Ungkulturfestivalen (Norwegian for Youth Culture Festival) is a festival that is arranged by UMN (Ungdom Mot Narkotika - Youth Against Drugs) every year.

Following the true spirit of UMN, the Ungkulturfestivalen is a 4-5 day festival that is all about having fun.

For who: Pretty much everybody from 14-24 years old. A vow of not ever using drugs is not necessary, although drug abuse on the camp is obviously frowned upon.

When: Usually towards the end of the summers, in the summer holiday. Exclusively designed not to clash with the Quart or Roskilde festivals :-)

Where: The location of the Ungkulturfestivalen has changed from year to year, but the past seven years (or so), it has been on a small island called Utøya, which is owned by Det Norske Arbeiderparti (Norwegian Labour Party). The island is very small, and contains about four houses, all of which are accessible for the camp - the only people actually on the island are the people on the camp and the staff (cooks, maintenance etc). The island is in the Tyrifjorden, about an hour from Oslo city centre.

What:

Glad you asked.

You might wonder what the hell you would want to do on an island like this. Quite a lot, to be honest.

The focus of UMN has been not to say "don't do drugs", but rather to say "look at all the cool stuff you can do without doing drugs". The camp / festival keeps this spirit very much alive, by having workshops in different themes, each theme showing a different slice of youth culture.

The workshops work like this: When signing up for the camp, you choose a workshop you would like to participate in, and chances are big that you'd get to do that very workshop.

The workshops are led by people who know more than the average layman in the field. Myself, I have been a workshop leader for Camp newspaper (kind of like a school paper, but not) and photography.

Some of the workshops that have run the past five years:

And many, many more.

The spirit of the camp is to catch a glimpse of the varied possibilities for youth culture, without restrictions. The great thing about the camp is that there are just three rules: Get up at 9 to go to the morning meeting, don't do drugs, and be nice to each other.

Following those three rules, you can do pretty much whatever the fuck you want. Especially for the younger crowd (14-16 year olds), this is their first taste of full independence. The fact that the camp is held on an island helps keeping this practice safe - there is not really anything you can do that has disasterous effects.

So, what goes on on the camp?

A lot of things. Because of the high sense of freedom, people do lots of great things, and it is amazing to see traditionally repressed youth cultures - like grafitti - flourish during the camp.

In addition to the cultural bit, workshops and speeches are held around the general topics of youth politics, drug politics etc.

Is it worth going?

Yes, I would say so. For many people - myself included - the camp is sort of a "first meeting" with life without confines of parents etc. The feeling of responsibility for your 200 or so fellow festival participants is amazing, and with the long chats around the bonfire, the living in tents with good friends and the free handing out of contraception (yes, free condoms for everyone. Good idea, if you ask me, things get pretty hot every now and then) - Definitely worth your trip.

I have been to the Ungkulturfestivalen three times (1999, 2000, 2001), and every time I have tied new, close friendships - most likely friendships for life.

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