Oulu, Finland’s Air Guitar and Other Summer Festivals
Tiny Oulu, in northern Finland, might never have come to your attention, unless you happen to be an avid hiker and kayaker heading north on the west Finland coast. But a dedicated group of artists and pranksters have ensured that Oulu will make a disproportionate impact on the music and cultural world. First and foremost would be the Air Guitar World Championships that began as a lark, but have now found such an avid following that competitions are now held all over the world, gaining media attention from all of the giants. The Oulu Music Video Festival would (arguably) be next in line in terms of popularity and it represents the very best of Finnish creativity.
The fuel for Oulu’s cultural explosion can probably be traced to a community of artists and free thinkers living on the island of Pikisarri, located just outside of Oulu. Residents of Pikisaari and the picturesque fjord town of Oulu itself, inspired the various other film and music festivals that are sandwiched in between the Air Guitar and Music Video festivals, most notably the Children’s Film Festival, held in November each year.
The dates of the Music Video and the Air Guitar festivals coincide each year – from the 11th to the 29th of August, so a late summer trip up north to Oulu might be the best bang for your buck. The festivals themselves attract people from all over the world, turning tiny Oulu into a party town during the sun-drenched late summer months in Finland’s northern latitudes. In between shows, you can hike up river from Oulu into the untouched forests or kayak down into the sea and visit one of the hundreds of little islets scattered about the mouth of the Oulu River.
If you go in the winter for the Children’s Film Festival, be sure to take your kids to the Tietomaa Science Museum. It holds more than 150 interactive exhibits geared specifically to children and it affords children the experience of doing experiments the way they were done when Newton, Hook, and Galileo were making their discoveries.
In addition to the above described attractions and events, Oulu can be a fun stop on a more general tour of northern Finland during the summer months. Finland is rocking with festivals all summer long. Check out the Tango Festival in Seinajoki, for example. It seems that all those months of being cooped up, hanging-out in saunas, and drinking strong beer while the sun shuns the country, brings out the best in a people. Or maybe Scandinavia’s well-known economic safety net for all citizens allows for the luxury of exuberant creativity. Whatever it is, a festival tour of Finland in the summer (with sauna, hiking and kayak breaks along the way) might just change your life.
Here is a very small list of festivals in Finland so that you can begin to plan a biking/driving/kayaking trip that takes these places and events into account:
Turku Jazz, 11 March—14 March 2010
Oulu Music Festival, 12 March—20 March 2010
The Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä, June 10 to 14
The Seurasaari Midsummer Bonfires, Helsinki, June 19 to 20
Seinajoki Tango Festival, Seinajoki, July 8th – 12th
Music Video and Air Guitar Festival, Oulu, July 11th to 29th
The Pori Jazz Festival, Pori, July 11 to 19
The Helsinki Festival, Aug. 13 to 30
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