Reykjavík Reads

 A Month Long Celebration of the Art of the Word

Reykjavik City of Literature hosts the Reykjavik Reads Festival in October each year. This month long festival has a special theme each year and it is dedicated to the art of the word in its broadest sense. It celebrates reading and writing for people of all ages, children, teenagers and grown-ups.

Although the festival is hosted by Reykjavik City of Literature, it is a grass-roots festival and all those who want to take part – organizations, institutions, businesses or individual artists – are encouraged to join in. Among events and projects are workshops, public readings, literary seminars, literary texts in public spaces and street art, exhibitions, musical events, school projects and much more.

Reykjavik schools at all levels take part, as well as libraries, publishers, literary organisations, the Writers’ Union and  many more.

Words and Visuals in 2016

Reykjavík Reads

In October 2016, Reykjavík Reads will be held for the fifth time and the Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature will also celebrate its five year anniversary. The interplay of words and visuals, or images, will be in focus, as we will take a look at the many different manifestations of these two closely connected art forms. Imagery, visual poetry, comic art, illustrated books – the list can go on.

This year the theme is WORDS AND VISUALS under the title MORE THAN A 1000 WORDS. How does visual literacy help us understand and interpret the world and how does it connect to the art of the word? And in turn, how do images and imagery give wings to our language and literature?

Pictures contain many words and words can also create and contain visual images. We often think of these forms of communication as separate or even opposites but that is not the case at all. The festival theme is colored by this believe, we will take a look at different connections between words and images – comics, visual poetry, slam-poetry, imagery of all kinds, illustrated books, narrative visual art, the words within the visuals and the visuals within words.

The festival progamme is aimed at people of all ages.

Reykjavík Reads is a grassroots or participatory festival, meaning that all those who organize or host events that fit the festival theme can ask for those events to be included in the festival programme. We therefore encourage artists, companies, associations, institutions and others to contact us at if they want to contribute to the programme each year.


Sometime someone said that poetry is visual art. Sometime someone showed us that visual art is in fact poetry. Visual art depicts poetic connections that even the most eloquent poets do not manage to capture. Not even in the smallest of poetic forms. Poetry brings about visual connections that even not the sharpest visual artist can capture. Not even on a page in the tiniest of sketchbooks.

We think in images. We give words to thoughts.

In a single line of a poem all the angels of heaven can fall into the arms of all the devils of hell, where they rise up from the visual surface – whether it is to be found on a wall, a canvas, in a comic or on a screen – and it doesn‘t matter if the line is put forward verbally, in written form or in a song.

Apples taste just as good whether they are phrased or drawn.

House. Cloud. Chair. Finger.

Sjón, 2016 – writer and the first chairman of the Reykjavík City of Literature board

(Translated by Kristín Viðarsdóttir)


The Reykjavík City of Literature celebrates its five year anniversary this fall. On this occasion, fourteen artists have, two by two, created seven pieces of art that capture the theme of the Reykjavík Reads Festival this year – words and visuals. These works are displayed in different places in the city.

The artists are Alda Björk Valdimarsdóttir and Sveinbjörn Pálsson, Atli Sigþórsson (Kött Grá Pje) and Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir, Eva Rún Snorradóttir and Björn Þór Björnsson (Bobby Breiðholt), Elías Knörr and Elín Edda, Ewa Marcinek and Wiola Ujazdowska, Jónas Reynir Gunnarsson and Lára Garðarsdóttir and finally Kári Tulinius and Ragnhildur Jóhanns.

These works are put up on walls on Laugavegur in downtown Reykjavík, by the café Kaffi Vest in the west part of town, at a small shopping centre in Arnarbakki in the suburb Breiðholt, on the University of Iceland‘s School of Education‘s building in Stakkahlíð, on Laugardalslaug swimming pool on the east side of town, on Icelandair Hotel Reykjavík Marina by the Old Harbour, and finally there is a video work that will be shown at the Reykjavík City Library in the suburb Grafarvogur, in movie houses and on the City of Literature‘s website.





Earlier Festivals

The first Reykjavik Reads Festival, held in October 2012, was dedicated to one book in the fashion of One City, One Book festivals that have for example been held regularly in the UNESCO Cities of Literature, Edinburgh and Dublin.


The book in focus was a Reykjavik novel from 1950, Vögguvísa (Lullaby) by Elías Mar, one of the first Icelandic novels focusing on the life of teenagers in the city, which was rapidly growing at the time. The book was reissued by a local publisher in printed form, as an e-book and audio book.

Among other things, this first month long festival gave birth to a new lullaby presented to all day-cares in Reykjavík, as well as a word-graffiti mural at the City Library’s main building. Videos were made with local comedians who worked with the text from the novel, exhibitions put up, literary walking tours were offered to schools and the public, several school projects took place, as well as seminars for the public and the book and the festival were prominent in the local media.

In 2013, the theme was Poetry in Motion.

Ljóð í leiðinni

A new book of Reykjavik poetry by 27 local poets was published, poetry was displayed on city buses, literally moving it throughout the capital area. Poetry was painted on city side-walks and published on bus stands and billboards in Reykjavik. Events were ongoing for the whole month and schools focused on poetry and poetry writing.

In 2014, October became a Time for a Story, as short prose texts were put in focus.


The festival was called Time For a Story in order to promote the message that most often we indeed have the time to read or tell stories. It doesn’t have to take long, perhaps all it takes is just a trip on the elevator in the mall. In October, stories therefore appeared in unusual ways and forms. They lightened up the autumnal darkness on walls of buildings, cheered shoppers up in Kringlan shopping mall – on walls, floors, elevators and elsewhere – and enraptured swimmers in the local hot pots. 

Read more about the 2014 Reykjavik Reads Festival here.

In 2015, the festival was dedicated to the voices of women as Iceland celebrated the centennial of women’s right to vote that year.

Reykjavik Reads

Read more about the 2015 Reykjavik Reads and view the festival programme.