Norway: Ceremony honoured Friends of the Storfjord

The association of Friends of the Storfjord, winner of an EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2016 Europe’s highest honour in the field, was recognised for its 41 years of dedicated voluntary service to the preservation of this UNESCO World Heritage listed landscape during a moving ceremony held on 10 September in Geiranger. The Friends of the Storfjord received the Award from Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, Europe’s leading heritage organisation, in front of an audience of some 100 people, including individuals and public and private representatives involved in this exemplary heritage achievement from Norway.

The festive day to mark the success of the Friends of the Storfjord in the European Heritage Awards started with a boat excursion along the Geirangerfjorden, which is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and a guided tour of an old farmhouse by the seaside restored by the volunteers from the association.

Ceremony for the Friends of the Storfjord, Geiranger, Norway, 10-09-2016On return to Geiranger, the participants visited the Norwegian Fjord Centre and the exhibition dedicated to the work of the Friends of the Storfjord. The guided tour featured addresses by key representatives involved in this remarkable heritage accomplishment and was enhanced by the screening of video projects. On this occasion, Erik Schultz, Council Member of Europa Nostra and President of Europa Nostra Norway, presented the key findings and strategic recommendations of the European Policy Report ‘Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe’. This extensive Report – recently produced by Europa Nostra together with five partners – provides compelling evidence of the value of heritage and its positive impact on Europe’s economy, culture, society, and the environment. The Executive Summary of the Report in Norwegian – and other languages – can be downloaded here.

The European Heritage Award was presented to the Friends of the Storfjord during a special ceremony at Hotel Union in the presence of dozens of heritage and cultural professionals, volunteers and supporters, and several representatives from local, regional and national bodies.

Attendees included Kirsti Kolle Grøndahl, President of Norsk Kulturarv (the first female president of the Norwegian Parliament), Erik Lillebråten, Director of Norsk Kulturarv, Kathrin Blomvik, Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre in Geiranger, and Marianne Roald Ytterdal, Board Member of Europa Nostra.

Also present were Lodve Solholm, County Governor of Møre og Romsdal, Gunn Berit Gjerde, Vice-Chairman of Møre og Romsdal, Willy Loftheim, Vice-Chief Officer of Møre og Romsdal, and Heidi-Iren Wedlog Olsen, Head of the Cultural Office in Møre og Romsdal, as well as County Chairpersons of the Storfjord area Odd Jostein Drotninghaug, Eva Hove and Jan Ove Tryggestad.

The Friends of the Storfjord – together with the 27 winners of the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards 2016 – were honoured at the European Heritage Awards Ceremony held on 24 May at the Zarzuela Theatre in Madrid, Spain. This major event was co-hosted by Maestro Plácido Domingo, President of Europa Nostra, and Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.

Founded in 1975 in Geiranger, the association is composed of some 1,000 members. The Friends of the Storfjord have worked on a voluntary basis, financed by self-raised funds and private and public donations, to preserve and raise awareness of this UNESCO World Heritage listed landscape. The Awards Jury felt that the long term engagement of the Friends of the Storfjord, who have worked to preserve the rural landscape and the vernacular architecture of this difficult, mountainous terrain in oftentime harsh conditions is very deserving of this Award”. The volunteers have managed to preserve an endangered tradition over a considerable number of years and have contributed to the establishment of sustainable tourism in this remote area of Norway. The Jury was “impressed by the duration of this dedicated service as the enthusiasm for the buildings has been sustained over many years, exemplifying their impressive zeal for the region”

Aside from the restoration of more than 120 farmhouses and outbuildings in the Storfjord area, the organisation has also focused on the intangible aspects of the local cultural heritage. They have worked to revitalise the rural traditions in the area and to explain to visitors the way of life on the farms. This is a true open-air museum with certain of the buildings open for visits and furnished in an historically accurate way. On occasion, in the summertime, farm animals are brought to the farms to graze and the farms revert to their original purpose.

The volunteers have embraced this previously forgotten region and instilled in it a new and refreshing vitality. Their commitment to revitalising the Storfjord in teaching traditional crafts and arranging educational and recreational activities for visitors has attracted sustained attention to the region”, the Jury stressed.

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