Fritt Ord keeps "The Floating House of Literature" afloat

February 15 2022

Since 1963, the book boat Epos has been a popular bearer of culture to small ports and villages up and down the west coast of Norway. After Epos’ very existence was threatened, Fritt Ord responded by granting MNOK 3 over a three-year period to keep it afloat.

When it was announced that Vestland County was going to close down the book boat Epos in 2020, Alver Municipality took the initiative to introduce a new form of cooperation among the municipalities that stood to lose this welcome cultural activity. In autumn 2021, 28 municipalities joined forces to support the book boat, which resulted in “The Floating House of Literature” calling at 44 ports and organising 88 cultural events along Norway’s west coast during the period from August to November 2021. Fritt Ord provided NOK 400 000 in support for the project.

To ensure predictable continuation of the book boat, Fritt Ord has granted MNOK 3 to keep it afloat. Tekstallianse has accepted responsibility for keeping the project going until an independent operating organisation can be set up for the book boat. Participating municipalities will also help finance the book boat’s activities.

“Thanks to a long-term, generous allocation from Fritt Ord, we will be able to continue operating the book boat as a floating House of Literature. It represents a unique strengthening of literary culture and cultural activities in rural areas. The allocation from Fritt Ord means that we can now concentrate on getting Epos ready for a new season, including literary programmes, debates and books already from this coming autumn”, comments Janne Karin Støylen, a member of the Tekstallianse project team.

“This allocation will let us turn our attention to hiring a general manager for ‘The Floating House of Literature’ in a project position as soon as possible, and during the summer of 2022 at the latest. We are experiencing great enthusiasm and excitement about Epos from many quarters, and we’re looking forward to organising broad-based cooperation for continuation of the book boat”, smiles Inga Moen Danielsen, managing director of Tekstallianse.

“For the Fritt Ord Foundation, libraries and houses of literature are the very essence of our raison d’etre. Accordingly, it is a pleasure to help support ‘The Floating House of Literature’ in western Norway. The book boat will bring good literary programmes and debates to parts of the country that are not exactly spoiled by having an over-abundance of such cultural activities. This will generate important input for public discourse”, remarks Grete Brochmann, chair of the Fritt Ord Foundation Board.

Epos 88
The book boat Epos has been in operation since 1963. Pictured here while calling at Årebrot in the community of Flora in Sogn & Fjordane County in 1988.
Photo: © Helge Sunde/Samfoto