The West Front Meeting - the heart of Olav’s Festival

Welcome to The West Front Meeting, the very heart of Olav’s Festival. Every day during the festival, we invite the public to The West Front where there are conversations on important topics at the intersection between faith and society. 

There are meeting at The West Front of Nidaros Cathedral every day 13:00. Even when the weather is not so good, people meet up in good time to be sure of one the 650 seats. Several hundred have to be content with standing room. Adresseavisen summed up The West Front Meeting like this: «This year’s series of meetings was the most successful so far, both as regards popularity and content.» NRK P2 broadcasts all the meetings live and as recordings.

Olav’s Festival 2019 has chosen TRANSFORMATION as the overall theme. We demand a lot of our theme: it must be relevant for every one of the face of the earth and in addition it must be interesting in both religious and non-religious contexts. That applied to last year’s theme BODY just as much as it does to this year’s theme TRANSFORMATION.

Everything is undergoing transformation. Since the Big Bang the universe has been in constant transfromation. From conception, every single person has been in continuous transformation. But today we live in an era of transformation in a quite new and decisive way, according to the German philosopher Ulrich Beck. Not on account of democratic choices or political visions, nor because of wars or revolutions.

Human existence is being transformed by the unintended side effects of technological development, side effects which multiply at an almost incredible acceleration. What was impossible yesterday is both possible and real today. This presents us with challenges which no other generation in history has had to deal with. «From now on, every single transformation must be the result of decisions which are made with eyes wide open», writes the author Carsten Jensen in Mot stjernene (Towards the stars).

In this time of transformation, we need art and culture which expand the world of the imagination, which make us abandon old classifications, which enable us to discover new connections and which give us hope that change is not just something that affects us, but also something to which we can contribute. Because that is what we have to do.

All this will be considered and discussed in The West Front Meeting 2019. As always on Olav's Day, we pose challenging questions about religion and the church, but we will also touch on political change in Europe, the critical transformations in the climate, and on the eve of St. Olav's Day - the day Olav Haraldsson was beatified - we ask: Are there such things as miracles?

Håkon Haugsbø

As last year, this year's meetings will be lead by Håkon Haugsbø. He has a background from, among others, NRK Brennpunkt and Norwegian Church Aid where he was communications manager. Now he is back on NRK P2 with his new programme "These Days" which aims to look for the major connections in a fragmented picture of news. 

PROGRAMME (there may be changes):

MONDAY 29. JULY (ST. OLAV’S DAY)
Can God reconsider?
All religions lay claim to eternal truths. Ancient texts have power over modern life. Nonetheless, how we believe changes all the time. Can God change His mind?
Participants: 

  • Rob Bell (author, speaker, former megachuch pastor)
  • Bjørn Eidsvåg (artist, songwriter, composer of the hymn commissioned for Olav' Festival 2019: "Nothing is as it once was")
  • Helga Haugland Byfuglien (preses of the Bishop's Conference)
  • Kristine Hovda (journalist, author, musician)
  • Mehda Zolfaqari(narrator, muslim, interested in "religious innovators")


TUESDAY 30. JULY 13.00:
Are we about to lose Europe?
Europe’s house is on fire. Now we have either to want Europe to survive or be swamped in a tide of populism, write 28 European personalities in a manifesto. Are we about to lose Europe?
Participants: 

  • Sir James MacMillan (composer, conductor, Catholic. His work "A European Requiem" was performed during the opening concert in Nidaros Cathedral)
  • Carsten Jensen author)
  • Leiv Igor Devold (university lecturer, film director, half Polish)
  • Karolina Dmitrov-Devold (wife of Leif Igor, Polish)
  • Kate Hansen Bundt (secretary general of the Norwegian Atlantic Committee, political researcher, fellow at Humboldt University, East Berlin during the last year of the GDR, winner the Willy Brandt Prize in 2018)


WEDNESDAY 31. JULY 13.00:
Is it OK to make disciples of all nations?
Atheists make up a smaller and smaller part of the population of the world. Christianity is growing rapidly in The Global South. Is it alright to make disciples of all nations?
Participants: 

  • Cia Marie Martinsen ((atheist and feminist who became a Mormon)
  • Rune Edvardsen (manager of Troens bevis (The Evidence of Faith))
  • Maren Sæbø (journalist, grew up in Angola, studied in South Africa, expert of African affairs)
  • Olav Fykse Tveit (Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, which consists of more than 340 churches with 550 million members in 120 countries)
  • Revoma J. Maksera (leader of the Malagasy military choir Lova)
  • Anders Rønningen (former missionary in Madagascar and artist responsible for the concert with SKRUK / Lova)


THURSDAY 1. AUGUST 13.00:
When life is transformed?
Sometimes change can be so fundamental that from one moment to the next you have become a different person. At today's West Front meeting, you will meet people who have experienced such an extreme transformation.
Participants: 

  • Veronica Orderud (sentenced to 21 years in prison for complicity in triple murder, released in 2015 after serving 2/3 of the sentence, studied theology in prison)
  • The Kevin case:
  • Robin Dahlén (accused of murder, later acquitted)
  • Christian Karlsson (accused of murder, later acquitted)
  • Weine Dahlén (ffather of the brothers who were accused of mureder)
  • Patrik Skog (Kevin's father)

FRIDAY 2. AUGUST 13.00:
Can we save the Earth?

2030 is the dealine which the UN Panel on Climate Change has set for halving world green house gas emissions. If we fail, 400 million people will be directly affected. We have eleven years. Can we save the Earth?
Participants: 

  • Johan Mjønes (author)
  • Tina Razafimandimby Våje (activist, initiator of the national school strike for the climate)
  • Embla Regine Mathisen (activist, leader of Changemaker)
  • Imam Ibrahim Saidy (activist for green jihad)
  • Mads Simonsen (the man behind the climate data in Ducky.no)
  • Beate Nossum (city council leader and special advisor in Footprint)


SATURDAY 3. AUGUST (THE EVE OF ST. OLAV'S DAY):
Are there such things as miracles?
Nidaros Cathedral has existed for almost 1000 years due to an alleged miracle. Now in modern times, numerous people recount miraculous experiences. Are there such things as miracles?
Participants: 

  • Gunnhild Røthe (religion historian with a doctorate on the miracles of Olav)
  • Arne Berggren author and Catholic
  • Victor Skimmeland (cured of cancer after a visit to Jerusalem)
  • Charlotte Rørth (atheist journalist who met Jesus)
  • Jan-Olav Henriksen (theology professor who got healing hands)