A Disappointment for Tampere but the Work Hasn’t Been for Nothing: ”We Are More Unified Than Ever”

A disappointed sigh, then a big round of applause for the winner – that was the reaction in Tampere after the city of Oulu was declared as the European Capital of Culture for the year 2026.

Members of Tampere26 Project had gathered at Saunaravintola Kuuma (Laukontori) to wave their ”Equally European” flags and follow the live stream from The Helsinki Music Centre. But it wasn’t their day to celebrate.

Among the people present was the chairman of the steering group of European capital of culture bid, deputy mayor Jaakko Stenhäll who congratulated the winner.

”Oulu’s emphasis was perhaps on slightly different things than ours. They were persistent and their application was impressive. I don’t think it was so much about one being better than the other. Maybe their application was just closer to something the panel was after.”

Project coordinator Kirsi Mustalahti believed in Tampere’s chances. She felt that the values highlighted – equality, accessibility, inclusivity – were in line with European programs such as Creative Europe or New European Bauhaus.

”It’s a big disappointment, but we also know that the work hasn’t been for nothing. Pirkanmaa region is now more unified than ever. The cities and municipalities have joined their forces in an unforeseen way, and together we will continue to develop the region and create new projects.”

As the Finnish saying goes, ”in every loss lies a seed of victory”. This is well known by Pauli Sivonen, one of the artistic leaders of Tampere European Capital of Culture bid. He is the director of the Serlachius Museums in Mänttä-Vilppula, a small ”art town” in Pirkanmaa region with a population just under 10,000.

In 2011 Tampere and Mänttä-Vilppula applied, separately, to become the European Capital of Culture 2011. Neither won.

”The process taught the local cultural scene to play as a team. We understood that by working together even a small operator like us can create something special – megalomaniac, even!”

Paulina Ahokas, the managing director of Tampere Hall, the largest conference and concert centre in the Nordic countries, while obviously disappointed stressed the positives.

”This project has certainly made us more ambitious. Tampere is already a significant player nationally, and we want to be that also on an international level. That, I hope, will be the legacy of our European Capital of Culture bid.”


This was Tampere26 delegation in Helsinki when the European Capital of Culture 2026 was published. Lauri Lyly, Perttu Pesä, Reidar Palmgren and Anna-Kaisa Heinämäki.