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Bo Jessen (to the left) and Mikkel West - some of the creators of This Is Odense. Photo: Lise Hannibal
Bo Jessen (to the left) and Mikkel West - some of the creators of This Is Odense. Photo: Lise Hannibal

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This Is Odense: a quality culture guide

This is Odense is an online guide that provides insider tips and hand-picks events from the cultural and urban life of a city that has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few years. That is definitely something to write home about.

This Is Odense is imbued with the entrepreneurial spirit that is the embodiment of the Funen capiptal: If you see a gap, fill it yourself. This attitude applies to both the guide and the cultural life of the city it serves. Both address the narrativev of the crisis period for Odense, which paints a picture of a city where very little is happening, and does happen is only of a mediocre quality.

“This is Odense was created to highlight all things interesting, the hitherto unknown, and to show the broad spectrum of events that are going on in town,” says Bo Jessen, Strategic Planner and Co-founder of This is Odense.

“The idea for This is Odense was born after a concert in 2013, to which only 8-9 people turned up. It illustrated the situation perfectly - nothing happened in Odense and people weren’t looking for things to do either. We swore that we would never stand alone at a concert ever again,” says Jessen.

This Is Odense wants to put the idea of Odense being a lifeless city firmly to bed. “Something’s happening in Odense?" is the usual rhetorical question, to which the answer normally is “If only God would make it so”.

And he does just that. To an extraordinary degree, in fact.

The city hosts more than one festival a week on average, with the new rising star Tinderbox festival and the established Phono electropop festival as icing on the cake. Several gourmet restaurants, specialty shops and a new Funen food festival have given the city an impressive culinary profile, and the physical changes in the city center - bridges, light rail system and the restoration of the old downtown opens a new landscape in this post-industrial city.

New in town: Café Fleuri and several gourmet restaurants. Photo: Lise Hannibal

"Odense's challenge has been that many people have had no relation to the city. That’s changing,” says Mikkel West, Designer and Co-founder of the guide and the brains behind the Phono festival.

"In the past, the focus was on making the city vehicle-friendly instead of people-friendly, but now the powers that be have had the courage to break up the industrial heritage, and the physical changes in the city, along with the influx of new investors who have never invested in Odense before, have combined to give a new belief that things can be done," he says.

This Is Odense's team of volunteer writers are locals who write about things everyone knows and no-one has heard about. They write about specialized topics, they write about broad topics, they from a personal perspective and they write, so that no-one can possibly doubt that: Things are happening in Odense.

"We make both specialist recommendations and mainstream recommendations. ‘City Watch’ promotes diversity and the scope of events in Odense, and provides a forum for debate about what is good, what is not so good and what can be created in its place,” says West.

Odense's old center is being reassembled again .Photo: Lise Hannibal og Kum Wyon/visitdenmark

“We want to encourage people to go out into the city and experience what Odense has to offer, and then tell their friends. When we share our experiences of the city’s life and culture, we create increased demand for culture and, ultimately, a better city. And we’re starting to see that people want to challenge themselves and experience something new. Just look the the food scene. At one time, it was thought that the best thing available in town was a DKK 100 buffet. But that is now clearly not the case. Quality can easily can be a competitive asset,” says Jessen.

Each week, the guide makes 5 subjective recommendations of events happening in Odense during the coming week.

"We present the city in a positive light, but always in a credible way. We’re very reluctant to mention something we’re not 100% sure about. Our mission is to promote quality. But quality doesn’t necessarily mean something that’s expensive or intrinsically high brow. Quality can also be passion and drive,” he says, “We’re trying to be a quality filter for the people of Odense.” 

Text: Lise Hannibal

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