Experiences for every season
Culture is so inherently part of life in Tampere that one does not always even notice it. But just scratch the surface anywhere and it emerges in one form or another. It functions in much the same way as a precious metal, which holds everything together and provides the most natural setting for all kinds of pearls and gems.
Eri Klas is a star conductor who has shone in many of the world's musical metropolises. He puts the excellent Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra through its paces in one of the Nordic region's best concert halls. In only two decades, the Sara Hilden Art Museum has built up an enviable international reputation. As a theatre city, Tampere is a concept. And it is hardly a coincidence that it was just at the Tampere International Short Film Festival that the Kaurismäki brothers began their rise to prominence as moviemakers with a considerable cult following in Europe.
Nearly every bigger urban centre in Finland has some kind of arts-related festival once a year, usually in summer. In Tampere's case, strong and richly-diverse traditions have provided the wherewithal to go further than that: the result is a year-round festival city, where something special happens every second month or so.
Theatre and film night and day
Tampere seems to change its expression many times a year. Despite the abundance of cultural fare on offer, quality has not been lessened. Probably the best-known of the major annual events are the Tampere International Theatre Festival in August and the International Short Film Festival in March.
Theatre features in the cultural history of this industrial city as an essential part of the workers' movement, whose traditions also include choirs and brass bands. The Tampere Workers' Theatre dates back to 1901. The city now has seven professional theatres with a total of 16 auditoria between them. One in five visits to the theatre in Finland is made in Tampere. When it proclaimed itself "Theatre City of Finland" some time ago, no one had any objection to make.
The International Theatre Festival has been held more than 30 times. For six days every year, auditoria, streets, restaurants and pubs are the venues for performances by theatrical and dance ensembles from Finland and abroad. The fringe programme comprises exhibitions, seminars and courses. An added attraction in summer are the city's numerous open-air theatres, of which the one on the Pyynikinharju Ridge is a sight in its own right thanks to its rotating auditorium.
The International Short Film Festival in Tampere is one of the three top events in its category in the world. During the five days and nights that it is taking place, audiences can choose between several hundreds films. In addition to showing works by old masters, the festival also offers promising young talents an opportunity to present themselves to international connoisseurs.
Music, dance, light
The Tampere Jazz Happening held every November is an important event for lovers of modern jazz: Peter Brötzmann, Charles Gayle, Evan Parker, John Zorn, Ornette Coleman... The Tampere Biennale is a festival of new Finnish concert music and the next one, in 2000, will have modern dance as a supplementary element. Dance has long been part of the essence of life in Tampere: the Nordic region's biggest folk dance festival, Pispalan Sottiisi, likewise takes place every other year. In 2000, exceptionally, the dancing will be done in Helsinki, where the festival will culminate in a Finnish-Estonian extravaganza featuring 7,000 dancers. A new flamenco festival in August will add extra exoticism. All of Finland's flamenco dancing clubs will be taking part.
Quite apart from all the festivals, music-lovers are pampered with high-class concerts all year round. Eri Klas, who became the Tampere Philharmonic's artistic director in 1998, has persuaded several international stars to perform as soloists in the city. Tampere Hall with its delightful acoustics is the venue for major annual productions by the Tampere Opera, which attract audiences from both the city and many other parts of Finland.
City festivals of various kinds take place all year round. For young people there is Tammerfest on the banks of the rapids and the Kukkaisviikot ("Flower Weeks") complete with wine festival in August. When the darkest period of the year arrives, the people of the city are prepared to meet it with their Tampere Illuminations festival from the beginning of October on. The thousands and thousands of lights that artificially add brightness to the city will be switched on for the 35th time in 2000. They continue to alleviate the sub-arctic gloom until just after the new year, when the days begin lengthening again.