Creating a European case study for how arts and culture can contribute to equality provides a unique starting point for international cooperation. European identities are in the making, and we need a clear vision for the future rather than nostalgia for the past. This vision builds on our core values – equality, diversity and accessibility – and finding new ways to live sustainably.
In this article, we clarify the European Dimension of our application. Themes such as human rights, interreligious dialogue and transnational narratives bind diverse European citizens together while making them view their culture from different perspectives – and art and culture translate these complex themes to practice. At the heart of our European Dimension section is also a strategy to attract the interest of a wide European and international public. In addition, we’ll tell about the cooperation between different countries.
Cultural diversity and the common themes of our cultures
Tampere’s vision for the future is based on equality and sustainable development. Our challenges in Europe are not small, yet we see this as a chance for change. How to live sustainably in cities while still embracing beauty and democratic citizen participation (Hiedanranta Green Deal)? How to provide innovative platforms, safe spaces across generations and nationalities, to talk about our endangered values and a future of hope (Cultural Well-being)? Being Equally European means that Europe is a vital content of our cultural programme. Europe’s concerns are not high politics but daily conversations on a street corner – and our projects will try to prove this. In Pub(lic) Science, we create an innovative platform for low-threshold conversations about Europe’s future – debating about our national vs. European identities, allowing different voices to be heard.
Aspects of equality
One of Europe’s present challenges is that different countries in the EU are taking different stances on such basic European ideals as rule of law and human rights. As a foundational value, equality ties together with the idea of justice for all, and it links closely with human rights. Heureka, The Finnish Science Centre will collaborate with the Council of Europe to produce Rights at Stake exhibition in Tampere – making equality more tangible through human rights. Freedom of Speech -project establishes an international event in Tampere about this heated theme. Russian civic association Open Space will join from 2022 onwards the Freedom of Speech biennial.
Europe needs all of its citizens, and for this accessibility and inclusiveness of culture are crucial. In Tampere, we’re proud pioneers of accessible culture with ACCAC – a movement for Accessible Arts and Culture born in Tampere and now to be upscaled with our Equally European action. ACCAC is our prime example of how we network globally for social and technological innovations for more equal culture (EDAS Tool).
While our gaze is on the future, we also understand how history may be used to understand today’s social divisions and conflicts. Engaging partners from Ireland, Spain, Latvia, and the Serbian ECoC Novi Sad 2022 as well as the Slovak candidate city Žilina 2026 – Rebel in Me will co-create tools for intercultural discussions on civil wars – broadening the theme into social polarisation and overcoming it.
Intercultural dialogue and the younger generations
Tampere’s strong minority languages include not only Swedish and Russian, but also Estonian, Arabic, and Persian. In intercultural exchanges, we connect with not only the diverse cultures in our city and region but also beyond Europe’s borders. With Russia, we cooperate with non-governmental organizations and small organizations, among others. Cooperation with Russia also involves artistic exchanges, with Hands On Music forging links between Tampere, Jönköping (SE) and St. Petersburg (RU), and Mussorgsky Revisited and the Moomin Ice Ballet building artistic crossovers between Finnish and Russian artists and athletes.
In addition to the cultures cited above, Tampere also has Sámi and Roma minorities, among others. Sámi People and Indigenous Arts presents the work of Sámi people to our European audiences through music, film, and soundscapes. Laterna Roma will revive Roma culture through the lively tradition of animation films, bringing the region of Pirkanmaa into the mix.
Europe needs safe public spaces not only for socio-political conversations but also for artistic interchange. Accessible urban platforms will also be provided – reaching different target groups – in Muralismo, Skate-Friendly Cities, and Europe Comes in for Sauna.
Since the future of Europe is in the hands of younger generations, we need to provide them with possibilities to explore the world beyond geographic borders. In Word Bridges, a cooperation with Tartu 2024, children literature professionals will guide children to write and illustrate stories together, co-creating a children’s book and exhibitions between Finland and Estonia. Tampere Urban Performing Game Event brings a broader understanding of common values between generations having a different appreciation of the meaning of Europe, and an understanding of our past and present.
How do we get the general European public interested in Tampere?
Thoroughly shaken by an abiding pandemic, basic human closeness has been put on hold, as is bonding through artistic events. Future ECoCs should be ventures of regeneration – finding ways back to each other, back to cultural life. Arts need to be more than mere entertainment, industry or decadent escape: they need to help recreate the ruptured social fabric.
Tampere has got the tools in the making; the ECoC year is a major chance for testing them together with international artists and audiences. Cultural Societies across Europe as well as European unity on the whole can only recover through rebuilding culture based on the values of equality, accessibility, diversity and sustainability.
Tampere builds its strategy for attracting broad international audiences around four tenets:
PAN-EUROPEAN RELEVANCE OF OUR CONCEPT: Equally European appeals to anyone wanting to have their say in bringing European diversity of cultures back from the Covid crisis.
AN EXPANSIVE, ECLECTIC AND EDGY ARTISTIC PROGRAMME: urban subcultures and environmental art, humour and science, serious discussions and children’s programmes, digital realms and open-air dances – all in the spirit of equality, diversity, accessibility and sustainability where uniquely Tamperean and guest entries from across the globe become Equally European.
CULTURE AND NATURE, LOCAL AND GLOBAL: The pandemic has intensified the already widespread yearning for natural sites to escape the hectic city life. Expansion of cities is causing increasing burdens on nature; we must use arts to make nature heard. Our internationally known artists address general environmental issues through diverse arts.
ENCOUNTERS AND EXPERIENCES OF HUMAN DIVERSITY: far too often, the cultural experiences of old took place in the comfort zone. We bring down the borders between real and digital, established and subcultural, edgy and popular.
Connections between Tampere and other European Capitals of Culture
Strategic cooperation with other Capitals of Culture began in autumn 2020 with a webinar with participants from many past and future Capitals of Culture: Linz 2009, Marseille 2013, Pilsen 2015, Aarhus 2017, Matera 2019 and Tartu 2024.
The twin cities of Tampere and also the future Capitals of Culture are Kaunas 2022, Tartu 2024 and Chemnitz 2025. Cooperation is also established with the following former capitals of culture: Lille 2004, Linz 2009, Pécs 2010, Aarhus 2017, Leeuwarden 2018, Galway 2020 and Umeå 2014. In 2026 it’ll be 10-year-celebration with the theme of the Capital of Culture with Donostia-San Sebastián (2016) and Wrocław (2016).
In addition to the twin cities, Tampere’s partners are Novi Sad 2021/22, Timișoara 2023, Veszprém-Balaton 2023, Bodø 2024, Nova Gorica 2025 and the Latvian Capitals of Culture candidates 2027, Cēsis and Liepāja.
The second Capital of Culture of 2026 will be chosen from Slovakia. Whether it is a choice of Nitra, Trenčín or Žilina, Tampere will collaborate with the chosen city.