Western Finnish town of Pori hosts jazz and big ideas every summer

They say that all of Finland takes a break in July, since that’s the most popular month for summer holidays. This isn’t the case in Pori, a town on the west coast (see our slideshow).

For one week every July, Pori is packed with people from near and far. They show up to enjoy jazz music and to take part in a diverse range of discussions as the city hosts two large events: Pori Jazz Festival and Suomi Areena (Finland Arena).

First held in 1966, Pori Jazz is the oldest jazz fest in Europe and one of the most beloved summer festivals in Finland. The event lasts a whopping nine days, and around two-thirds of the concerts are free-admission.

Suomi Areena, on the other hand, began in 2006 and is the biggest public debate forum in Finland. Its stages and venues are set up in the streets, squares and parks of Pori city centre. The events are free of charge, and the topics of discussion include society, culture and politics. The theme for 2019 is future innovations and know-how. Most sessions are in Finnish, but there are some in Swedish and English as well.

In 2018, Pori Jazz counted 58,000 festival-goers and Suomi Areena gathered 67,000 participants. That’s not bad for a city with a population of 84,000, which, by the way, makes Pori the tenth-largest city in Finland.

Summertime in Pori

Three young people talking on a stage to a three-person jury with a crowd watching.

The young and active: The Wednesday programme of Suomi Areena (Finland Arena) started with young entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas to an esteemed panel of judges in an effort to win 2,500 euros. All five business ideas sought to answer global problems such as climate change – many with the help of circular economy. Photo: Eeli Kettunen

A river and a tall church tower in the horizon.

The tower of Pori’s majestic Central Church is reflected in the waters of the Kokemäki River. Photo: Eeli Kettunen

Five people and a host gathered for a panel discussion on a small stage with a small crowd watching.

What do young people think about when they think about the future? This formed the topic of a panel discussion at Suomi Areena. Climate change, digitalisation and automatisation came up when listing young people’s fears. Digitalisation was also seen as an opportunity. Photo: Eeli Kettunen

Crowd at Pori Areena; only their legs and bags are visible.

Local humour: “Who needs Paris – we’ve got Pori,” it says on the shopping bag. Photo: Eeli Kettunen

A large crowd sitting on chairs inside a white tent.

Every year, Suomi Areena and Pori Jazz attract tens of thousands of visitors to Pori. Photo: Eeli Kettunen

A riverbank with bicycles; Pori Jazz 2019 sign on the opposite bank.

Hollywood may have its Hollywood sign, but Pori has its Pori Jazz sign. Photo: Eeli Kettunen

A person holding a leaflet with song lyrics in a crowd gathered by a small stage.

Nostalgia: A day at Suomi Areena concluded with a sing-along event. The set list – consisting of popular classics that people know from their school days – kicked off with “Summer Hymn,” a song commonly sung at school graduation ceremonies. Photo: Eeli Kettunen

A person carrying a light blue plastic bucket.

At least one organisation at Suomi Areena was giving out free buckets – for some reason this is always a crowd-pleaser. Photo: Eeli Kettunen

By Iiris Nelimarkka, July 2019