Festivals fill Helsinki in August

People in Finland sure like a good festival, and the Finnish capital conveniently offers a whole bunch of them in August, when the Helsinki Festival and its partner events seem to be everywhere in the city.

From a robot choir to a lesson about preserving mushrooms, many of the events are completely free. Have a look!

Helsinki Festival, Aug 15–Sept 1

Helsinki Festival flags fly in front of the landmark tower of the Central Railway Station.Photo: Jussi Hellsten/Helsinki Marketing

This multidisciplinary festival is the largest art festival in Finland and aims to make art accessible to everyone. It mixes classical music, theatre, dance, world music, circus, visual arts and urban events. In 2018, more than 235,000 people took part.

The Robot Choir is sure to attract attention. You can participate in the interactive process by sending your own voice sample. This helps teach artificial intelligence how to sing, and your voice will be merged into the performance.

For the duration of the festival, three artistic duos transform points of entrance into art experiences in Enter Helsinki. The pieces invite you to stop for a moment and take a break from everyday life. Central Railway Station gets a makeover from English musician Jon Hopkins and Finnish audiovisualist Ville Hyvönen.

At Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, the artwork Enter Me is constructed by photographer Meeri Koutaniemi and musician Sami Yaffa. Musician Timo Kaukolampi and lighting designer Jenni Pystynen transform West Harbour Terminal 2, a ferry departure hall, into Silent Sea with rhythms and reflections.

Night of the Arts, Aug 15

Go out on the Night of the Arts and discover your inner artist.Photo: Jussi Hellsten/Helsinki Marketing

The Night of the Arts is a concept held in many cities across Finland, usually in the second or third week of August. Art events happen all over town, bringing out crowds of spectators and participants. The Helsinki edition, which first took place in 1989, includes hundreds of events.

For instance, Helsinki’s Svenska Teatern (Swedish Theatre) opens its doors to offer laugh yoga and costumes you can try on. In fact, most museums and galleries also stay open all evening, free of charge. For those interested in Finnish rock nostalgia, Andy McCoy is playing a concert at Hard Rock Café.

Art Goes Kapakka, Aug 15–24

Art Goes Kapakka kicks off with the massive sound of the Tour of Choirs on the steps of Helsinki Cathedral.Photo: Ville Malja/Art Goes Kapakka

Art Goes Kapakka (AGK) is a ten-day cultural event held in the centre of Helsinki at restaurants, bars and cafés (kapakka means “pub”). The schedule includes music, poetry, dance and improv. AGK can be a stepping-stone for new artists and a way for audiences to discover new acts. It’s an easy, spontaneous way to experience and explore art.

The whole festival kicks off with the legendary – yes, legendary – Tour of Choirs, when 133 choirs comprising a total of 2,528 singers gather on Senate Square to perform together. Helsinki Festival is supplying the Robot Choir (see above) to join in. After that, the groups spread out across the city to sing in restaurants and pubs.

In addition, AGK offers food-related talks and sessions. You could learn how to preserve mushrooms or make marshmallows. How does that sound?

Poetry Moon, Aug 15–25

Nihkee Akka (real name: Jonna Nummela), performs spoken-word at the poetry event Runokuu.Photo: Bokor Krisztián/Helsinki Festival

Runokuu can mean either “poetry month” or “poetry moon” in Finnish. The 15-year-old literary festival includes a poetry breakfast and a discussion panel about writing professionally in modern-day Finland and France.

Skidit Children’s Festival, Aug 17

Youthful energy in a historical setting: The Skidit kids’ fest takes place in a former factory district.Photo: Skidit Festival

Celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2019, Skidit offers a fun day full of activities and hanging out, as well as a challenge: Can we bake the city’s biggest cake for the festival?

Viapori Jazz, Aug 20–24

The late-summer music of Viapori Jazz lends a special atmosphere to historic Suomenlinna. In the picture, Aili Ikonen (right) sings at a previous edition of the festival.Photo: Maarit Kytöharju/ Viapori Jazz

The most popular jazz festival in Finland is Pori Jazz, held in the city of Pori on the west coast. Helsinki has a place called Viapori (an old-fashioned denotation for the island fortress of Suomenlinna). So the name Viapori Jazz is a subtle dig at the much larger event in Pori.

Viapori Jazz promises a “surprise concert full of surprising surprises,” among other things you might not expect. Jazzy summer evenings have a magical atmosphere in the venerable surroundings of Suomenlinna.

Sampo International Puppet Theatre Festival 2019, Aug 28–Sept 1

The masked performers of Orkestar Strada bring a minicarnival to Diana Park in Helsinki with music, dance and improv during the Sampo International Puppet Theatre Festival.Photo: Orkestar Strada/Sampo

Sampo delivers entertaining, memorable and poignant puppet-theatre performances for children and adults alike. At Oodi, Helsinki’s shiny new central library, the free show Garbage treasure includes ideas for a sustainable future and recycling.

In addition to the shows, Sampo gathers people for workshops and discussions on the subject of puppetry, welcoming all who are interested.

By Iiris Nelimarkka, August 2019