A tour through Europe: Pécs 2010


The Hungarian city of Pécs was one of the three European Capitals of Culture (ECoC ) in 2010, together with Essen (which included the Ruhr region in its project) and Istanbul. For Pécs, the most important investment regarding the project was developing the infrastructure of the city. The five major projects, the South-Transdanubian Regional Library and Knowledge Centre, the revival of public spaces and parks, the Kodály Centre (concert hall), the reconstruction of Museum Street and the reconstruction of Zsolnay Cultural Quarter cost in total around 140 million euros. The ECoC also most likely accelerated the construction of the highway between Pécs and Budapest, which further improved the accessibility of Pécs for visitors.

The Ex-post evaluation of 2010 European Capitals of Culture noted that many ECoCs could learn from Pécs in how well investments in infrastructure can benefit an area. Although Pécs invested heavily, they have already had many benefits from the investments, and are expected to have many more in the long run. The new and renovated spaces have allowed a lot of people from different backgrounds to enjoy the services of these places. The new constructions, such as the Kodály Centre, have increased employment, and will continue to do so in the future. The Kodály Centre will also provide high-quality facilities for local organizations such as the Pannon Philharmonics, as well as for music students.

Statistics show that the image of Pécs as a cultural city improved significantly in the eyes of Hungarians during the ECoC 2010. By the end of 2010, 56% of respondents rated Pécs as the second most significant city in Hungary from a cultural point of view after Budapest. One year previously the result had been 35%. By the title year the locals had significantly changed their mindset regarding the programme. This can be seen in respondents’ answers to surveys regarding their attitude towards the ECoC project. During the title year 68% of the respondents had a positive attitude towards the programme, whereas 2-3 years prior only 35% had positive feelings towards the project.

The European Capital of Culture 2010 project has been very beneficial also for cultural operators and stakeholders in the city, as they have gained valuable experience in planning and organizing various events. Furthermore, financial benefits were attained due to increased tourism during the title year as, according to the National Statistical Office, the number of visitors in Pécs increased by 27,5% from the previous year. The number of foreign visitors increased by 71% from 2009.

In conclusion, the European Capital of Culture programme for Pécs in 2010 can be viewed as a success from the point of view of both instant cultural impact as well as long term cultural development.


Tuukka Pynnönen, Oulu2026 Project Assistant



Ex-post evaluation of 2010 European Capitals of Culture

European Capitals of Culture: Success Strategies and Long-term Effects


HYLKY – a world-class performance in Oulu

Writer Erika Benke
Photographer Janne-Pekka Manninen


A scientist opens a freezer and drags a heavy rectangular block of ice to the middle of a dimly-lit room. He starts chipping it away with a knife, putting bits of broken ice in the hands of the audience.

As the air turns noticeably cooler, he gives a lecture about the chemical process that takes place when a human body is frozen. “There are two options: you can freeze just the head, or the whole body. Then in the future you can be melted and be alive again,” he says matter-of-factly.



As if walking in a movie


As I watch the scene unfold, I’m approached by a bare-footed man wearing a shabby white vest, an oversized black jacket and loose-fitting sweatpants. He’s quietly telling me that I look as if I need asylum and invites me to follow him.

He’s not someone I would trust to buy a used bike from, let alone giving me asylum. Still I can’t help but go with him: I’m curious, though deeply suspicious. We break away from my fellow audience members – there’s about 40 of us, all wearing bright orange safety vests and Covid19 masks. The two of us pass a cabinet with its door slightly ajar: just enough to catch a strong smell of fish and a glimpse of several neat rows of tiny black-and-white photos.

The man leads me to a small room that looks like a prison cell. “This is where you apply for asylum if you want to come to my island,” he says. I’m relieved that he doesn’t slam the door on me after I politely refuse the offer. He still insists on showing me his island. It’s next door and it has a few odd pink palm trees. I quickly make my escape back to the main auditorium.


Immersive and multi-disciplinary


Welcome to Hylky – an immersive show, which means the audience is walking inside the piece, engaging with the performers. The story features shipwrecked characters trying to come to terns with their nightmares and figure out what to do next in their lives. The audience follows their stories by wondering around a building: they can choose to stop to explore a character’s fears, hopes and dreams more deeply. Equally, they can choose to pay no attention to other characters.

There are three large spaces and numerous small ones in the 2000 square metre building where the performances are held. You can get very close to the performers if you wish – or you can choose to watch from a distance.


The Oulu shipwreck that inspired the show


And it’s not just one art: it’s a multi-disciplinary spectacle combining dance, circus acts, visual arts and music. There are some amazing acrobatics: wire dancing, a lot of movement, underwater swimming (and drowning). There’s also songs and monologues, smells wafting in the air and some interesting textures to touch.

Hylky was inspired by the Hahtiperä shipwreck that was found a year ago in Oulu. Parts of the ship, built in the late 17th century, have been used to create the set.

Hylky is a powerful watch that appears to capture and mesmerise the audience. Some people looked spell-bound. It’s a very spontaneous and thought-provoking, full-on experience. Everyone in the audience is likely to find something that strikes a particular chord and resonates very strongly with his or her own life. To me, it was a woman obsessed with conserving memories in salt, vinegar and oil in a pantry full of pots and jars. She served up a reminder of how very little I was doing to keep my parents’ spirits alive and spurred me into action straightaway.

Erika Benke

Pirjo Ylimaunula


The director


Hylky is the brainchild of Oulu-born Pirjo Yli-Maunula, artistic director of Flow Productions. Bursting with pride at the end of a very well-received performance, she says she’s been getting very positive feedback. Audiences are impressed and many are left in tears as they reflect on their own lives during the show, she adds.

“The story is not just about getting shipwrecked but also about the different ways we feel in our lives when we are shipwrecked metaphorically: when you’re sick or get divorced, you lose somebody or you lose your job: scenarios that we all experience.”

Pirjo is full of passion for what she’s created but she says success is down to team work. So what was the process? She says she first found the venue – Hiukkavaara Garrison, an abandoned building at Hiukanpiha 9. Then she came up with the basic concept: the title and the theme. Next she gave each artist a few key words to think about – for instance, one of them was given borders and walls, us and others, army, slums, immigration, refugees, asylym centre, shipwreck, abandonment and coronavirus.

“Then I ask the artists how they would like to work with these words in this space and build scenes,” Pirjo says. “I’m not a choreographer in a traditional sense. The concept is mine and I direct the piece but the other artists are creating the piece with me,” Pirjo says.


International production


Hylky is an international production: two of the eight performers are foreigners.

Emma Langmoen

Emma Langmoen is a 23 year-old Norwegian artist. She was born in Oslo. She dropped out of school at the age of 17 and chose to study circus arts in Lahti.

This is the second time she’s performed in Oulu. She loves the city so much that she’s considering moving here. Why?

“It’s beautiful city. Nature is very close. You walk for ten minutes and you’re in a wonderful green area. People are very open. Finnish people can be a bit shy but here I have a lot of conversations with strangers in the street.”

Emma is also drawn to Oulu because she believes the artistic community has some unique features. “Here it’s inter-disciplinary: whereas in other big cities, artists block together with other people who do their own field, in Oulu there’s an open atmosphere: people are sharing and working together. There’s a collaboration across borders and across genders and I feel like I’m connected to the region.”

And what’s the key message of Hylky for Emma?

“We’re all on this little planet together and we have to help each other: whether it comes to the refugee crisis or the climate crisis. We have to collaborate on a whole new level. If we continue hoarding for ourselves, living individualistic lives, we will be shipwrecked.”

Angeliki Nikolakaki

Angeliki Nikolakaki is a 37-year-old artist from Greece.

She was born in Athens. After graduating as a civil engineer, she started an office job, working from nine to five in front of a computer. She went on four-hour dance classes after work to learn acrobatics. She felt energised and a different person – and soon realised that this was what she wanted to do as a job. At the age of 27 she changed careers: she moved to England to study circus arts.

She’s in Oulu for the first time. What does she make of the city?

“I like Oulu very much. I like cities of this size. I like the landscape: it’s next to the water. People are very kind and helpful. And the cycling routes are amazing. I found it hard to adjust to the fact that it was never dark when I arrived. It was the first time I experienced that.”

This is also the first time Angeliki has taken part in an immersive performance. She says the skills of guiding the audience and interacting with people came naturally to her – and now she wants to do more: “It’s addictive: here we blend with the audience. Different things happen in each show because the audience reacts in a different way which keeps it fresh.”

And the main message of Hylky: “We’re all together in the same boat in life. We’re all the same, we’re all equal, we go through the same pain and struggles. We’re all one.”

20 performances Oulu, from August 26 to September 19, 2020

Budget: 117,000 euros
Eight performers, a total staff of 20
Seven weeks of rehearsals
Sets built in three months

More details in Flow Productions’ website


HYLKY Trailer from Flow Productions on Vimeo.

On-line meeting: Baltic meets Arctic – young people in the heart of sustainable future

Four of the Baltic sea countries; Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Russia are also Arctic states with Arctic regions and the Barents Euroarctic region touches directly the Baltic sea. The political emphasis on the Arctic means increased attention to the northernmost regions of the Baltics too.

Arctic, Barents, and Baltic face together the challenges of climate change, resiliency, and sustainability. These challenges were not born overnight, and they cannot be solved overnight either.  The European Commission has presented The European Green Deal – a roadmap for making the EU’s economy sustainable by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas and making the transition just and inclusive for all.

In aging Europe younger generations will play an important role in facing and addressing these challenges and creating innovative solutions towards more sustainable, green growth. Actions necessary are expected to transform our way of living and working, of producing and consuming.

The Europe is also challenged with lack of competent workforce. This problem is also faced in the Arctic regions. The European Arctic has also a lot to offer for people who appreciate clean nature and safe environments.

Young leaders of today have started to demand more from policy makers and officials, rightly so. They demand for a seat in the table. How does this correspond in the northern region where different interests meet?

The workshop is a part of the EUSBSR Annual Forum 2020, and the results will be presented at the Forum in October 2020 and published in a digital publication. More information at www.annualforum2020.eu

Read more

Join Zoom Meeting, 30th September 13h-15h CET

Streaming Concert Recap

Oulu proceeded to the final selection phase for the title of European Capital of Culture 2026. Jukka Takalo & Kayak Orchestra’s concert celebrated Oulu and the cultural life of all of Northern Finland. Oulu Days and Oulu2026 presented the concert on Thursday 25th of June.

Press release: Cultural Climate Change Has Begun from the Wild North – Oulu2026 Continues its Journey in the European Capital of Culture Bid

Press release 24.6.2020


Oulu and 32 northern municipalities will continue on a shared trip to become the European Capital of Culture in 2026. The final decision will be taken in the summer of 2021.  The European Capital of Culture is the European Union’s most important cultural initiative.


“We will now continue to prepare the second phase application bidbook in extensive cooperation with the actors in the region and European partners,” says Piia Rantala-Korhonen, Director of the Oulu2026 project.


Access to the second round will be celebrated with the whole of Oulu, Finland and Europe on Thursday 25 June. at 8 pm at Jukka Takalo’s Kayak Orchestra livestream gig. The concert can be followed on the Facebook pages of Oulu2026 and Mun Oulu city media. The concert is produced in cooperation with Oulu Days Urban City Festival.


Huge Investment in City Development


Oulu2026’s main theme was Cultural Climate Change, to which 32 cities in northern Finland are committed in addition to Oulu.


“The cooperation area extends from the Russian border to the Swedish border. We share a strong will to develop the region as well as fully use the potential for cultural development. Now we need to continue our mutual development despite the lack of title,” says Piia Rantala-Korhonen.


The main objective of the Oulu2026 project is to create culture, well-being and a life force for our region.  Oulu, like many other European cities, will face many challenges in the near future as the age structure of the city changes, the birth rate decreases and, in particular, the unemployment of young people is high.


“A vibrant city that exudes visitors, residents and holds its own. Residents benefit from diverse cultural offerings and a living city with soft, human-friendly values,” says Piia Rantala-Korhonen.


Cultural climate change brings the importance of art and culture to a new level in urban development and creates jobs in creative sectors and tourism – also outside the city.


“Over the years, Northern Finland has been left outside of the national cultural funding. It is time for us to strengthen our foundations and to get the clusters of art, culture and the creative economy to the north,” says Samu Forsblom, Programme Director at Oulu2026


The Largest Cultural Project in Oulu and Northern Europe


Cultural climate change emphasises the importance of culture, art and urban culture as a boost to urban identity, people’s well-being and communality. Oulu2026 offers great international artistic experiences, but also brings culture into everyone’s everyday life. The construction of the cultural programme is a process that lasts until 2026.


“The programme includes long-term development projects as well as projects that are limited to the Year of The Capital of Culture itself.   This is the largest cultural project in Oulu as well as in the northern Europe”


The First Bidbook was completed by Cooperation


The city of Oulu’s first bid book was created in extensive cooperation. Work started in 2017 together with Oulu school children – they told what kind of Oulu they would like to live in in 2026.


Roughly 200 associations suggested who would be suitable creative advisers to sum up the themes and direction of the project. The main title of the project, cultural climate change, was created by creative advisors and is supported by three themes: Hinterland – Bravely on the peripheral edge, Contrasts – The Power of Opposites and the Wild City – Urban Attraction Factors.

In the spring of 2019, there was an open programme search based on themes. We received through more than 400 project proposals to accelerate cultural climate change.


Oulu2026 Has a Multidisciplinary Presentation Team


Oulu’s application for the European Capital of Culture was presented to the European panel by  a team of nine. In addition to Piia Rantala-Korhonen and Samu Forsblom from Mayor Päivi Laajala, Kyösti Oikarinen, Member of Oulu City Council, Air Guitar Artist Aapo Rautio, Artistic Director of the Oulu Theatre Alma Lehmuskallio, Executive Director of Oulu Urban Culture Heikki Myllylahti, Oulu City Multicultural Work Coordinator Priyanka Sood and Blair Stevenson, Principal Lecturer at the Oulu University of Applied Sciences. The entire team is on our website www.oulu2026.eu.


Additional information


Piia Rantala-Korhonen

Project Director

+358 44 703 1116


Samu Forsblom

Programme DIrector

+358 44 703 7558



Presenting the members of the Oulu2026 Presentation Team

Oulu2026 has presented the first application to the international panel on 23.6.2020. This is our Presentation Team:


Päivi Laajala

Päivi has served as the Mayor of Oulu since April 2017. In Oulu, the Mayor is a public servant, not a politician. Prior to this, she worked as Director-General at the Ministry of Finance and as Deputy Mayor of the City of Oulu. She is passionate about making the city a better place and about the well-being of its residents. This has been a lifelong passion for her. She is an avid consumer of culture in all its forms and is thrilled to lead Oulu in its transformation from a “hard town” into a soulful, more international, more open city of the North.

“Oulu and the wild north of Finland want to invite all those in Europe who believe that it is time for Cultural Climate Change. Together we can make this change happen!”


Key messages in presentation:

  • Introduction
  • Strong commitment of city council to ECoC Oulu2026
  • Connection to Oulu’s long-term city vision
  • Importance of ECoC 2026 to Oulu’s future


Piia Rantala-Korhonen

Piia is the Head of Oulu2026 team; she has a permanent position as a Director of International Affairs in the City of Oulu.

Piia’s postgraduate studies were in Governance, Social Sciences, Leadership and Management. Her extensive work experience in Cultural Management includes positions such as Secretary General of Artist’s Association of Finland, Director of Cultural Services and Community Education in the City of Espoo, Executive Chair of Arts’ Promotion Finland, Deputy Mayor of the City of Oulu responsible of Culture and Education. She was Member of the Board of Turku2011 Foundation and Chair of Eurocities Culture Forum’s Culture as a Resource Working Group as well as being involved in many Creative Europe and Erasmus+ projects. She is enthusiastic about cooking and writes a food blog Lähi(ö)ruokaa. She is mother of four children and grandmother of four grandchildren.

”Oulu is a hard technology city and needs this title to warm up our cultural climate!”


Key messages in presentation:

  • Main challenges facing Oulu
  • Main ECoC objectives
  • Need for cultural reconnection
  • Relating to Europe


Kyösti Oikarinen

Kyösti is a local politician and health professional. He is a member of the City Council and ex-chairman of the Executive Board and ex-chairman of the Committee of Culture in Oulu. Recently he was appointed to the executive board of the University District Hospital.

Kyösti is a trained dentist, was professor in oral and maxillofacial surgery and the Dean of the Medical Faculty at the University of Oulu.

“Oulu is the northernmost big city of the EU and as such a big player for the development in Northern Finland and in the whole European Arctic region.”


Key messages in presentation:

  • Tying ECoC objectives to City Strategies
  • Culture influencing our health and wellbeing
  • Regional involvement from Swedish to Russian border
  • Regional Hinterland, its challenges and strengths


Samu Forsblom

Samu is an arts manager, creative producer and musician. He has studied arts management and music at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Helsinki Pop & Jazz Conservatory and the City University of London. Samu is currently Oulu’s Cultural Director and Oulu2026 programme director. In the past, he has been Head of the Arts Management Education at the Sibelius Academy, General Manager of the Oulu Symphony, Head of Events of Oulu and entrepreneur at the Arena Oulu Event Centre. He is an active performing musician mainly producing electronic music with jazz trumpet.

“Cultural Climate Change reconnects Europe!”


Key messages in presentation:

  • Artistic vision and concept
  • Themes and programme lines
  • European partners and European audience
  • Sustainability and accessibility


Alma Lehmuskallio

Alma is a theatre director and the artistic director of Oulu City Theatre since January 2020. She has trained at the Theatre Academy’s MA Directing Programme with a background in dancing and acting. She is known for her multidisciplinary, physically emphasised stage directions that combine pain and laughter, open space for imagination and often revolve around the fragilities of humans. In Oulu City Theatre she wants to create possibilities for stage work that redefines theatre over and over again and provide spaces for performances that are concentrating on the content and meaning. She also wants to make sure that art is made with sustainable and ethical methods.

“Participation of marginalised and disadvantaged groups in both making and experiencing the Oulu2026 cultural programme is a core value I can easily agree with.”


Key messages in presentation:

  • Audience development
  • Involvement of citizens and cultural operators
  • Role of the cultural institutions
  • Development of European collaborations


Heikki Myllylahti

Heikki is an independent socio-cultural producer and cultural anthropologist, specialising in the culture of work and youth culture. His ambition is to work for a better and more interesting city for all. Heikki is a founder and executive Director of Oulu Urban Culture (NGO) a non-profit organisation supporting urban cultural enrichment in the region of Oulu. Established 2018, the organisation develops diverse, lively and communal urban culture by means of multiple events and projects. He is currently working as a project manager in an Urban Boost (ESF) project which produces urban culture by connecting employment solutions and active participation in an innovative way.

“European Capital of Culture can be our turning point from hinterland to wild, cool, creative and trendy capital of the Arctic.” 


Key messages in presentation:

  • Making Oulu more attractive for young adults
  • Attracting creative entrepreneurs to Oulu
  • Better year-round cultural offer
  • In Oulu you can make impact


Aapo Rautio

Aapo is a 20-year-old musician, amateur filmmaker and culture addict who plays air guitar as a job occasionally. He has studied music since secondary school and has played in many bands and albums. Aapo wishes that in future he could make films for a living.

“We need to set an example, to people in hinterland areas everywhere, that you can make the thing you want from right where you are.”




Key messages in presentation:

  • Brain drain and youth leaving
  • Stop playing it safe
  • Give people courage to live the life they want
  • Support to continue in a creative career


Priyanka Sood

Priyanka was born in India and lives in Oulu. Although her passport says India, she calls herself a global citizen. She has a degree in English Literature and another one in Social Work. Through her career she has worked on issues relating to child labour, women’s rights, environmental protection, disaster management (tsunami), local self-governance, indigenous knowledge, and immigrants’ integration. Presently she is working with the city of Oulu on immigration and integration policy and planning. Her conviction in the principles of equality, nondiscrimination and inclusion has guided her work throughout her career. She lives with her family in an old wooden house in Oulu. Her family includes husband Olli, daughter Enya (11) and son Veikko (3).

‘’A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and souls of its people” -Mahatma Gandhi.

“With ECOC 2026 Oulu will reach out to the hearts and souls of its most disadvantaged people and bring about a much-awaited Cultural Climate Change.”


Key messages in presentation:

  • Diversifying the cultural story of Oulu, include unheard voices
  • Oulu is a city of contrasts
  • Well-being belongs to everyone
  • Culture has an important healing aspect


Blair Stevenson

Blair Stevenson is a teacher, researcher and director with extensive experience in education, culture and technology. In the field of education, he has worked both as a teacher and as a teacher trainer in several countries for 15 years. He has experience as a researcher in educational psychology, entrepreneurial training, cultural research and information and communication technologies. Currently, Blair teaches at Oulu University of Applied Sciences. In addition, he is the coordinator of international cooperation and business cooperation in the LAB learning model. He also has a side professor at Ryerson University School of Creative Industries in Toronto.

“Oulu2026 will leverage Oulu’s global reputation as a technology hub into making this region a European leader supporting the combination of art and technology.”


Key messages in presentation:

  • Connecting art and technology
  • Build world-class quality in a hinterland city
  • Connection city and university
  • Goal of viable careers for young people in culture