… FROM OUR INTERNATIONAL FELLOW (PART 5)

… FROM OUR INTERNATIONAL FELLOW (PART 5)

Jenny Valentine is Creative Wales Hay Festival International Fellow 2017/18, travelling to each Hay Festival edition to meet with young people and explore the experience of adolescence. Here the award-winning writer offers her first dispatch from Hay Festival Aarhus 2017…

My first 24 hours in Aarhus is marked by three buildings.

One.  Godsbanen.  An old freight train yard and now, open cultural space where you can take part in anything from pottery to your own theatre production. We are looking for the restaurant, and as we round the building for a second time, I’m finding it hard to choose between glass blowing and welding.

After dinner, we climb up on the roof, two vertiginous triangles, their prows pointing upwards and at odds with each other, like the high points of a quickly sinking ship.  I ruin it for someone by saying I hope Celine Dion doesn’t start singing.  I feel a bit bad about that.

Two.  Dokk1.  The Library.  Right on the harbour.  Steps that lead up to it remind me of the rooves the night before. It is the morning of the first School’s day.  Filled with watery light. Bright and welcoming, in spite of its overwhelming scale.  The place begins to fill with children. Our events go on in tandem with each other, at different levels.  The teenagers I meet are quiet to start with, unsure of what I am asking them.  What does better look like when Denmark has everything sorted?  Perhaps. I learn that at the age of 13, they can get involved in local government and have an actual say in the policies that affect young people. I want to tell the disenfranchised kids I have met so far in Wales and Spain and Latin America.  I don’t want to tell them that because they can, these kids don’t seem to want to.  But they are intelligent and generous, and the conversation grows, and the cracks in their perfect realities begin to appear.  As ever, I am grateful to have met them.

Three.  AROS.  The modern art gallery.  With the rainbow rooftop walk.  And Ron Mueck’s boy.  And Freud and Bacon.  And my favourite Paula Rego painting.  Part of me will still be there on Sunday, just watching the dance.