Lillehammer was pulled into world literature by Haakon Haakonarson’s Saga, which dates from around 1260. In the 19th century, the city became a thriving hub for painting and literature, known for its calm atmosphere. Soon Lillehammer became a destination attracting big names in arts, like Knut Hamsun, Gustav Froeding or Claude Monet. In 1875, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, the future winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, received a house from the authorities of Lillehammer, so did Sigrid Undset, another Nobel laureate, in 1919. Both these residences are now open to the public and used as venues for literary meetings and centres for the promotion of and studies in literature.
Putting much emphasis on combining the values of life in a small town (it has a population of 27,000) with a global perspective and social dimension of art, Lillehammer is a proud member of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), offering shelter for writers and artists repressed for their activity. The town is also home to the Norwegian Literary Festival, the largest of its kind in the Nordic countries and a magnet for more than 25,000 readers every year. In 2017, the festival featured over 200 events: workshops, debates and meetings with authors, as well as professional seminars: the Norwegian Critics’ Association’s Seminar, the Literary Debutantes’ Seminar and more. A notable part of the Norwegian Literary Festival is the Pegasus Festival, which showcases children’s and youth literature. Also, the city is the venue for the annual Norwegian Festival of Amateur Theatre, as well as BASTARD, a festival celebrating art books and micropublishing, staged by the Oppland Art Centre since 2017.
The town is also developing dynamically in the area of film, particularly film education. Lillehammer is the seat of the Norwegian Film School, which ranked among the world’s top film schools according to Hollywood Reporter in 2014. Every year, the Amandus Lillehammer International Student Film Festival is held as the most important international film festival in the Nordic region that recognises young filmmakers.