LÝSA, Iceland

As of 2018 LÝSA is in its start-up phase but has already created inspiration for future festivals. Participants enjoy face-to-face conversations and sharing ideas, which, in the current political climate, is a great need as the polarization of society is reinforced daily via social media.

Purpose and vision

“LÝSA wants to support and strengthen democratic dialogue in Iceland. The festival aims to build trust in society between different societal groups. The festival creates a framework for meetings and discussions between decision-makers on all political levels as well as being a platform for interest groups to share their ideas and thoughts on how to improve our society”.


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Þuríður Helga

Menningarhúsið Hof
Strandgötu 12, 600 Akureyri


Founder and year of establishment

The Nordic house in Reykjavik is the founder of the festival, which was established with the aim of strengthening the political debate in Iceland. The first festival was held in 2015. The festival has been developing since its inception and the organisational structure has changed with every festival. As of 2018, the festival will be called LÝSA.

In 2015, the Nordic House was in charge of the festival, supported financially by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The umbrella organization Almannaheill (Society for NGO´s) supported the first festival by volunteering one member to serve on the steering committee. In 2016, it was decided that Almannaheill would produce the festival, with help on infrastructure issues from the Nordic House. Both festivals were held in Reykjavik at the Nordic House. In 2017, Almannheill and MAk (Cultural Institution) partnered up to produce the festival together at the initiative of MAk and moved the festival to the city of Akureyri.

Organisational structure

Almannaheill (Society for NGO’s) and MAk (Cultural Institution) produce the festival together. MAk is the host and producer of the festival that applies for funding and promotes the festival. Almannaheill supports the festival by applying for funds and using their network to promote participation among its member organisations. MAks regular staff works for the festival during the festival days. The festival has no fulltime employees. The board of LÝSA has two representatives from MAk, one from the municipality of Akureyri and one from Almannaheill.

Location and length

The 2-day festival is located in Akureyri and takes place in the beginning of September. The festival takes place in Hof Cultural House in Akureyri, which is a part of the institution MAk. The venue is primarily used as a conference house consisting of many halls of different size. The festival is an indoor festival due to the unstable climate. The location was chosen because of the distance away from the capital and Akureyri is the town known to be a good place for conferences and smaller meetings and events. It was the organisers’ belief that, in order for the festival to reach its full potential, it had to move outside of the capital Reykjavík, since the participants would engage more in the festival if they had to travel to get there.

Size – number of participants and events

The festival’s own estimate of participating guests is approximately 300 individuals. 50 organisations participated in the programme and organised around 60 events. Participating organisations were counted via the registration form required to get a spot in the programme.

People attending the festival

The festival’s target group is stakeholders in Icelandic society, politicians, lobbyists and members of the general public who take an interest in societal matters. An estimate of the types of guests is: lobbyists 30%, politicians 20%, people working in public institutions 30%, general public 20%.

Involvement of political parties

Political parties are invited to participate, as are all other organisations. They choose themselves to host debates and meetings or participate in events organised by others. The festival contacts every parliamentarian and talks to the staff of each party to encourage them to attend. A meeting is held with the leader of parliament and staff to make sure the agenda is clear for the festival days.


Anyone can apply to organise an event. The only criteria are that the events are relevant to society, free of charge and open to everyone. The project manager arranges the programme depending on topic, and depending on the target audience: the general public, stakeholders or professionals. The venue hosts a number of big and small events as conferences, concerts, and theatre.