By Anna Ruohonen, August 2013
The Helsinki Festival, Finland’s largest festival of the arts, crowns the summer with countless events. Best of all, much of it is free – here are our picks.
For two weeks (August 16 to September 1, 2013) the arts are everywhere in Helsinki. There’s something to appeal to everyone: dance, theater, circus, visual arts, all kinds of music – and even fashion, cuisine and a kids’ programme.
The venues include theatres, museums and concert halls, but also parks, bars, restaurants, clubs, shops and even churches and public transport. A festival within the festival, Art Goes Kapakka (kapakka means “pub”), offers 333 free events in 33 restaurants, pubs and cafés.
The name means “Look” in Helsinki slang, and what you should look at is the 33 art exhibitions at Art Goes Kapakka restaurants: paintings, sculpture, installations, photos and performances. Most of the artists are pros, but there is also a group exhibition, A Good Day, which shows moments of happiness and dreams captured by people with disabilities, people recovering from mental health problems, and other groups with special needs.
Night Music climbs high above the rooftops to serenade the city. On each night of the festival at 9 pm, a musical interlude is performed from one of the dozens of towers around Helsinki. On August 20, Night Music will culminate in a musical score played from several towers simultaneously. Night Music is part of Sounding City, which also features Harmonic Fields in the park called Kaivopuisto, at Helsinki’s southern tip. Take a waterfront walk and hear the wind as it flows through various custom-made instruments.
This forms the biggest event of the festival – but again, it’s not just one event. On Night of the Arts (August 22, 2013), many venues offer the audience a chance to create art in workshops, open mic sessions and dance happenings. Witness an opera (Mozart’s Don Giovanni) combined with live film installations on Narinkka Square, catch a chocolate body painting show on Mikonkatu, build a giant Lego tower at Cable Factory or be amazed by three modern Finnish folk music bands on the Esplanade. There’s even a pop-up marriage corner – just bring your significant other and a certificate of non-impediment. And on Night of the Arts, almost every museum in Helsinki stays open until 9 pm – with free admission.
Tired of the same old popcorn and soda they serve at the Helsinki cinemas? Now you can watch movies and eat whatever you like, be it fresh Finnish berries or a falafel. Four films make up the programme of the picnic cinema on the lawn beside the Helsinki Music Centre – all in English or with English subtitles. Grab your picnic basket and blanket and venture into the August night.
Pastacas, a.k.a. Ramo Teder, is a multi-instrumentalist from Estonia who refers to his music as “lo-fi folk-punk polka-electronica.” Pastacas uses a loop pedal to bring to life an array of instruments along with his singing and other voices he makes. It’s amazing how one person can create such a complete live music performance.
Always wanted to try your hand as a fashion designer? Now’s your chance! Barcelona-based Finnish designer brothers Veli Clothing hold a workshop on August 17: You get to design your own shirt using their materials and patterns. If you like what you’ve made, you can order an actual shirt sporting your design.
OK, so this one isn’t free – but it is pretty amazing. How would you like to attend a concert sitting not in a seat, but barefoot in the pocket of an enormous red dress? The dress itself is the creation of Finland-based designer Aamu Song, while renowned violinist Pekka Kuusisto acts as artistic director for the concert series. Performances include a dialogue between poetry and cello music; a dance-accompanied university lecture on the cosmos; a violinist who sings and plays at the same time; a water-themed choir concert; and a Finnish singer-songwriter.
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