Denmark’s Unseen History

By Stephanie Harris and Sara Denk

Explore the Other Side of Denmark during Copenhagen’s Golden Days Festival

The 2018 Golden Days festival takes place from September 7 to September 23.
Photo by Stephanie Harris.

Is Denmark Really a Perfect Place?

Denmark’s high standard of living has earned it a reputation as one of the happiest places in the world. The abundance of media coverage about happy, healthy bike-riding citizens has given the US an idealized concept of what life is like in Denmark. It is often seen as a utopian society without a care in the world.

Are these ideas about Denmark overly romanticized? Have we allowed the hopeful thoughts of a perfect society to blind us from the more raw side of humanity and life in Denmark? This year the Golden Days festival in Copenhagen is attempting to shine a light on the unseen sides of Danish history through an oppositional theme: the B-sides of history.

“We live in this picture-perfect society where you have to be perfect, and we don’t tolerate mistakes,” said Martin Vestergaard, project manager of Golden Days. “But what happens if we kind of flip history around and see what’s on the B-sides?”

Appreciating the Ugly

Flipping history opens up the possibility for uncovering the ugly side of society. The Golden Days Festival wants to embrace the ugly and taboo to bring a new appreciation to all aspects of Danish History.

The theme is in reference to the B-sides of vinyl records which were often seen as lesser than their A-side counterparts. If nobody ever listened to the B-sides, though, the world would have missed out on classics like Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and Madonna’s “Vogue.” The festival aims to take a look back on what might have been missed in Denmark.

By relating the theme to something universal like a vinyl, the festival naturally becomes an event everyone can understand and appreciate. The festival wants to propose a thought provoking question to its visitors about what Denmark’s history truly holds.

These unseen sides of Denmark’s history are presented to the audience through the different events and exhibits put on by institutions affiliated with art, music, community, performing arts, architecture, literature and film. The festival engages well-known organizations alongside smaller exhibits.

Explore the Festival

These key events will be ongoing throughout the entire duration of the festival:


There are many single-day events and exhibitions to visit throughout the festival as well. A complete list of over 100 events and pricing details can be found here.

“We are an open source festival, so we partner and team up with different kind of institutions all over Copenhagen like libraries, galleries and museums,” said Vestergaard.  “We try to be a festival where we have both a small gallery like the Rumpegalleriet, and then we have the National Gallery as well.”

By including both well-known and indie organizations, the festival immediately adds a dynamic component to it that many other festivals do not have.

One year into the future, 30 years into the past

Preparations for the festival go on year-round and start one to two years in advance. Next year’s theme has already been decided. The city will reflect on the 30th anniversary of the year 1989. There is much to address surrounding this particular year, most notably the legalization of same-sex marriage in Denmark and the destruction of the Berlin Wall.

Golden Days has organized annual festivals in Copenhagen since 1994. Every year the festival has a different theme but same overall goal — to communicate knowledge, history and culture in a vibrant and engaging way.


This article is written for an audience from the United States that is used to consuming idealistic news stories about Denmark. It could be published on