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12 Points 2014, Umea

Henning Bolte By

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12 Points 2014
Umeå, Sweden
April 10-12, 2014

Umeå, 400 miles north of Stockholm at the Ume river and near the gulf of Bothnia, is the capital of Västerbotten County. The city is located on the plain coastal strip, with an enormous wide horizon on all sides, and everything in the city is within easy reach. The municipality, with about 117,000 inhabitants, is an important traffic junction for the northern region of Norrland, as well as the area's educational, cultural and medical center. Its population has the lowest average age of any city in Sweden.

Capital of Culture

The city's lively creative scene has resulted in its being selected as the 2014 European Capital of Culture together with Riga, the capital of Lithuania. Frederik Lindegren, the festival's young artistic director, set up a creative—and successful—campaign with an impressive, attractive program, related to the Sami people's eight seasons of the year. 12 Points 2014 is one of the numerous festival activities to take place throughout the year. It was hosted by the local opera house NO!, Norrlandsoperan, whose director, Marco Feklistoff, together with Lennart Strömbäck—also the artistic director of the well-known annual Umeå Jazz Festival and board member of the European Jazz Network (EJN)—made it work in close cooperation with Gerry Godley, of the Dublin-based Improvised Music Company— originator (and original home) of 12 Points.

Umeå has a rich musical culture with, amongst others, Meshuggah— one of the most world famous Swedish metal bands—originating from the city. More recently, the rock band Refused has made a big name worldwide, releasing The Shape Of Punk To Come, A Chimerical Bombination In 12 Bursts (Burning Heart, 1998), creatively alluding to Ornette Coleman's legendary The Shape of Jazz to Come (Atlantic, 1959). And where in the world you can find a big museum solely dedicated to the electric guitar?

In February of this year a dream came true for the Åhdén twins, two passionate instrument collectors from Umeå. In a huge old school building next to the opera house, their unique collection of priceless, rare and beautiful electric guitars have found a permanent home in a real museum —a new meeting place in town for musicians and audiences with, besides the museum, several stages, a bar, a restaurant and a musical instrument store.

The seeds were laid a long time ago. That the European Capital of Culture came into being in Umeå—and 12 Points as part of it—is, amongst others, the consequence of the unifying concept of the "K" society propagated by Swedish economist Åke E. Andersson 25 years ago: "kunskap, kreativitet, kultur, kommunikation" (knowledge, creativity, culture, communication). Culture, as one of the most powerful forces for growth and development, enforces self- consciousness contrary to populism, which is the manifestation of a lack of self- consciousness and (aggressive) fear, discomfort and uncertainty.

There is a firm belief to which people stick in Umeå, and from which they do not hide or run away: what makes things flourish. This is contrary to moods in other parts of Europe: "When taxpayers' money funds culture it sometimes provokes strong feelings. But Umeå's politicians need 'ice in their blood' to stand firm against populist and anti-culture sentiments, and combine this resolve with the collective will of the municipality's residents to keep the public free from the suggestion of xenophobia or racism," said Leif Larsson, journalist and former culture editor at Västerbottens-Kuriren.

12 Points

12 Points 2014 fell into Gijrradálvvie seizoen—literally "springwinter" or early spring/late winter. The Umeå festival year is divided into the seasonal division of the Sami, the indigenous people of the area whose calendar year is a way of recording the shifting changes of the seasons. You have the names of the four seasons and then compositions of names for the transitions: gijrra, which is spring, and dálvvie, which is winter.

The 12 Points Festival, running it's eighth edition this year, is the creation of Improvised Music Company's Gerry Godley. The 12 groups of this year's edition came from all over Europe: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, the UK and Ireland. 12 Points presented a colorful palette of musical approaches and combinations— the sounds of young, up-and-coming musicians in the jazz field.

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