The annual Icelandic Drag Competition will be held in Gamla bíó on Wednesday, August 5th at 8pm. Georg Erlingsson Merritt has been the competition’s coordinator ever since he won the title Iceland’s Drag Queen in 1998. We talked to Georg about the contest, censorship and possible reasons why the Icelandic drag scene isn’t nearly as vibrant as it used to be.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the censorship drag queens are facing today. Just recently organizers of a Pride event in Scotland banned drag queens from performing on the grounds that they might be “offensive” to the trans community (despite the fact that drag queens have been closely associated with Pride celebrations for most of their history). And then later on lifted the ban because they were harshly criticized. What are your thoughts on such measures?

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Georg Erlingsson Merritt, the co-ordinator of the Icelandic Drag Competition which takes place at Gamla Bíó on Wednesday night. Pre drinks will be served when the house opens at 8pm. The show itself starts at 9pm. Tickets can be bought at Gamla Bíó on Wednesday from 6pm, but are also available online.

“First of all let me say that drag is in no way demeaning towards transgender people. Transgender people even participate in drag. That doesn’t say that drag queens and kings should ever be perceived as transgender people.”

“Regarding the incident in Glasgow, I sincerely believe it was merely based on a misunderstanding, and the media chewed on it.”

“But then of course there are and always will be those who want to misinterpret drag. But if you look at it in a historical context it becomes clear what drag is all about. It has existed ever since women weren’t allowed on stage in theatres and men interpreted their roles (drag is an abbreviation for Dressed As Girl). Therefor drag is mainly a form of art. But drag is also a fighting tool. And by saying that I’m of course referring to the Stonewall riots in the late sixties, when drag queens rose up against oppression. That’s when drag also became a weapon.”

But what about the dress-code in the Reykjavík Pride Parade? The rule that says you can’t dress up in a costume of a culture of people who’ve systematically been oppressed by another group?
“I understand why the committee makes those kinds of rules,” Georg says, “but at the same time I feel that they sometimes contradict themselves. For example I know for a fact that certain queens have been told off for crossing certain lines, while at the same time the committee has imported foreign artists who have gone way further.”

“Saying that I wished that the committee would bring more attention to Icelandic drag artists. Support them in a better way. In my mind there is no question about it that they should be a proper part of the Pride festivities.”

“If a performer is considered to be on the verge of doing a blackface…then the act would have to be examined.”

Don’t these sort of does and don’ts go against the idea of drag? Isn’t it a part of game to a be a little cocky, shocking and even offensive – to EVERYBODY – but in a witty, stylised kind of way?
“Totally. That’s the whole point. A drag queen must have a freedom to shock and the audience must be aware that drag is “a ultrapersona”, an exaggerated 200% version of someone – it’s not real. Drag is an escape from reality.”

Pixy Strike.
Contestant Pixy Strike.

So does the Icelandic Drag Competition have any rules about these sort of things?
“There is one rule we are very strict about: the rule that says cis-gender contestants can not interpret their own gender in the competition. I’ve received requests from both women and men wanting to interpret their own gender and always denied them. Ok, it might be fun to see such an act and everything. I mean just look at Saturday Nigh Life, for example, where a bunch of people are doing their-own-gender-drag. However I just don’t think that’s drag. Besides adding those kinds of acts to the competition would only confuse guests. And there’s enough confusion already!”

When you say cis-gendered contestants, does that mean that trans people can take part and exaggerate their own gender?
“Yes, of course trans people can compete, and they have the artistic freedom to portray the gender they want to interpret.”

But what happens if a contestant crosses certain lines? For example, would blackface ever be approved?
“Blackface, now that is a very flammable subject. The Icelandic Drag Competition does not in any way support the idea of it. But still, every single thing that’s done in it has a purpose. If a performer is considered to be on the verge of doing a blackface, or something equivalent to that or something that could be interpreted that way, then the act would have to be examined. Because of how provocative drag is there probably would be a point to it and that point should be taken into consideration. Personally I find it hard to believe that a contestant would intentionally want to humiliate a minority. Saying that I still want to make it abundantly clear that I’m totally against blackface.”

Gummi Hrafn aka Dj Gummelaði.
Contestant Gummi Hrafn aka Dj Gummelaði.

But otherwise the contestants get artistic freedom and are trusted for sensible decision-making?
“Yes, we give our contestants artistic freedom, but still it’s censored. We go through the performances beforehand, but if someone decides the last-minute to add something to their act it’s hard to stop them on stage. That’s something that has to be dealt with afterwards. The judges have a list of instructions, so if a contestant crosses some serious lines, they lose points, which obviously decreases the odds of winning.”

Again Georg reminds us that drag is meant to provoke. “Lines will be crossed” is a sentence that usually opens a dragshow,” he points out. “So when buying a ticket for a drag show you must always be prepared to be shocked. The competition is no exception and the contestants have a certain freedom that comes with it being a closed event.”

Before the Icelandic drag scene used to be vibrant, but it somehow dropped off. What happened?
“If it wasn’t for the Icelandic Drag Competition the drag scene wouldn’t exist in Iceland,” Georg answers. “It’s as simple as that. But then again, one can speculate what would happen if the competition vanished. Maybe the drag scene would change, grow or shrink, be altered in some way. Or just disappear. Though I personally think that there will always be drag because people like to pretend that they’re someone else. They like to do something out of the ordinary.”

“…drag is a form of art. But also a fighting tool.”

“But to answer the question, then part of the reason might be because of how queer people are blending in with the rest of society. It’s of course great how accepted we are now, but as a result we’re becoming invisible. Seizing to exist as a sub-culture. Which is sad because we’re loosing our cultural heritage and sad because a part of the queer community is criticizing those who want to pay respect to that heritage by making it visible. For those reasons I think it’s important that we don’t lose drag from our scene. Because drag is a way to show that we’re not afraid to stick out from the norm.”

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Contestants, from left: Dragon, Gógó Starr and Tommi Tango.

Going back to the Icelandic Drag Competition, what do you think of this year’s contestants?
“It’s a diverse group. The performances are very different. We have four kings and four queens fighting for the two titles. We also have a great presenter, Bjarni the Magician. It will be very exciting to see him in this field.”

“I’m also glad that the competition is finally back in Gamla Bíó, the old Icelandic Opera building, which is great news. It’s not too big and you can bring your glass of wine into the arena! So we’re happy to bring the fun back into the show. It’s greatly planned but will be spontant as well. And since we’re in a smaller house, we don’t have endless tickets. So book early!”

We can’t let Georg off the hook without asking what it takes to become a good drag queen or king?
“Self confidence. Whether you have it in daily life or you gain it in drag, in the end it’s the most important thing.”

Top photo (contestants from left): Handsome Dave, Loa Chlapp and Festus Ford.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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