International project needs international experts. Picture from Tampere Jazz Happening. Photo: Kari Savolainen

Yle: Finnish candidates compete for the title of Capital of Culture in different ways

Savonlinna is applying for the European Capital of Culture entirely alone. Oulu is seeking help from consultant Neil Peterson. The best known of Tampere’s international advisors is Ulrich Fuchs.

Yle published Jonni Aromaa’s in-depth article on the application process for Savonlinna, Oulu and Tampere to become the European Capital of Culture.

According to Yle, the status of the European Capital of Culture is worth pursuing, because the title is profitable:

“It brings international visibility, investment, tourists, state and municipal money and EU support, and often socio-economic change that can benefit the whole region around the Capital of Culture in the future. It’s not just about art and culture, but a much bigger and wider package. put all their input into making the application book”, the article states.

The three applicants approach the process in very different ways.

Savonlinna is building its “Saimaa phenomenon” entirely on its own, says Sari Kaasinen, Savonlinna’s project manager, in the article.

Oulu, on the other hand, has relied on its consultant Neil Peterson. Peterson was once making Liverpool the European Capital of Culture. Since then, he and his Inside Track office have helped other cities, in addition to Oulu, e.g. Kaunas, which is the capital of culture in 2022. However, Oulu claims to do its actual application book alone.

Of the three applicants, Tampere uses the most European experts. The most famous of these is Ulrich Fuchs, who has previously been program director in Linz and Marseille when they were Capitals of Culture.

Yle’s article takes a critical look on consultants. The story refers to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which even talked about the “old boy network” of advisors. The magazine’s position could, of course, be influenced by the fact that Nuremberg did not win in the German competition for the title of ECoC.

Violeta Simjanovska, subject director of the University of the Arts Helsinki, says of the consultants that “I don’t know of any city that would have received the status of Capital of Culture without them”. At the same time, he recalls that the Capital of Culture institution has been criticized for its transparency.

“A more international project than ever”

Why does Tampere use European consultants, project director Perttu Pesä?

“It was clear that the best possible experts need to be recruited for this process. This is a significant project for Tampere and the region of Pirkanmaa, worth tens of millions of euros. We have good content that we need to know how to sell to the selection panel. This opportunity cannot be missed now.

Really not all wisdom lives in Pirkanmaa and the Tampere city office building. We need international know-how on how to win this race.

“Our actual team itself also includes three people whose native tongue is not Finnish. The thing is now that we are working in a more international environment, with a more international project and with more international requirements than ever before. That is the essential thing.”

How did you choose advisors?

“Advisors in the ECoC competition are a narrow market. A bit like the market for the Finnish Ice Hockey League coaches. You have to try to find the best for that team through background research. We feel like we succeeded in choosing the coaches.”

What is their role in making the application?

“We call advisors our critical friends. Their role has been our sparring.”

“The main content of the application book, ie the cultural program and cultural strategy, is of course made here in Tampere and Pirkanmaa by the team, the consultants cannot help in that.”

“Our most essential consultant may actually be found within the team. The artistic management team of the search includes Pauli Sivonen, the director of the Serlachius Museums, who for a long time was the only Finn to have been a regular member of the jury that selects the European Capitals of Culture. His role is significant, and as a member of the team, he also has a significant role in the content of the bid book. “