and national political parties twice a year to evaluate and plan the week. It is important for the legitimacy of the festival to have support from these groups. Arendalsuka begins with a debate between the parliamentary party leaders, which is broadcast live on NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Company). All parties have their own Arendalsuka coordinator. Some coordinate accommodation as well as which events the different politicians should participate in. All political parties have one hour at their disposal during the festival. They also have their own tents in the Political Fair. All parliamentary political parties attend the festival, including 60-70 members of parliament (out of the total 169 members). In 2017, there was also an increase in the number of regional politicians attending. All ministers from the government attended the event at some point during the festival week.
Arendalsuka arranges its own programme, referred to as the Main Programme. The programme is created by Arendalsuka’s own programme committee and consisted of 33 events in 2017. The events from the main programme are held in the biggest venues of the festival. The programme committee invites the public to come up with ideas for the main programme during the year. The programme committee decides on the topics, partners and participants for the main programme based on the suggestions they receive.
In addition to the main programme, anyone can apply to organise events, as long as they are based on criteria set by Arendalsuka. All events must be free of charge, open to everyone, and useful for society. The project group handles all event and exhibition applications. Arendalsuka meets with the target groups throughout the year to ensure the quality of the event and good collaboration between organizers. This includes meetings with politicians on a national and regional level, media, The Norwegian Children and Youth Council, etc. Every year, in January, Arendalsuka host an information meeting in Oslo, which gathers approximately 300 people.
Besides the main programme, Arendalsuka has a special programme for youth, Arendalsuka Ung, that caters to the interests of children and youth, divided into different age groups, and encourages engagement in democratic issues.