Harry Potter Festival 2012
The Harry Potter Festival in Odense, Denmark, celebrated its 10th anniversary on October 18-21, 2012. I wasn't able to attend the festival myself as I was in England, attending a charity ball with some REAL Harry Potter stars, but that's a whole different story, which you can read about in my Harry Moseley Charity Ball blog post. Instead of me, my daughter went to the festival with her dad and she wasn't impressed.
The Harry Potter Festival in Odense used to be one of the best in the world, the kids going to Hogwarts and the entire city centre turning into a cross between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Two years ago Hogwarts was closed, which was a really bad idea as it was the heart of the festival, but unfortunately Odense City and the main library, that organise the festival, have decided to stick to this folly, so Hogwarts was closed this year as well. Furthermore they had come up with another bad idea. The Town Square, where Diagon Alley used to be situated next to Hogwarts, Hagrid's hut, Snape's dungeon and the Forbidden Forrest, had been abandoned all together. Instead the Forbidden Forrest had been closed, Hagrid had been moved to a church in Jernbanegade (Station Street), Snape to the Funen Art Museum, Diagon Alley to Grey Friars Square and Hogsmeade to Vintapper Straede (Tapster Alley). Because of that, there was no physical core to the festival anymore and people had to run around town to find the different Harry Potter events, which was quite confusing according to my daughter.
Furthermore the festival had turned into a moneymaking machine. In "the old days" you had to pay a small fee to attend Hogwarts, but everything else was free. Nowadays you have to pay for most of what is happening and there's a strict age-limit to several of the events. Thursday the 8-12 year olds were thus able to ride the Hogwart's Express if they paid £7.50 for 75 minutes. Friday the 8-15 year olds could participate in a Harry Potter role play if they paid £12.50 for a couple of hours. And also Friday you could listen to Odense Symphony Orchestra play music from the Harry Potter films if you paid £10 for 90 minutes. Furthermore you had to pay £2.50 (which is an increase of 25%) to shop in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley and you had to pay for food and drink in huge catering tents instead of getting it for free in The Leaky Cauldron and Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Salon. This way you could easily get to spend £50 per person in order to take part in the festival, which is quite over the top, I think.
Anyway, the Harry Potter Festival 2012 was the biggest ever, or so the papers said. 10,000 people attended it, but when my daughter was there Saturday - which is usually the busiest day as that is when the Harry Potter marked takes place - she only met a handful. She said that Diagon Alley (the marked) was more or less empty and there was hardly anything to look at except for Gringotts Wizarding Bank and St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. She managed to locate Quality Quidditch Supplies as well, but that had been moved to Snape's former dungeon in the old town monastery away from the rest of Diagon Alley. The only good thing about that was that the shop is now closer to the Quidditch pitch, which is situated in the nearby Hans Christian Andersen Garden, locally known as the fairytale garden. As something new you could even try to fly a broom across Odense River, but my daughter didn't see anyone doing it as you had to pay for that, too.
All in all it's safe to say that my daughter won't be visiting the Harry Potter Festival next year and if it doesn't improve, I probably won't either. Although the festival attracts more and more people, Odense City and the library seem set on destroying the great concept they once had. Don't get me wrong. I think it's great that a larger area of the city is in use during the festival, but please choose locations close to each other, so that kids don't have to run around town on their own, and please bring the Harry Potter/Diagon Alley marked back to the Town Square and please, please, PLEASE reopen Hogwarts!!!
© Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2012