Page last updated at 22:51 GMT, Wednesday, 8 October 2008 23:51 UK

Crisis-hit Icelanders stay cool

By Ingibjorg Thordardottir
BBC News, Reykjavik

Crowd in Reykjavik
A gathering in Reykjavik was more for moral support than protest

It is difficult to escape the effect that the financial crisis is having in Iceland.

It starts at the airport with massive advertisements for the Icelandic banks and the mutter that could be heard was: "Why don't they take these down?"

There has not been an issue that has so engulfed this small island state in living memory.

On the streets of the capital, Reykjavik, the mood is sombre and there were not many people who wanted to stop and talk about the situation early in the morning.

Crowd in Reykjavik

But by mid-morning the sun came out, and in this country where the weather is not just the major topic of conversation but is also closely linked to the nation's psyche, the mood started to lift.

A few passers-by commented that, actually, things were perhaps not that bad. They didn't have any money anyway, so they had nothing to lose.

Well, that is one way of dealing with it.

Moral support

By midday a crowd of Icelanders had gathered in the square in front of parliament to show unity, they said - stressing that this was certainly not a protest.

And to some degree that was what it felt like - people coming together for moral support.

Although the turnout was not big, it was still a respectable crowd for a Wednesday lunchtime.

Your views: Iceland's credit crisis

It helped that the gathering was organised by one of the country's biggest rock stars who took to the stage to play some of his best-loved tunes, most of which honour the working class.

But there are some who believe he had other motives.

Bubbi Morthens, like so many others, has lost a lot of money in the downfall of the banks.

But he told BBC News it was all about the people of Iceland and their need to pull together.

"It's important to get people together if at all possible," he said.

"They feel that this gathering, and friends and family and love, are important. This is not a time for anger."

He added: "It's a new dawn in Iceland, it's a new reality and we have to face it. First of all we have to stick together and try to survive these hard times."

One man summed up the feeling in the Icelandic capital by turning up in a T-shirt that read: "Your bank does not care about you."

No panic

"That's what we are realising right now, that high salary bank mangers do not care about people like me," he said.

Bubbi Morthens
Icelandic rock star Bubbi Morthens says people need to pull together

But in the banks people were not panicking.

The newly nationalised Glitnir bank in the centre of town was a bit busier than normal but there was no feeling that people were worried about their money.

By the afternoon the rain came, and with it the long awaited government statement.

But it failed to completely reassure the people.

The prime minister is still the bearer of bad news and the economic situation remains dire.

However, as the rain cleared and the sun returned, you could feel that the Icelanders were in a resilient mood.

Most of them have faith in what the government is doing - although they would have liked to have seen them step in earlier.

So Iceland has learned a hard economic lesson and perhaps Bubbi the rock star was right - this country might just be experiencing a new dawn.


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