Monday, October 09, 2006


9 October 2006

I've had a really enjoyable few days in Helsinki at the European Forum for the Arts and Heritage conference - my first trip to Finland. Helsinki is a wonderful city - beautiful buildings, a harbour right in the centre of the city, fishing boats selling herring on the quayside, a wide tree-lined esplanade, a mixture of Russian and Scandinavian influences, and polite, helpful people. Culturally, the towering figure of Jean Sibelius (one of my favourite composers) seems omnipresent: as I came up the escaltaor at the Central Railway Station (itself an amazing cultural icon) I gradually became aware of the faint strains of a busker playing something vaguely familar on a recorder - by the time I reached the top I realised it was the slow, gentle Finnish folk tune that Sibelius used in 'Finlandia'. At the conference we were treated to a performance by a local choir representing Kassandra - an organisation that brings together immigrants to Finland from different cultural backgrounds. The choir sang in a wide variety of styles including Bulgarian and South African songs which it had learned from members from those countries. Finally, in Helsinki Airport awaiting my return flight I picked up a DVD of my favourite Finnish folk/rock group, Värttinä. I'm looking forward to returning to Helsinki for a longer visit sometime soon.

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