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


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



Press release from the Ministry of Education and Culture: Three cities in Finland bidding for title of the 2026 European Capital of Culture

Tampere, Oulu and Savonlinna are bidding to be nominated as Finland’s candidate for the European Capital of Culture for 2026. The independent panel will convene on 23 and 24 June in Helsinki. At their meeting, the panel will hear the plans of the applicant cities and decide which cities will continue in the race for the next decisive round.

The applications submitted by the cities will be evaluated by a panel of 12 members, composed of independent European experts in the field of arts and culture. The Finnish members of the panel are FT Riitta Vanhatalo and FM Kai Amberla. Other members include Sylvia Amann, Jelle Burggraaff, Cristina Farinha, Paulina Florjanowicz, Beatriz Garcia, Dessislava Gavrilova, Alin Nica, Pierre Sauvageot, Jiří Suchánek and Agnieszka Wlazel.

The selection procedure will then continue during the panel’s visits to cities. The panel’s second meeting will take place in summer 2021, when the name of the European Capital of Culture in 2026 will be revealed.

The cities that have reached the next stage will be announced at a press conference on Wednesday, 24 June at 14.00 at Helsinki Central Library Oodi. Representatives of the Ministry of Education and Culture, the European Commission and the panel will attend the event.

Summaries of the applications submitted by the three cities can be found on the website of the Ministry of Education and Culture.

European Capital of Culture

The European Capital of Culture initiative is among the most widely known actions of the European Union. The event highlights the richness of the cultures of the Member States, emphasising their common features and strengthening cohesion among citizens. The city designated as the European Capital of Culture aims to increase the scope, diversity and European dimension of its cultural resources and to raise the city’s international profile.

Inquiries: Iina Berden, Ministerial Adviser, tel. + 358 295 330 069

Related links

European Capital of Culture 2026, Ministry of Education and Culture


Press release has been published on the webpage of Ministry of Education and Culture on 16.6.2020.

Oulu2026 Cultural Person: Jaakko Kuusisto

My name is Jaakko Kuusisto. I’ve been the artistic director of Oulu Music Festival for nine years, this is my last. I’m also the Chief Conductor of Kuopio City Orchestra, and my career is split between conducting, composing, and playing violin. I’ve also worked on public office; for example I’ve worked on the Arts Promotion Centre’s Central Arts Council for two three-year terms.

How’s your life at the moment, during these rather unusual times?

I feel like I’ve been able to adjust to a “new normal”. This spring has been a frantic experience, and I’m starting to feel pretty “empty” emotionally. The initial shock must’ve been a shared experience, and following it there was, at least for me, a kind of stagnation; all the work disappeared from my calendar, and there was uncertainty about what exactly should we do now. It was a hard time. Next stage was about gathering my strenght: finding and implementing new things. It’s an ongoing process. The third stage involves all the new work resulting from corona. Different organisations prepare differently for autumn, and it creates interesting new work that we wouldn’t have undertaken otherwise. I’ll be burning my summer vacation with that work, but I couldn’t even dream of complaining; there was a time recently when there was no work at all.

How do you see Oulu right now?

A lot has been done right in Oulu. I see Oulu as a cosy, beautiful and humane city that lives and evolves. Oulu is an active event city, and that’s a positive signal for the future. Oulu has areas with phenomenal nature, such as Hupisaaret. An oasis right next to city centre is a significant asset. Oulu faces the same challenges as many other cities, but I hope that Oulu keeps on daring to do the things it feels are important. Curling up inwards and playing it safe will not solve anything.

Think one year from now. Where are you, how’s your life?

It’s definitely hard to say anything at the moment. I am an optimist and as such I believe life will be good. I wil have just quit my job at Oulu Music Festival, and it’ll be interesting to see if there’s anything similar popping up to replace it. I won’t actively pursue anything such, for there will be enough work without. I think I’ll be at Oulu, I like it here. Of course, I won’t rule out the possibilities of challenges of a wholly new kind, for rebirth is important. Life’ll show.

Oulu is bidding for the title of European Capital of Culture 2026. Why should Oulu win the title, what makes us the best candidate?

I believe in Oulu. Even though Oulu already has much, we can still evolve and develop. Oulu has a climate of doing it yourself, probably since we’re too far to bring the important things from elsewhere. We need the European Capital of Culture title to survive from future’s challenges, and I believe we’re able to invest in it. The title requires both creating much new and looking better after our basic cultural infrastucture. I wholly believe that after the title year Oulu will live its new heyday.

What do you want to say to the Oulu of 2026, when we are the European Capital of Culture?

Act like a capital, and remember that culture is at the core of everything.

A tour through Europe: Maribor 2012

With 119 071 citizens, Maribor is the second largest city of Slovenia. The first mention of Maribor as a settlement is from 1029, but the city didn’t become a regional commercial centre until the industrial revolution. The World Wars and the population movements following them had a significant impact on Maribor;  the city became one of Yugoslavia’s leading industrial centres following the First World War. However, with the collapse of Yugoslavia, Maribor lost its markets and thus its identity as a commercial centre. The financial crisis of 2008 only increased unemployment.

Maribor’s bid for the title of the European Capital of Culture 2012 included five other cities from eastern Slovenia; Murska Sobota, Novo Mesto, Ptuj, Slovenj Gradec, and Velenje. The ECoC year was built on the theme of “the Turning Point”. The original foreseen funding was very ambitious: 200 million euros. During the prcess, however, the figures kept going down, and the final budget amounted to around 50-30% of the original funding. There were other problems in funding as well; many payments were late, especially at the municipal level.

Despite it’s troubles, Maribor managed to build a programme built on four programme strands and consisting of 405 projects and 5624 events in total. As a whole, Maribor 2012 succeeded as an European Capital of Culture.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons,