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Helsinki’s all-you-can-applaud festival

By Jessica Finnilä, August 2012

Photo: Viola BerlandaHelsinki Festival 2012Dante’s Divine Comedy looks like this when translated into modern dance by Emio Greco and Pieter Scholten at Helsinki Festival.

The approach of autumn tends to bring winds of change and new beginnings. It’s back to school, back to the office – and back to one of the most highly anticipated annual events in Finland: Helsinki Festival.

Held in 2012 from August 17 to September 2, the festival turns the whole Finnish capital into an all-you-can-experience cultural buffet. The organisers aim to lower the threshold for experiencing the arts, making culture more available to everyone. The previous year the festival attracted 184,000 visitors.

The diverse festival programme spans numerous venues as organisers tempt this year’s audience with “2012 reasons to experience something new,” consisting of brilliant excuses to leave your home for a cultural night out. These include: “Applauding is fun,” “There’s nothing good on TV” and “I just feel like celebrating” – all valid reasons to join the festivities, don’t you think?

Music from all roots

Photo: Tom OldhamHelsinki Festival 2012
The Imagined Village is set to wow the Huvila Tent audience with folk music influenced by bhangra and drum ’n’ bass.

Helsinki Festival offers a wide range of musical performances. Many shows take place in the festival’s own Huvila Tent, a sort of outdoor concert hall situated by beautiful Töölö Bay. Here you can treat your ears to indie rap with African roots by Blitz the Ambassador; or to bhangra- and drum ’n’ bass-infused folk music by the Imagined Village, a UK-based multicultural collective – to name just a few of the performers on the Huvila programme.

The festival’s range of classical music is equally impressive, including performances by the world’s oldest active orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, as well as a richly visualised performance of Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

A circus of performing arts

Photo: Valérie Remise/NeuvartHelsinki Festival 2012
Cirque Éloize puts on an action-packed contemporary circus show during Helsinki Festival.

Dance, theatre, circus, opera and groundbreaking combinations thereof also feature in Helsinki Festival. Top acts include Emio Greco and Pieter Scholten’s modern dance interpretation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, complete with electric guitars, glitter and critique of modern society, as well as contemporary circus group Cirque Éloize, which plays with comics and video to create an action-packed show.

For theatre-lovers there is Stage, a partner festival within Helsinki Festival. It beckons with an intriguing selection of domestic and international performances.

In addition, the festival serves up a generous helping of film and visual art, not to mention a whole range of cultural events for children.

The many events that are free of charge always draw big crowds. Don’t miss the colossal cross-town domino line, which takes place on Night of the Arts (August 23), in which a chain reaction topples 10,000 domino blocks across the city. Will they all fall? Come along and see for yourself!


Helsinki Festival



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