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Kuvassa muusikko Iina Palokangas kitaran kanssa keltaisen seinän edessäThe Cultural Personality of Week is Iina Palokangas, a singer-songwriter, music teacher, and cultural producer from Oulu. Singer-songwriter music has been close to Iina’s heart through her own music but also through the Taustatarinaklubi (‘Backstory Club’), a series of singer-songwriter events she organises. Iina returned to Oulu almost six years ago after studying music in Helsinki. “Originally, I came back because I was accepted for the music education programme at the university, but I have since found several more reasons to stay,” says Iina.

Oulu, together with 32 municipalities in Northern Finland, is the European Capital of Culture in 2026! How do you feel about that?
Oulu has always delivered high-quality culture and cultural education. The Capital of Culture title is a welcome recognition of that.

What does our leading theme, Cultural Climate Change, mean to you?
It means the acknowledgement of the power of the community. I hope that the Capital of Culture year will build new bridges between artists, organisers, audiences, and communities.

How do you find Oulu at this present time?
Oulu is all about peace and authenticity – the best possible environment for creative work. To me personally, to be physically slightly remote from the heavy-weight cultural scene means more time and space to create. However, this also means that in order to create collegial communities for musicians, we have to make a conscious and consistent effort to facilitate them. I hope that the Cultural Climate Change will help artists find each other.

How do you spend your spare time?
In the last few years, I’ve been focusing on my first album. During the pandemic in particular, I have found myself starved of all things cultural. At the moment I’m particularly interested in theatre and visual arts and the dialogue between these art forms and my music.

What will Oulu look and feel like in 2026?How do you think the Capital of Culture title will impact Northern Finland?
I hope that Oulu looks like, feels like – and is – a culture capital of equality, diversity, and inclusivity.
I’m really excited to see how the year is championed by the schools of the region. I believe that the year will also form a foundation for future Northern Finnish cultural practitioners to celebrate their identity and use their talent and opportunities to build careers in Northern Finland.

Photo: Moona Mikkola