The Puffin Festival in brief

“Going westwards” has a particular meaning to Røstians, the inhabitants of Røst. A few kilometers to the southwest of the plane main island of Røstlandet, you will find several bird mountains that constitute Norway’s and even mainland Europe’s largest seabird colony. More than 20 % of all nesting seabirds along the coast of Norway are found here. The puffin is the most abundant of the species represented, counting close to 400,000 couples as of 2013. Still, the population has been in sharp decline over several decades, and the last successful nesting for the puffins of Røst was in 2006.

As far back as history goes, Røstians along with other coastal people in Norway have hunted seabirds for food. Being close to the only available substitute for fish to islanders in earlier times, the meat from seabirds was of vital importance in the island food supply. In addition, the hunting was to many a thrilling adventure out in the steep cliffs.

Gradually the hunting evolved from being a necessity to becoming a marker of cultural identity and heritage, and the extent of the hunting was drastically reduced. As such, community knowledge about hunting methods and tools as well as about the application of meat and feathers could still be maintained. Nevertheless, puffin hunting was banned nationwide in 1989.

In 1995 a police division caught four young Røstians in illegal puffin hunting in the bird mountain of Trenyken. This provoked negative headlines all over the country and great indignation in the local community. Those who in local eyes were considered only to be bearers of an island tradition were framed as criminals of the worst kind and heavily fined.

Røstians were summoned to a meeting at a local restaurant in late summer 1995 to discuss the situation. How could the rebellious spirits be calmed and the negative publicity be turned around? At this meeting, a committee was appointed with the task of arranging a festival the forthcoming year in order to honor the puffin, and the support in the local community was massive.

The first Puffin Festival was held in early May 1996. The members of the appointed committee, all newbies on festivals and often fumbling in the dark, could all the same ascertain that both Røstians and visitors loved the festival from the very first day. Next year it was postponed to the first half of June, and since 1998 it has been held every year the last weekend of June (with one exception).

Hence, the Puffin Festival has kept it going for more than 20 years. The members of the main committee have changed, but the local support and the enthusiasm from visitors, artists and other contributors has persisted. If you want to see this by yourself, you are most welcome to pay us a visit.