Tjarnarbíó Theatre to “Shut Up Shop” Without Increased Funding

Tjarnarbíó theatre

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Sara Martí Guðmundsdóttir, Director of the Tjarnarbíó theatre in downtown Reykjavík, stated that despite a record-breaking year of sales, current grants would not suffice for the continued operation of the theatre. Without increased support from the City of Reykjavík or the state, Tjarnarbíó would have to close for good this September.

Theatre to close September 1

Over the past year, organisers, staff, and actors of Tjarnarbíó have tried to draw attention to the poor state of the theatre, Vísir notes. The building has long been too small and run-down; the equipment outdated; and, despite vigorous operations, the theatre has not received sufficient funds to continue to operate.

Yesterday morning, Sara Martí Guðmundsdóttir, Director of Tjarnarbíó, sent an email to all parties involved in next year’s performances to inform them that the theatre would close in September.

“It’s just very sad. Considering how little we need; it’s ridiculous that we have to close. We’re shutting up shop. Simple as that,” Sara Martí told Vísir. “Tjarnarbío will have to close in September if no help is received. After September 1, I can’t afford to pay our staff a salary, and then a whole acting year goes to waste,” she added.

Shutting up shop despite record sales

Sara told Vísir that demand for venues in the performing arts scene had long since outpaced supply, adding that almost no other theatre aside from Tjarnarbíó had attended to the needs of independent troupes. Furthermore, expenses had gone up while the operating subsidy that the theatre receives had remained the same.

“Salaries have increased. The cost of supplies has increased. Everything has gone up. Although we’ve just had a record year – with a record number of viewers – this is the reality that we’re facing.”

“Our scene has long since become too big,” Sara Martí continued. “There are a lot of performing artists who need space. We’re not only referring to theatre troupes but also dance troupes, stand-up comics, and sketch shows. There are a plethora of people who need a stage, and we’re the only theatre attending to their demands. So if the state and the city want a performing arts scene, they need to do something.”

Sara revealed that Tjarnarbíó had been in contact with the City of Reykjavík. “And the last thing we heard was: ‘We can’t help; we can’t come up with the measly ISK 7 million ($51,000 / €47,000) to help you for the rest of the year. Let alone everything else you need to run the business properly.’ And we haven’t heard a thing from the government, even though we’ve sent a memo to them recently.”

“Years of neglect”

As noted by Vísir, Tjarnarbíó has served as one of the few refuges for independent theatre troupes in Iceland; only a small number of grantees from the Performing Arts Fund are accommodated by the big theatres, so Tjarnarbíó has been their home turf.

When asked how the theatre had managed to operate thus far, Sara Martí responded that Tjarnarbíó had managed with the operating grant received from the City of Reykjavík, which amounted to ca. ISK 22 million ($160,000 / €148,000).

“But it’s not enough to remunerate the theatre’s four full-time employees. Because the building is so old, we keep having to spend money on things for which we shouldn’t be paying. The building and the scene itself have been neglected for an awfully long time, which is why we’ve reached this point now. Either someone does something or we have to shut up shop. Because we’ve certainly done everything in our power,” Sara Martí remarked.

She continued by saying that the theatre had accommodated an unprecedented number of troupes during the winter season. With activities from 9 am to 4 pm and evening performances, the theatre operated at full capacity. “I’ve not had a night off throughout the year,” Sara observed.

Numerous troupes left “homeless”

Sara concluded by saying that the closure of the Tjarnarbíó theatre would not only mean the loss of the venue but would also leave numerous troupes “homeless.” Furthermore, the closure would result in the wastage of tens of millions of króna that had already been invested in the performing arts economy.

According to Sara, this would have significant implications, affecting the livelihoods of around 300 performing artists and hundreds of others involved in the industry. She entreated the Minister of Culture, the Mayor of Reykjavík, and the head of the Department of Culture to intervene.

“Icelandic as a Second Language” University’s Most Popular Subject

Háskóli Íslands University of Iceland

The University of Iceland received nearly 9,500 applications for undergraduate and graduate programmes for the 2023-24 school year. This is an increase of over 6% from last year. Icelandic as a second language proved the most popular subject, with over 640 applications received, Vísir reports.

Almost 9,500 applications received

The application deadline for the 2023-2024 school year to the University of Iceland expired on June 5. Nearly 9,500 applications were received for undergraduate and graduate programmes, with the number of applicants having increased by over 6% year-on-year.

An announcement from the University of Iceland notes that the university received a total number of 5,357 applications for undergraduate studies (up by over 6% year-on-year); a total of 4,115 applications for graduate studies (up by over 7% year-on-year); and nearly 100 applications for doctoral studies.

As noted by Vísir, the number of foreign applications received by the University of Iceland continues to increase in parallel with the school’s growing foreign cooperation and the increased diversification of Icelandic society. The number of foreign applications increased by 20% year-on-year, amounting to nearly 2,000 (compared to the approximately 1,000 foreign applications received in 2016).

“Icelandic as a second language” the most popular subject

The Faculty of the Humanities received the most applications of all departments, or nearly 1,390. Among the subjects offered by the department, Icelandic as a second language is by far the most popular, with more than 640 applications having been received for either a BA programme or a shorter practical one-year programme. This is a year-on-year increase of just over 33%.

“It’s a real pleasure to see that Icelandic as a second language is a very popular subject. This is where the University of Iceland fulfils its social role. This is a subject that we will continue to promote,” Jón Atli Benediktsson, President of the University of Iceland, told Vísir.

As noted by Vísir, there are no restrictions on the number of students accepted into the subject and there is no intention to impose such restrictions. Jón Atli speculated that the increase in applications was to be explained by a greater diversity of university students and the increase in the number of immigrants.

“Regarding the increase in the number of foreign applications in general, diversification, of course, plays a role, alongside the good reputation that the University of Iceland enjoys abroad.”

Transport Plan: Single-Lane Bridges to Be Eliminated

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson

At a press conference yesterday, the Minister of Infrastructure unveiled his new transport plan. The plan aims to eliminate single-lane bridges on the Ring Road within 15 years and includes plans to build a new Hvalfjörður tunnel, alongside nine other tunnels. More than ISK 900 billion ($6.5 billion / €6.1 billion) will be invested over the next fifteen years, RÚV reports.

New tunnels and the elimination of single-lane bridges

At a press conference held yesterday at the Nordica Hotel in Reykjavík, Minister of Infrastructure Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson unveiled the ministry’s transport plan for the years 2024 to 2038.

The plan includes a budget of over ISK 900 billion ($6.5 billion / €6.1 billion) for transport projects in the next fifteen years, with approximately ISK 260 billion ($1.9 billion / €1.7 billion) allocated for the next five years. Notable projects include the construction of a second Hvalfjörður tunnel (a road tunnel under the Hvalfjörður fjord in Iceland and a part of the Ring Road) and a tunnel under the Öxnadalsheiði mountain pass. Additionally, the plan aims to eliminate single-lane bridges on the Ring Road within fifteen years.

The transport plan also includes significant road projects such as doubling the Reykjanesbraut road – connecting Reykjavík to Keflavík International Airport – and widening the Suðurlandsvegur and Kjalarnesvegur roads with separated driving lanes. Around 80 kilometres of main roads will also be widened.

There are ten tunnels in the plan:

Fjarðarheiðar tunnel
Siglufjörður tunnel
A second Hvalfjörður tunnel
Tunnel between Ólafsfjörður and Dalvík
Tunnel between Ísafjörður and Súðavík
Broadening of the Breiðdals segment of the Vestfjords tunnel
Seyðisfjörður and Mjóifjörður tunnel
Miklidalur and Hálfdán
Klettháls
Öxnadalsheiði
(Four other tunnels are also under consideration: Reynisfjall, Lónsheiði, Hellisheiði eystri, Berufjarðar and Breiðdalsheiði tunnels.)

An alternate airport fee will also be introduced and a new terminal will be built at Reykjavík Airport. The transport agreement in the capital area will also be updated with funding for the preparation of Sundabraut continuing to be guaranteed.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2026 and be completed in 2031.

Increasing road safety

Sigurður Ingi was quoted in a press release on the government’s website stating that, above all, the focus of the transport plan was increased road safety:

“When I took over as Minister of Transport almost six years ago, the development of transport infrastructure was launched with subsidies towards roads, ports, and airports throughout the country. For the next several years, we were able to invest more in transport infrastructure annually than had previously been done.

Above all, our guiding light, and biggest project, is increasing safety on the roads. As in previous transport plans, the emphasis is on reducing the number of single-lane bridges and crossroads, shortening distances between places and, most importantly, separating opposing lanes on the busiest roads to and from the capital area. We have worked according to a clear safety plan for traffic, shipping, and aviation in cooperation with regulatory bodies and the business world.

Transport is the lifeblood of society and supports a strong economy throughout the country and provides a lot of strength to the settlements. The projects are diverse and range from protective pavement (i.e. bundið slitlag) on connecting roads to ambitious collaborative projects such as Ölfusárbrú and Sundabraut.”

Iceland’s President Seeks Owner of Lost Keys on Facebook Group

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

The president of Iceland found a set of keys while jogging yesterday and posted a message on a local Facebook group to help the owner retrieve them. The keys are currently being kept at the presidential residence until they are claimed.

“Only in Iceland”

During his morning jog yesterday, President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson stumbled upon a set of keys. Deciding to do the neighbourly thing, the president took a picture of the keys – which were suspended from a barbed wire – and posted a message on the Facebook group Íbúar Álftaness (i.e. Residents of Álftanes):

“Good day. Found this keychain this morning on the footpath along the Álftanesvegur road. The keys can be retrieved at Bessastaðir (the presidential residence).”

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson
Screenshot from the President’s Facebook Post

In his post, the President also included two phone numbers, which he suggested that the owner of the keys dial.

As noted by Vísir yesterday, several people shared a screenshot of the post on social media, including director Sigurður Már Davíðsson. Sigurður pointed out that it’s quite likely that it was “only in Iceland” where the president finds a pair of missing keys and posts a picture of them in his neighbourhood Facebook group.

In an interview with Vísir, Helga Kr. Einarsdóttir, the steward of Bessastaðir, stated that the keys were still being kept at the presidential residence as the owner had yet to retrieve them.