Expats, immigrants, internationals, non-Danes … we salute you all

Ben Hamilton
February 8th, 2023

This article is more than 1 year old.

Inaugural line-ups pay tribute to the movers and shakers from Denmark’s international community who have impressed the most during 2023

London Toast Theatre: Crazy to think it’s been 40 years (photo: Thomas Petri)

It’s crazy that we haven’t had an ‘Expat of the Year’ before.

One of the issues is the word ‘expat’. A lot of people don’t like it. After all, expats are foreigners who know they will one day return to their homeland, but many move to Denmark open to the idea of staying for good. ‘Immigrant’ is a more accurate term, they point out.

But when the Danes refer to immigrants, using the term ‘indvandrere’, they are not referring to refugees of love from the likes of Britain, the US and other western European countries who have ended up settling down in Denmark, regardless of what happened to the initial ‘love’ that brought them here.

Instead, they’re mainly referring to immigrants from non-western countries and, rather uncharitably, all their descendants. So ‘Immigrant of the Year’ would be misunderstood within Denmark. So ‘Expat of the Year’ it is then.

Anything but the Oscars …
As the anniversary line-up on Page 23 demonstrates, a lot of us have obviously decided to stay for good – which is good and bad news, I guess.

Bad news for xenophobic Danes, naturally, and bad news because the international community’s death toll is rising. Soon, we’re going to have to start having an ‘In Memorandum’ section. Please don’t let us turn into the Oscars.

And good news because the capital of Denmark is becoming ever more diverse. Most concur that Copenhagen was something of a village pre-2007, but that its rapid internationalisation has transformed the city into a beacon of progressiveness we’re all proud to call home.

It’s time to salute the internationals who have helped make Copenhagen great.


Stuart Lynch: 10th

(photo: Benny Thaibert, bitamin.dk)

Has it really been a decade since the acclaimed butoh dancer became the headteacher of Københavns Film & Teaterskole. Some might have thought they were taking a risk on the British-Australian theatre man, but he has defied their expectations, leading the school firmly into the 21st century with a holistic approach to the curriculum that produces actors ready for everything the industry can throw at them.

The Globe Pub: 25th

“Our first show coincided with The Globe’s opening night! So when most of the audience took up my offer of a pint next door, we arrived in an almost empty bar, at which point Brian [McKenna] the landlord nearly fell off his barstool,” recalled Ian Burns from That Theatre about the pub’s 1997 debut. Contrast that scene with January 12, as 37 teams came to do battle in the pub’s fortnightly pub quiz – full to the brim, no barstools in sight, although Brian’s still there, serving pints with the energy of the best bartender this side of the Mississippi.

That Theatre: 25th

(photo: Hasse Ferrold)

It’s an incredible achievement, for sure, particularly when you consider that for 18 consecutive years, the company has staged two one-month runs. Had it not been for the pandemic, the record would still be running thanks to the well-oiled machine artistic director Ian Burns has established. Dedication is an understatement in his case: in his 44 years as a professional actor, he has only ever taken one night off after sustaining an ugly gash to the head. The play in question? Blood Brothers!

CPH Celtic: 40th

Founded in 1887 by Irish immigrants in Glasgow, Celtic FC is known the world over – less so is its Copenhagen namesake, an umbrella for all internationals, which began life almost a century later thanks to the industry of an Irish chef called Coogan. “We asked about football first, for references later,” he recalled to a room full of players past and present in late October. It’s a legacy for which the references will continue long into the future.

London Toast: 40th

It should have ended in 2017. That was the plan: to call it a day after 35 years delighting Copenhagen audiences. But Crazy Christmas Cabaret audiences let their feelings known: London Toast co-founders, husband and wife Søren Hall and Vivienne McKee, were wrong to say goodbye when they had so much more to give. But were they: had they retired, the pandemic would have been a mild irritant, instead of a crippling disaster – both 2020 and 2021 were years they’d rather forget. So it was only fitting that 2022, their 40th year, was such a triumph, for the cabaret and also McKee personally, bringing her the CPH Culture award for Best Actress for her joyous turn in ‘Shirley Valentine’.

‘In Memorandum’

Stephen Gadd

It was with much poignancy in late July that we realised Stephen Gadd, our journalist and friend, had died at the age of 64 after a prolonged battle with cancer. In his penultimate column in March, Stephen addressed the lyrics of Paul McCartney’s song ‘When I’m 64’, and it’s sad to consider that when Stephen was born in 1957, it was a respectable age to live until, but that today it is a young age to die. Stephen will be missed by all who knew him.


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