Countries and Partners in the North Sea Region
The North Sea countries today are a product of ancient cultures and traditions and different people developing ways of life to respond to diverse natural environments.
A sea of many ships, for hundreds of years there have been close ties across the North Sea spanning trade and culture. Long before the trade routes of the Atlantic between the old and new worlds became pre-eminent, there were thriving trade routes between the coastal regions and countries along its shores.
Linked by the same sea, yet it’s a diverse landscape where history and tradition rub shoulders with the most contemporary media, design, music and culture. It’s an inspiration for everything from factual TV to period drama.
As you travel round the region, see the sheer cliffs that punctuate the beaches and sand dunes of the east coasts of Scotland and England, sail by the sandbanks of the Frisian and German islands, hop across to Denmark’s Jutland peninsula, head for the cliffs and islands of Sweden’s west coast and explore Norways tapestry of small islands and fjords – jagged and breathtaking - water inlets formed at the end of the last ice age.
Today new links continue to be developed, fostered through organisations working with the European Union like North Sea Interreg and the North Sea Commission. The screen industries are a key strategic area generating new opportunities for people to work together and make the most of rapidly developing technology and communications, already advanced and getting faster all the time.
The culture of the North Sea countries has produced some of the most famous and influential writers and books in the world – from 'Beowulf' (perhaps the oldest known story every written down) to the legends and fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm; from JM Barry's 'Peter Pan' to JK Rowling’s 'Harry Potter' and Mary Shelley’s 'Frankenstein'.
In film making there are so many names – just a few are Denmark’s Lars von Trier ('Dogville'), Norway’s Harald Zwart ('Agent Cody Banks'), Scotland’s Douglas Rae ('Mrs. Brown'), England’s Ridley Scott ('Alien'), Germany’s Werner Herzog ('Fitzcarraldo') and Sweden’s Colin Nutley ('Angel').
Time for a bit of history?
It’s a natural development for a region which has faced up to challenges and made the most of opportunities over many hundreds or even thousands of years.
In the early middle ages, over 1500 years ago, the Romans had long since departed. The original Celtic and Pictish peoples of Britain had become dominated by the Norse countries and the Viking peoples who originated from what is now Norway. The Vikings had a ferocious reputation for invasion and occupation but over the years, new communities and links developed and grew. From so long ago traditions survive as Viking ceremonies are still celebrated in the most northerly parts of Scotland.
As the clock turned towards the later middle ages, the ‘Hanseatic empire’ - a trading league formed with its central hub in Germany and which laid down the roots of our modern banking system. Religion was another reason for the movement of people round the region as they travelled to centres for different faiths to seek out knowledge and healing.
Increasing trade and prosperity provided fertile ground for the growth and development of culture and art, whether at the highest level of sophistication or in the spirit of folk art and music. There’s Norwegian rose painting and from the same stream, Swedish bonad painting (wall tapestries) – great circle dancing in the Shetland Islands and dancing to the same tune on the Faeroe Islands. Scottish kilts and bagpipes, Norfolk pipes, Norwegian Hardanger fiddles – all are part of a vibrant culture.
Today all around the coasts there remain many of the old trading posts and religious centres, old roads and historic buildings, even back to medieval times.