Iceland Noir


Background & info

Iceland Noir was born in 2013 over a curry in one of Reykjavík’s finer Indian restaurants. Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Ragnar Jónasson and Quentin Bates were idly wondering why Iceland had never had its own crime fiction festival.

The idea gelled and by the time we all met again Crimefest in Bristol a few weeks later, it seemed we had all been thinking much the same thoughts and Iceland Noir was born on the spot.

We asked Ann Cleeves if she’d appear if we were to go ahead with a small crime fiction festival in Reykjavík later that year. To her immense credit, she didn’t hesitate. She didn’t consult her diary or her publicist, but just said ‘yes’ right away, and from that point on there was no turning back. We had six months to organise it all and plenty of people thought we were either wildly over-ambitious or just nuts.

But it all worked out. The first Iceland Noir took place in the Nordic House in Reykjavík in November 2013 as a one-day event. It was a great success, in spite of being a little rough around the edges, and we learned a lot from it – enough to organise an even better event in 2014.

After Iceland Noir 2014, the scene switched to Lerwick, where Shetland Arts borrowed the date for the excellent Shetland Noir festival in November 2015.

The Nordic House is very much a key to the success of Iceland Noir, providing a friendly and accessible venue a short walk from the heart of Reykjavík, while the Nordic House’s staff have been hugely supportive and helpful every time their building has been invaded by a horde of criminal types from around the world.

In 2014 we also invited Lilja Sigurðardóttir to the organising team and she added some much-needed energy and ideas to the mix. For the 2016 event, we have been joined by expat Kiwi and Reykjavík resident Grant Nicol. 

Others who deserve a great deal of credit for the success of Iceland Noir 2014 include Ulfhildur Dagsdóttir of the Reykjavík city library for organising the crime walks through the city, Jórunn Jónsdóttir of the All-Iceland travel agency for the brilliant day trip to Snæfellsnes and the Icelandic Crime Syndicate for inviting visiting authors to take part in the annual reading session.


Iceland Noir is run (so far) without subsidies. This means that it’s funded by those who take part, on the basis that everyone who attends in whatever capacity pays the festival pass fee and we keep the price of this as low as it feasibly can be. This covers the costs of the programme, the name badges, coffee on tap at the Nordic House, and the many other minor costs that mount up.

Our aim in running it is to have a good time with a bunch of like-minded crime aficionados and to preferably not make a loss, and we’re proud to have achieved those aims and hope to do the same in November 2016 now that plans are in progress for a three-day festival.