Local Award Ceremony in Geiranger

The Local Award Ceremony in Geiranger, Norway, which was held on the 10th of September, gathered more than 100 people and was honoured by the presence of the County Governor of Møre og Romsdal, Lodve Solholm, President of Norsk Kulturarv Kirsti Kolle Grøndahl and Sneska Quadvlieg-Mihailovic, Secretary General of Europa Nostra. They all unanimously praised the remarkable work of “Friends of the Storfjord” which this year qualified them for The EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2016 in the category “Dedicated Service”.

It was a memorable day for all those who participated in the Local Award Ceremony in Geiranger Area and along The Geirangerfjord, inscribed on The UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Heritage and cultural professionals, volunteers and supporters and representatives from local, regional and national Governments gathered to celebrate this outstanding heritage achievement from Norway.
The local award ceremony started with a guided tour on the Geirangerfjord with a landing at the farm “Matvika”where “Friends of the Storfjord” has carried out several restoration projects. After welcome song – from an old Norse poem and a newcomposed “Storfjord fanfare on trumpet, information about the farm from the owner,and some orientation by a restauration carpenter, the guests enjoed a lunch with traditional, local food in the old barn.
Back in Geiranger, the ceremony continued with an interesting seminar at “ Norsk Fjordsenter”about heritage protection. In the evening the ceremony concluded with a festive and successful banquet at Hotel Union,owned by the family of Karl Mjelva, “Father” of “Friends of the Storfjord” with entertainment by the local folk music group “Ferdafolk”.

“I am proud and happy on behalf of both Møre og Romsdal and Norway for having such a dedicated voluntary organisation as “Friends of The Storfjord”, County Governor Lodve Solholm stated in his speech at the ceremony.

The Award was presented to the Organisation by Sneska Quadvlieg-Mihailovic, Secretary General of Europa Nostra. In her address, she characterized “Friends of the’ Storfjord” as a major contributor to the European Heritage. “The EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award is a “Nobel-Prize” for heritage protection in Europe, she said, and praised the organisation for its work both to preserve not only the buildings and cultural landscape, but also preserving the tradition for the symbiosis between man and nature in a particularly challenging landscape. She encouraged the organisation to make its work known to the many tourists visiting The Storfjord, and also meant it reasonable for tourists to make an economic contribution to the heritage protection in the area.

Erik Schultz, President of Europa Nostra Norway stressed the importance of a common approach to heritage protection and cultural tradition to create a common identity in Europe. In his interesting speech, he gave a thorough information about the report “Cultural heritage counts for Europe” (CHCfE)

Katrin Blomvik, Director of UNESCOS World Heritage Centre ,Geiranger pointed at the important cooperation between the Heritage Center and “Friends of the Storfjord” and how it had lead to mutual benefit. She said that the organisation was a great contributor to preserving the landcape and cultural heritage in the Storfjord area.She invited the guests to the exhibition in the centre.

Kirsti Kolle Grøndahl, President of Norsk Kulturarv, referred to Queen Sonja and her book “Klangbunn” where she praises the work done by “Friends of the Storfjord”.
“Norsk Kulturarv is highly aware of the impressive and important work done by this organisation and it was no doubt among us to nominate them for The EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award.

“This is a crowning achievement to their work”, she stated.

“It was a brilliant idea to nominate “Friends of the Storfjord” to The EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award, Erik Lillebråten, Director of “Norsk Kulturarv” said in his speech. After informing about Norsk Kulturarv” and its mantra “Use to protect”, he encouraged “Friends of the Storfjord” to apply for more money! “They will be heard”, he promised.

Marianne Roald Ytterdal, Board member of Europa Nostra and member of the jury for “Dedicated Service” stated that there were no doubt in the jury about giving the prize to “Friends of the Storfjord”. To get the prize in this category, it is not enough with one year’s effort. The candidate must prove dedication over a long period, and a probability to continue into the future.

Karl Mjelva, Founder of “Friends of The Storfjord” told about the background for his initiative to start the organisation in 1975. About challenges, but also the optimism the pioneers started the work with. The means was voluntary work. We had no money, but was sure to get even that in due time.

What the prize means to us

The EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2016 means something special to us, and has a great impact on our work. Being recognised as an important contributor to Europe’s cultural heritage was an unexpected honour to Friends of the Storfjord. We are of course very grateful for receiving this outstanding prize. It creates great motivation to our members, volunteers, owners of the farms and to our heritage carpenters.
A wide range of media have become more aware of our organisation. Both written press, radio and TV have published reports about “Friends of the Storfjord”. There is also an increase in demand for orientations about our work in many fora in the Storfjord area.
We have got new members, and we are sure that all this attention will give us many more in the years to come.

We also of course hope it will lead to an increase in financial support to our work.

On behalf of “Friends of the Storfjord”

Kjell Løseth

Einar Hoel
Head Administrator

Bjørn Steinar Skarbø
Deputy Chairman