In this FAQ we’ll try to give you a run-down of the main things to expect, giving first-timers in particular a better idea of whether you think this conference is the place for you..
SK/KP is always surprising and a bit bonkers, and if you simply bring yourself and a curious attitude, that’s already enough – there’s nothing in this guide that you absolutely need to know before arrival. You should, however, still read the SK/KP rules and code of conduct (coming soon) – those are essential.
What happens at SK/KP?
Every year at Solmukohta (or Knudepunkt in Denmark, Knutpunkt in Sweden, and Knutepunkt in Norway), about 400 Nordic larp enthusiasts get together with old friends and make new ones. We talk about last year’s larps, share design insights, get in arguments, dress up, present academic work, party really quite rather a lot, play games, forge new creative partnerships, learn a dance move or two, and hopefully come away exhausted but with our batteries oddly recharged, ready for another year.
What does it mean that SK is co-created, not consumed?
It means that SK/KP is always going to result from the efforts of the participants – the whole organisation is run by volunteers who curate a framework for things to happen. There are no programme items (aside from the opening and closing ceremonies and parts of the Saturday night party) that are made by the organising team. Everything is contributed by attendees, and everyone may and should contribute. You can host an item, talk to a stranger, ask a question, carry a chair – but if you have a problem, remember everyone is a volunteer and a participant, and ask first how you can help to solve it.
What’s the difference between Solmukohta and A Week in Finland (AWiF), Tampere Larp Festival, the Edularp Conference, and Nordic Larp Talks (NLT)?
Solmukohta is the weekend conference and the biggest event. Traditionally, SK/KP is preceded by a more casual week of events and a few specialised ones, usually called “A Week in X” where X is the country we’re in this year. A Week in Finland is free of charge, but you have to arrange your own accommodation. This year we have a festival of larps you can play during AWiF; that’s the Tampere Larp Festival.
Also traditionally in AWiF, there is an Edularp conference on Wednesday, which is also free of charge, where people who work in education and larp share insights and network. And finally, the Nordic Larp Talks – our own kind of TED talks – are on Wednesday before Solmukohta, and they are also free of charge to attend – they should also be livestreamed as well. You can come to Tampere before Solmukohta on your own steam and participate in the AWiF events as you like – it tends to be more low-key and is a nice way to meet people.
Deciding to attend
Why should I attend?
Attend if you went to a larp this year and someone mentioned SK/KP as something you’d be interested in. Attend if you would like to hear about larps in dozens of countries, or debate design practices. Attend if you are new to larps or old hat. Attend if what people do at larps is tangentially applicable to your line of research or artistic work in another field, and you’re interested in learning more. Attend if you want to experience a frankly unhinged dance floor, a great deal of positive energy and unusual group willingness to try new things, and plenty of surprises.
What if I don’t know anyone?
The easy part is that SK is one of the easiest places to get to know people! Many of the activities and rules at the event are designed to lower the barrier for people to talk to people they don’t know. For example, the empty chair rule states that when speaking casually in a group, you should always have an empty chair so that anyone may join. There are also short, informal meetups for various interest groups throughout the weekend. Talking to new people is actively encouraged. Yes, we have our friend groups, but everyone strives to be approachable.
What kind of people attend?
People come from many backgrounds and experiences here – our main (and sometimes only) thing in common is an interest in Nordic larp, whether that’s as players, designers, organisers, or as people curious about how larp works. Most of the attendees are from the Nordic countries, but plenty of participants come from everywhere else around the globe. Most are in their late 20s to early 40s, but we always have a cohort in late teens and early twenties, and a cohort over 60. There are people who work in academia, entertainment, communications, education, NGOs, and pretty much any other field. There is a sizeable LGBTQ+ contingent and a lot of folks with experience in kink scenes. There are demisexual and asexual people. There is a contingent of people who are sober. There is a smaller contingent of people of colour who attend (for clarity: we strive to be strongly anti-racist in our actions and programming, but we are in a part of the world that is predominantly white and in a hobby that is, as of yet, dominated by white people, so the representation is not huge, but you will most certainly not be alone). There are people with different abilities, and there are people who are neurologically diverse. There are people who are foodies, martial artists, illustrators, hackers (social and hardware), and fans of many fandoms. Most, but certainly not all, would likely say they are left-leaning politically and/or socially progressive – which means very different things in different countries, too. We aim to be inclusive, because participation is something we believe in.
Sexuality and gender
Might as well say it directly: lots of people hook up at SK/KP, and many people are intimate with each other in other ways – for many, this is the one time a year we get to see about 200 people we’ve shared unforgettable experiences with at one time or another. Nordic cultures are fairly relaxed about public displays of sexuality and affection. You can expect to see flirting, cuddling, and making out fairly openly, particularly in the main parties; anything else should be in private. Nobody should be coerced or pressured into sex or intimacy; when in doubt, communicate verbally and clearly. Enthusiastic consent is key. Plenty of participants have zero interest in hooking up, and that is completely normal, too. The main thing here is that people are responsible for the way they engage with others, and respect other participants’ boundaries. There is also a safety team on call, who can offer you support.
When it comes to gender, there are many participants who are trans and/or non-binary, and everyone uses name tags that include pronouns. There are also participants who are not trans or non-binary, but will dress in non-conforming ways at parties or just to explore, or mess with stereotypes in playful ways. There are often workshops exploring how to play another gender in larps. Basically: the way a person dresses or appears is not always an indication of how they’d like to be addressed. SK/KP is a place where bodily and social explorations can be pervasive and fluid, and perhaps this can be disorienting if you’re not used to it. Aim to be respectful.
Preparing and being there
A separate page about traveling and arrival information coming soon.
What do I bring?
Most folks end up with a suitcase full of regular clothes plus a costume (or two). Aside from your usual clothing get-up, you may want to bring swimming gear and workout clothes – there are quite a few folks who don’t let SK/KP get in the way of being a health goth.*
Bring a costume for the Saturday night party. If you’re packing in despair thinking “I’ve got nothing”, just bring whatever you feel might work. If you have a hat or weird accessory that you think “I’m not going to use this but I have a hunch it’ll come in handy”, bring it.
Bringing alcohol: booze is fairly expensive in Finland. In the public spaces at SK, all alcoholic drinks must come from the hotel bar, and it is imperative that you don’t drink your own alcohol in the bar and other public areas of the hotel. That means you can have your drinks in your room. We will be strict about this because the hotel’s alcohol license is on the line.
The hotel will take cards and cash, and they do have a kiosk with things like toothpaste, socks, snacks, etc. The info desk at Solmukohta will have earplugs, condoms/lube/gloves, tampons, and other necessities if you forget yours. If you have posters for your upcoming larp, business cards, or anything else for networking, SK is a great place to bring them. Be kind to the environment – a few posters and a mailing list are better than handing out 400 flyers.
* What is a health goth, you ask?
What’s a day like at Solmukohta?
Typically, there are some early birds up in the morning who hit the gym or attend a pre-breakfast movement session. During the day folks attend talks, lectures, workshops, and larps – or, just as typically, get stuck in the hallway for three hours talking with someone they just met about some shared passion. These sessions are all opportunities to develop larp, whether that’s sharing techniques for communicating with players, showing off the set of something that was run last year, or creating a demo of some new hardware. The material has a heavy Nordic larp focus, but boffer larps, tabletop, edularp, and participatory art and immersive theatre always make their appearances, too. There will be over a hundred different programme items.
After dinner, the evening typically slides into party mode in a gradual way, with room parties, drinks at the bar, and general mingling. Most folks will flit around from good company to good company. Someone will park themselves in the middle of a lively conversation with a laptop and happily work on something that “just needs to be sent today”. Some people get some quiet time alone or with a few others if they’re feeling socially overstimulated.
What’s this Saturday night party?
The biggest party is on Saturday night, and this year it has a futuristic, cyberpunk theme – it is 2020, after all. There will be DJs (who are also participants), themed room parties, dancing, drinks that are both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, and who knows what else. If you have something you’d like to bring to the party – video art, an idea for a themed room, a musical instrument, spare costume items – that’s great; please suggest it to us in advance. Nearly everyone will dress up. There will always be people who for various reasons find that life gets in the way of them having a costume, and they end up borrowing from others. And of course there’s no obligation to dress up, but be advised there will be no escape from (biodegradable) glitter.
We are planning to have a separate party space for sober participants only (though sober people are welcome in the other party areas, of course), as well as continue the initiative where participants who are sober may choose to bring and wear a blue ribbon to indicate that they are not drinking any alcohol and can support other sober people. (This is not an official SK initiative, but a participant-driven one – though if you’re sober it’s great to know about in advance.)
What are the SK/KP traditions I should know about?
We’ve already mentioned the empty chair rule, but there are plenty of things at SK/KP that have become canon over time.
One-hour room parties: We love parties that are spontaneous, weird, and themed. We also don’t like it when 20 of our friends disappear into a Jane Austen larp get-together on Friday evening and are never seen again until the morning. One-hour room parties keep the party flowing and prevents us from getting stuck behind hotel room doors all night in small cliques. Some parties are listed in the programme, some you’ll find scrawled on the noticeboard, and others just appear out of nowhere. They can be get-togethers for people who attended a specific larp, tasting parties for cheeses of the world, nationally themed parties with music and food, heavy metal rooms, poetry appreciation hour, asexuals’ hangout – if one person at SK/KP thinks it’s cool, that’s enough to build a party.
The drag show: A spin-off from the larp Just a Little Lovin’, the annual drag show features a mix of drag and comedy acts by participants. In previous years there have also been musicals, burlesque, and open mics for everything from poetry to 2-minute rants.
Rituals: Nordic larp’s history is entangled with play around ritual; every year there are a number of them. Some are serious, but most find seriousness through absurdity. There may be chanting, singing, fighting, dancing, and heck knows what else.
Use English: As much as you can, use English, even when speaking to your friends who share the same native tongue. In your own rooms, of course, or if you’re having a private conversation, other languages are fine. But in public spaces, speaking English helps keep your conversation accessible and joinable by other people, similar to the empty chair rule.
Tell me about the sauna
In Finland, we have this thing called sauna. It’s a place where we get clean and relax. It’s just a hot room where you sweat out for a bit, and then rinse yourself off. Traditionally, you are naked in the sauna – you can wear a swimsuit or towel and nobody will judge you or ask you to explain yourself, but do not be surprised that other people are naked. First, you shower off, then sit in the hot sauna for 10-15 minutes. The heat relaxes muscles, and when someone pours water on the rocks, the steam stimulates the skin. You will sweat. Then go out and rinse off in the shower, take a dive in the pool, or even step outdoors to get the cold air on your skin. Repeat until you’re done – usually 2-3 times.
For Solmukohta we aim to have mixed gender sauna times, as well as book time for more private groups so that anyone who wants to experience the sauna can do so. Nonbinary and trans participants’ needs will be taken into account and they are equally welcome to use the sauna. Commenting on anyone else’s body is not acceptable.
Nobody is required to go to the sauna, but it is a Finnish experience par excellence, and you should expect that people will invite you – this is not a come-on or a joke. Finns genuinely want everyone to experience it, and it’s not meant as a sexual invitation. Most Finns will say “you have to try it, it’s amazing”, but for real assurance, go ahead and ask a non-Finn who has tried it.
Is this… a LOT of partying?
Well, yes, it can be. Go at your own pace. For every person who is up until 4am talking about doing “Occupy New York, but in a newly post-scarcity world”, plenty of others have gone to bed early. If you drink, alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Drink lots of water. Wash and sanitize your hands. Eat enough food, and if you can’t eat what’s on offer, please let organisers know. Do actually get some sleep. Take a break if you need one. Have a sauna! You don’t need to do what “everyone else is doing” all the time.
If you have any other questions about participating, your best bet is to get peer support on the Facebook event page. If you don’t use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, try sending a message via firstname.lastname@example.org.