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the town that would not give up

See the Bluestown Rising documentary on the Norwegian national broadcaster NRK - please note that viewing is limited to Norway and certain other geographic areas:
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Kings Mountain Productions
Jørn Stenersen - Director
Bjørn-Owe Holmberg - Cinematographer

Norway Communicates AS
David John Smith - Producer
  Per Ole Hagen - Special Music Advisor
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          Bluestown Rising 

The wheels of industry grind to a halt in 1987. The factories in this isolated Norwegian town of Notodden close overnight, leaving nothing. From the dust, young women and men create a Blues Festival that now 30 years later is one of the best in the World.


The kids were 18 and 19 years old back then. Working the blazing furnaces at the ironworks under chimneys spewing dark brown smoke over town - dirty smoke that meant money, the townspeople always said.  In the evenings they listened to music and they played music. Music always walked hand in hand with the workingmen in this town. Work hard, play hard, party hard, making music.


But the search for profits by the factory owners causes them to close the factories almost overnight. In 1987, in this town of 12,000, one thousand people are thrown out of work. The smoke disappeared, as did jobs and money. It was a devastating blow to the town, the region, and the country

This is the story of Notodden, the town that would not give up.

The stories below will give you an idea of the creativity and history that inspired the making of Bluestown Rising.


The Place

Telemark was Norway’s ‘Wild West’, full of mystery, music and fairytales, a land of natural beauty from the rugged mountains in the north to the rocky coastline in the south.

The settlement that later became Notodden was located in Upper Telemark, a defiantly independent region. Here, small farm and landowners honored their Norse Viking tradition and rituals as they had for many centuries – with protection and vengeance.


This was a land of legend, respected – and feared.

In 1905, this world changed forever when Industrialist Sam Eyde arrived in Notodden and declared he was going to tame the thundering waterfalls of the region of Notodden and Rjukan to the north to create new industries driven by hydroelectric power – a radical new concept.

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                  The People  

In just a few years, the world’s most modern industries were employing thousand. A melting pot of people came from all over Norway and beyond with their cultures, their music and their traditions.

 Men worked the fiery furnaces by day, then played hard by night in the young and vibrant town of Notodden.  Whenever and wherever they could, they played music. 

Years passed. WWII came and Norway was occupied, then five years later, free again.  

New generations began to work the factories, but some heard the call of adventure and sailed to America on mighty ships, then coming home to their beloved Notodden with their guitars and music.


Those who has remained behind embraced  the new music with all their youthful energy. New bands were formed, lots of them. A new sound was being created in prosperity.

A lasting Blues love affair began with places afar such as Chicago, Memphis and what would later become Notodden’s sister city – Clarksdale, Mississippi.

The Sound of Notodden was evolving.

All photo credit to: Per Ole Hagen 



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Notodden Hotel

Located next to Torvet Main Square in central Notodden, our hotel is an easy walk from the train and bus stations. You will find free WiFi throughout the hotel,

in addition to a variety of activities that include free billiards, darts and table tennis.


All guest rooms at Notodden Hotel have classic décor, each with a work desk, cable TV, WiFi and private bathroom with shower. Breakfast is offered to guests, and the hotel is just a few minutes’ walk from a wide range of restaurants and cafés.


There are many cultural and recreational activities available for the entire family, including the Bø i Sommerland water park located just 25-minutes away by car.

Welcome to Notodden Hotel!


     Little Steven and Bluestown

Since first coming to Notodden in 2015 Steven Van Zandt (Little Steven) had been positively over-whelmed by the towns industrial history, the strength of the cultural heritage and of course, the music.

In fact, as he was being driven back to the airport after his first festival that year, he leaned over to David (John Smith) and asked:

Why didn´t you tell me about this place before?”

The next year Steven proposed the idea for a documentary about the festival and the town, and later commented:

When I first came to Notodden last year, I found a unique festival in a very special environment in the mountains of southern Norway.


Now I realize that the history behind the festival and the industrial roots of Notodden is an important story waiting to be told.

So, later that year in 2016, Producer Smith and Director Jørn Stenersen visited Steven in his Greenwich Village (NYC) Headquarters and the planning for the documentary began.

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        The Juke Joint Legend


Notodden is unique in many ways. It is birthplace of the 2nd Industrial Revolution. It is headquarters of the Blues in Europe. It home to the European Blues Center and the Notodden Blues Festival.


And it is home to the Juke Joint – the music studio with roots in the renowned Stax Studio in Memphis, the city that gave the world Rock & Roll, Blues and Soul.


Most of the equipment in the Juke Joint comes from the legendary Stax Studio including microphones, tubes, amplifiers – and most notably, the Audiotronics 501 Soundboard, creating the same analogue magic that Stax Studio recorded in the 60s and 70s. 

They say that the turning point of Stax Records came to a literal crash on December 10, 1967 when their star Otis Redding´s plane went down in Lake Monona, Wisconsin. Though his song Sitting on the Dock of the Bay went to number 1 the following year for four weeks, becoming one of the biggest songs of the year, something had changed.


Although the label and studio would see dozens of hits during the next seven years following the death of Otis Redding, the Stax Studio went bankrupt in 1976 with its doors closing forever in 1977.

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The Roughneck Rallar

The roots of the Bluestown Rising story lie deep in the history of the region. Here we tell you the story of the RALLAR, the weather-bitten fearless roughnecks who sweated, bled, sang, dug, tunneled, chopped, exploded and picked their way through the mountains of the Wild Telemark.


To begin our story, we go back in time to the early 1900´s when Notodden and its northern neighbor of Rjukan were just small agricultural villages.


Sam Eyde arrived on the scene and declared he was going to tame the mighty waterfalls here in the Wild Telemark, and  create new industries driven by hydroelectric power - a radical new concept.


Eyde found investors in Stockholm, Paris and New York who invested in total more money than all Norwegian banks combined and the Klondike began literally overnight.


Now, there were vast sums of money to be made in the seemingly impossible task of taming the thundering waterfalls, tunneling through miles of bedrock, laying railroad tracks through the remote and bitter wilds to construct the worlds most modern power plants and factories.


To get the job done, hardened workers were needed, and they came by the thousands. Tobacco spitting, swearing, drinking, fighting, praying, singing songs of work, sorrow and hope as they descended upon Norway from all over the Nordics.


And what a legacy they left behind!


Solberg Bil - Notodden

With full-service locations in both Skien and Notodden, Solberg Bil is Telemark's Ford dealer.


We offer a wide variety of vehicles from the Fiesta to the exclusive Mustang and other special models. For customers requiring industrial and commercial vehicles, our Transit Center team provides tailor-made solutions.


We have a reputation of delivering first-class service from A to Z, offering repair workshop facilities to service and repair all car brands, a parts warehouse, and our own tire department. We perform EU
inspections and naturally, financing solutions are available.


Stop by for a chat or test drive.


Visit us at our newly upgraded facilities at Merdevegen 6, 3676 Notodden.


Or give us a call at +47 35 02 51 00.

      We are FORD



Bluestown Official Artist


Music and Art are at the heart of the soul of Bluestown and this is where we crossed 

paths with Svein Tråserud (a.k.a. Leo Troy), the official artist of the Notodden Blues Festival in 2018.

Leo T. has always been an artist at heart, first music, which led to years of international touring with the Industry Metal band Mortiis, which had spun-off from one of the most influential Black Metal bands ever – Emperor, also with its roots in Notodden.

By 2007, Leo T. decided it was time to put away the drum set for good. He then began to develop his own unique form of art expression, building upon his already decade-long collaboration with different established artists, including Steinar Klasbu among others.

But let us start at the beginning. Learn more about Leo T. here: 

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Lars Hansson Fykerud


in the 1800’s hardship reigned in Norway. This was the time of the great America migration when nearly one-third one of the population left for the New World. It was into this time of change that the legendary fiddle player Lars Fykerud was born in Sauherad, a village located just south of Notodden on April 5th, 1860.

From the time he could pick up a bow, he was a prodigy, leave a trail of rich and compelling stories and fiddle tunes in his wake as he went from valley to valley playing what the preacher men called the “music of the devil”.

Lars was the best traditional musician that Norway had to offer, and although he was very popular in the 1880s, he wanted more. So when the call for America came (as it had for so many Norwegians before him), Lars left his wife and three children in a small cotters farm in Notodden without even a goodbye.

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The Most Southern Place on Earth


Clarksdale is town in northwest Mississippi on the banks of the Sunflower River. Located on the Mississippi Delta, often called "The Most Southern Place on Earth".  Located just over 100 kilometers south of Memphis, located along the mighty Mississippi River.


Clarksdale has long been important in the history of the Blues, and the town reputation as the birthplace of the Blues is a strong one. Naturally there is the legend around Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the Crossroads. This legend is engrained as part of Blues legend in story, film, song and tradition.


Through the 30 years of the Notodden Blues Festival, there are have many highlights, but the lasting relationship with the sister city of Clarksdale stands as one of the most creative and unique sister city relationships found anywhere.


How did "The Most Southern Place on Earth" become sister city with Notodden, the town known as the "Birthplace of the Second Industrial Revolution" located in the remote mountains of Telemark, Norway?


It is a fascinating story, which we share with you when you click on the link below. 

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The Wild Telemark 

Take an adventure into nature, heritage, culture and history that is unique. Just 90 minutes from downtown Oslo, easily accessible with friendly and welcoming people ready to make your visit one to remember.



This Wild Telemark website contains practical information making your visit easier and more interesting.  At the same time, we invite you into this world where the glaciers of the last Ice Age have carved out steep mountains and deep valleys where crystal clear lakes and rivers, endless forests and high plains await your visit.



Experience this region that was Norway’s ‘Wild West’, full of mystery, a land of natural beauty -  respected – and feared. Now, we welcome the world with open arms.


Natural, musical and cultural heritage here are balanced with the story of the birthplace of the 2nd Industrial Revolution – clean hydroelectricity. We have created the world’s first e-book about a UNESCO world heritage site, which you can download for free here.


Discover and learn - with all photos on the Wild Telemark website, you can click on any photo for more information and location. 


Don't delay! Start your adventure now​.

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