Culture

Arts

Forecast 2011: Finnish town revels in its culture crown— Turku

Preface

It’s taken six long years of preparations, but today the wait is finally over and the celebration can begin. Turku, city of 177,000 people situated on the south-west coast of Finland, starts its year as the European Capital of Culture

Culture, European, Capital

1 January 2011

It’s taken six long years of preparations, but today the wait is finally over and the celebration can begin. Turku, city of 177,000 people situated on the south-west coast of Finland, starts its year as the European Capital of Culture. Turku, together with Tallinn in Estonia, takes over the title from Istanbul, Essen and Pecs. It is the latest in a long row of predecessors: more than 40 cities have been designated European Capitals of Culture so far, from Stockholm to Genoa, Athens to Glasgow, Krakow to Porto. The idea of a culture capital was developed back in 1985 by the former Greek and French Ministers for Culture, Merlina Mercouri and Jacques Lang. Unsurprisingly then, Athens and Paris were among the very first Capitals of Culture.

Since then, though, the juries have tended to choose lesser known cities or combine urban areas as joint title-winners.Originally the aim was “to bring the people of Europe closer together”. As the years have passed, culture capital hosts have, however, noticed that the title has the potential to do much more concrete things than that. Some cities have managed to benefit from it, while others have not seen any particular long-term effects. Saara Malila, communication manager of the Turku 2011 Foundation, believes that Turku will be one of the former. “This is not a one-year fireworks party. What’s important is to achieve a deeper transformation in the city. That’s what the best culture capitals have succeeded in,” she says, listing Lille and Liverpool as good examples. In these cities, cultural actors worked together with local businesses to bring life to the city’s cultural scene and create new forms of cooperation. In raw financial terms, the culture capital title can mean more tourists, shoppers and possibly even new companies and investments – something that Malila hopes will justify the €50 million being poured into the event.”We have worked hard to make our citizens understand that this is an investment in the city. Our calculations show that this should bring us €200 million back,” Malila continues.Turku’s theme for the year is “Culture does you good”.

In addition to spectacular dance and musical performances, culture is being taken in a smaller scale to retirement homes, hospitals and even prisons. Doctors will be prescribing cultural events as a form of medication. Turku hopes to create models that other cities can directly copy in their own countries. All in all, there will be thousands of events with more than 2 million participants expected.When the year is over and the fireworks quiet down, what is left? Having grown up in Turku, I have a soft spot for the city. But Turku is truly creative and has a highly interesting musical, artistic and theatrical scene, with potential to rise to an internationally impressive level. It is, however, not a city that will truly show itself to short-stay visitors. It takes a longer commitment than that, preferably in the summer months when the archipelago is at its best – the riverside boats fill with party people, the market place comes to life and the festivals kick off.

Avoid arriving on a grey winter Sunday when the shops are closed and the locals prefer to stay safely at home, enjoying their saunas. Unless, of course, even those Sundays get better in the year to come. Here’s hoping that culture does Turku good.Elna Nykänen Andersson is Monocle’s Stockholm correspondent It’s taken six long years of preparations, but today the wait is finally over and the celebration can begin. Turku, city of 177,000 people situated on the south-west coast of Finland, starts its year as the European Capital of Culture.

Turku, together with Tallinn in Estonia, takes over the title from Istanbul, Essen and Pecs. It is the latest in a long row of predecessors: more than 40 cities have been designated European Capitals of Culture so far, from Stockholm to Genoa, Athens to Glasgow, Krakow to Porto. The idea of a culture capital was developed back in 1985 by the former Greek and French Ministers for Culture, Merlina Mercouri and Jacques Lang. Unsurprisingly, Athens and Paris were among the very first Capitals of Culture. Since then, though, the juries have tended to choose lesser known cities or combine urban areas as joint title-winners.

Originally the aim was “to bring the people of Europe closer together”. As the years have passed, culture capital hosts have, however, noticed that the title has the potential to do much more concrete things than that. Some cities have managed to benefit from it, while others have not seen any particular long-term effects. Saara Malila, communication manager of the Turku 2011 Foundation, believes that Turku will be one of the former. “This is not a one-year fireworks party. What’s important is to achieve a deeper transformation in the city. That’s what the best culture capitals have succeeded in,” she says, listing Lille and Liverpool as good examples. In these cities, cultural actors worked together with local businesses to bring life to the city’s cultural scene and create new forms of cooperation. In raw financial terms, the culture capital title can mean more tourists, shoppers and possibly even new companies and investments – something that Malila hopes will justify the €50 million being poured into the event.”We have worked hard to make our citizens understand that this is an investment in the city. Our calculations show that this should bring us €200 million back,” Malila continues.

Turku’s theme for the year is “Culture does you good”. In addition to spectacular dance and musical performances, culture is being taken in a smaller scale to retirement homes, hospitals and even prisons. Doctors will be prescribing cultural events as a form of medication. Turku hopes to create models that other cities can directly copy in their own countries. All in all, there will be thousands of events with more than 2 million participants expected.

When the year is over and the fireworks quiet down, what is left? Having grown up in Turku, I have a soft spot for the city. But Turku is truly creative and has a highly interesting musical, artistic and theatrical scene, with potential to rise to an internationally impressive level.

It is, however, not a city that will truly show itself to short-stay visitors. It takes a longer commitment than that, preferably in the summer months when the archipelago is at its best – the riverside boats fill with party people, the market place comes to life and the festivals kick off. Avoid arriving on a grey winter Sunday when the shops are closed and the locals prefer to stay safely at home, enjoying their saunas. Unless, of course, even those Sundays get better in the year to come. Here’s hoping that culture does Turku good.

Monocle 24

× The Entrepreneurs

Loading

0:00:00 0:01:00

Drag me