Congratulations European Capital of Culture Novi Sad, Kaunas and Esch

The European Capitals of Culture of 2022 in Kaunas (Lithuania), Novi Sad (Serbia) and Esch (Luxembourg) will celebrate their opening in the coming weeks.

Novi Sad will officially open the European Capital of Culture on 13 January with the opening play Zeniteum: 2022. The opening will be held outside the Banovina Palace.
Read more on Novi Sad 2022

The opening of Kaunas is on 22 January. The program of the year kicks off with a unique performance by music, light, video and dance “Confusion”.
The opening of the Kaunas Capital of Culture year illuminates the outermost regions of the district and reaches the city centre step by step.
Read more Kaunas2022

The opening of Esch is on 26 February. There is live music, DJ sets, dance performances, projection screenings, light installations and a wide range of live entertainment events in various locations, on stage and around the street.
Read more Esch2022

The events of the opening will be followed on the Oulu2026 social media channels.

“It’s almost a miracle how nature has the energy to be reborn after so many months of frost”

Ever since I moved to Oulu from Northern Italy back in 2013, I have admired the connection people here have with nature. In the beginning, I thought it to be something innate in the Finnish culture; it was only later I discovered this trait to be much more enhanced in the Northern part of the country, where nature is at its quintessential wild state. This connection goes beyond simply taking walks in the forest and admiring its beauty in any kind of weather, be it favorable and sunny or slippery and freezing. It is much deeper. It’s about coexistence and understanding.

Potrait ThaisFK

Northern Finland is a land of contrasts. Long and dark winters where the most prevalent colours are black and white eventually make way for a very colourful and lush summer. To me it’s almost a miracle how nature has the energy to be reborn after so many months of frost and freezing temperatures. Despite the harsh winter, when the sun’s warming power returns and melts the snow and thaws the ground, invariably nature begins to flourish. Sap starts to flow in the trees, wild herbs emerge from the ground, leaves and blooms appear.

Northern Finland has some of the most pristine nature in the world. And this nature is something anyone can benefit from. For many foreigners the concept of everyman’s right is an unfamiliar one. The idea that everyone has the right to roam free in nature, enjoy it and benefit from it as long as it’s left unharmed is so liberating. And the variety of Arctic wild food is noteworthy. It is not limited merely to one of the widest varieties of wild berries in the world, but also includes mushrooms, edible wild herbs, flowers, leaves, sprouts and wild fish.

Local, seasonal ingredients are incredibly tasty in Finland, especially wild and organic ones. And that’s really what I find to be at the base of Finnish traditional cuisine: a few, fresh ingredients. The secret, really, is to eat seasonally and so adjust one’s diet to what nature provides in that season instead of buying imported goods. Nature adapts and transforms. Being connected to nature means adapting and transforming along with it.

I love to combine different food cultures, highlighting the strengths of each. In particular, I specialize in bringing a Nordic twist to Italian recipes and vice versa. It’s very satisfying to look outside the box and create new flavors. In my creative process I usually start with an ingredient and I develop a recipe around that ingredient or I think of an existing recipe that might need an interesting addition. Giving a Nordic twist to some recipes can be as easy as adding a few wild berries on top of a breakfast bowl, a cake or even a meat stew. Another way to travel through food to the North is to use some signature Arctic flavors, such as fresh dill, rye, butter and cardamom to name a few or even salty licorice and tar for the real culinary adventurers.

This pandemic has certainly made a lot of people appreciate nature more than they used to. More and more people value organic and sustainably sourced food. Suddenly, the possibility of going out and being in nature is connected to safety, freedom and mental health. More than that, nature has finally regained its rightful place as a food resource. The people that before would go to the supermarket to buy superfood powders from a faraway land now realise that they can go out to forage for themselves the forest superfoods and even start to grow their own vegetables in their backyards and balconies.

In conclusion, I find the Nordic and Arctic wild food scene to be an incredible resource that deserves to be enhanced. It is something completely unique in the world and a territorial asset beyond comparison. It is an exclusive attraction for a very specific niche in tourism. For people who value the concepts of slow living and sustainability and that would like to experience for themselves this kind of special and primordial connection with nature.

Thais FK (http://www.thaisfk.com/

Photographer, Recipe developer and Content Creator. Half Italian and half Brazilian, born and grown up in Italy, moved to Finland soon after graduated. Lives in Oulu.

This blog is a part of the European Capital of Culture Oulu2026 program Arctic Food


Oulu2026 Cultural Personality: Peltokurki Duo

peltokurki duo

Our cultural personality of the week is the Peltokurki duo which is formed by Anna Peltomaa and Emma Kurkinen. Both of them are music creators and entrepreneurs in the creative industries. Anna and Emma have been making music together since 2016 and they released their debut album last spring. Currently, they are working on their second full-length album.


Oulu, together with 32 Northern Finnish municipalities, is the year 2026 European Capital of Culture! How do you feel about that?

In our opinion, it feels wonderful and it is a privilege to be a music creator here in Northern Finland. Northernness is an important value to us and the northern voices deserve to be heard.


What does our leading theme, Cultural Climate Change, mean to you?

It is important for us to show that you can create a proper career as a music creator from Oulu. We want to be an example of this.


How do you find Oulu at this present time?

Oulu is good and safe place to make art in your own style. The atmosphere is supportive and it is possible to create a wide network of others in the creative industries.


How do you spend your spare time?

Going around in the nature, meditating and spending time with family and friends.


What will Oulu look and feel like in the year 2026? How do you think the Capital of Culture title will impact Northern Finland?

Oulu and its northernness are interesting, and there are people interested in culture coming to Oulu from all around Europe. We believe that there will be even more cultural things. There is already an active and diverse cultural life but it will only grow from here. There are plenty opportunities in Oulu.


Photo: Mikko-Pekka Karlin

Piia Rantala-Korhonen and Samu Forsblom Selected to Lead the Foundation

Piia Rantala-Korhonen has been selected as the Chief Executive Officer of the Oulu Cultural Foundation and Samu Forsblom as the Programmer Director of the Foundation. The Oulu Cultural Foundation’s Board made an unanimous decision regarding these selections. Oulu will be the European Capital of Culture in the year 2026. European Capital of Culture (ECoC) is one of the best known activities of the European Union.

“The Oulu Cultural Foundation is responsible for the Capital of Culture operations once the City of Oulu hands over the baton on 1st January 2022”, says the Chairperson of the Foundation’s Board, Risto Ruohonen.

Vasemmalla Piia Rantala-Korhonen ja oikealla Samu Forsblom.

In their meeting today, the Oulu Cultural Foundation’s Board also discussed the implementation of research, monitoring and evaluation activities during the years 2022-2027. Research and evaluation are a mandatory part of the Capital of Culture operations for those European Capitals of Culture that take place between the years 2020 and 2033. The aim of monitoring is to measure Oulu2026’s success in reaching its long-term goals, namely creating a vibrant, gripping city, building up a balanced community and becoming a creative region. The research will produce new knowledge on culture’s role in economic, social and cultural development of cities and its surrounding areas. The research, monitoring and evaluation activities are continued in partnership with Center for Cultural Policy Research, Cupore.

Selection of the Chief Executive Officer and the Programme Director

The directorial positions were filled through an open call that took place between 5.-23.11. Additionally, possible candidates were searched through recruitment service MPS Career Oy. There were nine applications for the Chief Executive Officer position and 13 applications for the Programme Director position.

The Oulu Cultural Foundation’s Board selected Piia Rantala-Korhonen as the Chief Executive Officer and Samu Forsblom as the Programme Director. Both have long experience in various positions in the cultural industries, and have played a significant part in Oulu’s journey towards the European Capital of Culture.

“The Board of Oulu Cultural Foundation considers that preparations for the year 2026 can now fully begin and they do so from a strong starting point. It is good to continue under the leadership of Rantala-Korhonen and Forsblom, and expand the future operations and programme preparations and implementation towards Cultural Climate Change”, states Ruohonen.

Piia Rantala-Korhonen, Master of Arts, has acted in leadership positions at the Cities of Oulu and Espoo, and, among other things, as the Secretary General of Arts Association of Finland. She has managed the European Capital of Culture, Oulu2026, bidding process since its beginning in 2017. Rantala-Korhonen has also acted as Director in the Central Administration’s Department of International Affairs, and as the Deputy Mayor in the City of Oulu where she was responsible for the city’s educational and cultural services. At the City of Espoo, Rantala-Korhonen was the Director of Culture and Community Education Unit.

“I thank the Board for their great trust in me, this is such a big thing for our large region and also an economical investment. I want to thank also those of you who have been involved in the bidding process and are committed to implementing Cultural Climate Change”, comments Rantala-Korhonen.

The Chief Executive Officer manage the Foundation’s operations and finances, and will be the head of Programme Director and the managers. The Chief Executive Officer is responsible for preparing the agendas for the Foundation’s Board and implementing its decisions in cooperation with the staff.

Samu Forsblom, Master of Music, has acted in leadership and developmental positions in cultural and creative industries at the City of Oulu, and, among other things, as the General Manager of Oulu Symphony. Forsblom has been acting as the Cultural Director of the City of Oulu in addition to being the Oulu2026 Programme Director since 2018. Forsblom has also acted as the City of Oulu’s Head of Events and Director of Cultural Services Development. Forsblom has also acted as the Creative Director of AreenaOulu.

“It is great to be able to make dreams into reality now. The application phase of the title was its own process where you painted a culturally rich future to Oulu. Now, it is time to redeem that promise. This only possible through cooperation”, comments Samu Forsblom.

The Programme Director is responsible for the cultural programme, selection of projects and their implementation. The Programme Director will be the head of the Programme Unit, and is responsible for the operations and finances of the cultural programme to the Foundation’s Board. The main tasks are to construct a diverse partnership network for the programme, coming up with programme concepts and event procurement.

The second meeting of the Oulu Cultural Foundation’s Board was held remotely. In the year 2022, the Board will assemble almost monthly. The Chairperson of the Board is Risto Ruohonen, Master of Political Science, and the Vice Chairperson is Päivi Laajala, Mayor of Oulu. Board members are Emilie Gardberg, Dean of the Sibelius Academy, Reima Loukkola, Administrative Director of Arina, Tytti Määttä, Mayor of Kuhmo, Jouko Niinimäki, Rector of University of Oulu, Elena Näsänen, Master of Fine Arts and Video Artist, and Cay Sevon, Doctor of Political Science.

Oulu2026 Cultural Personality: The Vaara Collective

kuvassa Vaara-kollektiiviOur Cultural Personality of the Week is the Vaara Collective. Vaara is an independent team of practitioners and artist collective in the performing arts from Kajaani, active since 2014. Vaara’s activities include premieres, applied art, and events. The collective takes their shows and their applied art projects on tours all across Northern Finland.


Oulu, together with 32 Northern Finnish municipalities, is the year 2026 European Capital of Culture! How do you feel about that?

It is a great thing for Northern Finland and a great opportunity. We feel confident and good.


What does our leading theme, Cultural Climate Change, mean to you? 

Vaara has grappled with ecological themes since its very founding. For years now, we’ve been making dramatic environmental education for young people, as well as shows that burst out from the local and send their tendrils all the way to the global challenges posed by climate change. The Ärjä Art Festival is our proposal for a different kind of festival that goes on journeys. For us, Cultural Climate Change will probably mean a continuity with this process. It is a chance to consider how arts and culture can create communal spaces for meeting each other sheltered from the winds and breezes of our age.


How do you find Oulu at this present time?

Whenever we visit from our inland home, we can tell there’s a wind and a crackle from the sea! So it’s looking good, as long as we can keep our hats on.


How do you spend your spare time?

Roaming through the woods howling like wolves. No, just kidding. Kajaani is a brilliant, lively little town, and that’s where most of us live. We enjoy that small town life like it’s Moominvalley with some great soirées and cultural get-togethers. At times we do go out to the country or into the woods, in the style of Chekhov, to gather mushrooms.


What will Oulu look and feel like in the year 2026? How do you think the Capital of Culture title will impact Northern Finland?

When our year as the capital is done, the sun will shine and autumn will never again chill Oulu. We hope the project will have a widespread energizing effect on Northern Finland, so that when it makes landfall it will keep blowing all the way to Suomussalmi. We’re looking forward to this great project in good spirits!

Oulu2026 Cultural Personality: Luovat Askeleet


Our Cultural Personality of the Week is Luovat askeleet, a multiprofessional, cross-disciplinary artistic group comprised of Johanna Aromaa, Pauliina Lappi, Päivi Mettovaara, and Merja Männikkö. The working group weaves dance, music, community art, pedagogy, writing, and research into one experiential canvas. Luovat askeleet springs from the Esteetön ry society for cultural well-being, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Esteetön ry has a long record of working for equal access in the Oulu region.



Oulu, together with 32 Northern Finnish municipalities, is the year 2026 European Capital of Culture! How do you feel about that?


We are happy to work together with others to create Cultural Climate Change. Collaboration requires mutual trust and understanding diversity as a resource; that way we can become more than the sum of our parts together.


What does our leading theme, Cultural Climate Change, mean to you?


Love, freshness, joy of life, and new strength for all ages! Hurrah for our courageous Oulu and its region!


How do you find Oulu at this present time? 

The spirit of Oulu is one of daring, uncomplicated attitudes, and everyday compassion. Let’s have the courage to be ourselves!


How do you spend your spare time? 

Creativity and play are a way of life for us.

We challenge all adults to come together in play and make space for creativity both in work and in leisure. The creativity is already within us!


What will Oulu look and feel like in the year 2026? How do you think the Capital of Culture title will impact Northern Finland? 

By 2026, creativity will be everywhere. Art will win more room to flourish and new ways to grow. Creativity will shimmer across us people and our surroundings like a cultural Northern Lights,  bringing people together!


Picture: Luovat Askeleet