Tampere Region Festivals! Something unique in Finland and on an unusually large scale, even by European standards. Annamaija Saarela, an expert in the field of culture, has been at the helm of the Tampere Region cultural festival network since February.
Annamaija Saarela became dedicated to festival work back in the early 1990s when she first got involved in the Tampere Jazz Happening, initially as a substitute for the office secretary.
- It was also there that my final awakening to jazz occurred: this is music that really feels like your own, says Annamaija.
Jazz, music, culture and events have continued to be significant factors in Annamaija’s life. Her new enlistment as Executive Director of Tampere Region Festivals ry or Pirfest largely entails administration, finance and supervisory tasks. 37 festivals from all over the Tampere region and all fields of art are involved in the network: music, theatre, literature, visual arts…
- I have complete faith in networking and in our festivals. Many may consider administrative tasks to be a little dull, but administration is just one part of what keeps things moving and at the centre of attention – and often it also needs quite a bit of creativity, says Annamaija.
Pirfest’s member festivals are networked in production-related co-operation, for example through joint marketing. Each festival comes up with its own artistic solutions itself.
Photo: Kari Savolainen
In summer, festival life in the Tampere Region is particularly lively, but events take place all year round. Annamaija considers the cluster of good festivals a local speciality and strongpoint of the region.
- Studies show that the quality of what is on offer is good, the events have received high praise and visitors are happy to recommend the festivals to people they know, she says.
This research information is new as Pirfest has just published an extensive study of its visitors. It shows that festivals and cultural sites are significant to the regional economy and are clearly crowd-pullers in the Tampere Region. In practice too, the quality of the festivals is evident, for example in the fact that they have many regular visitors and the grapevine brings many new ones to the events.
Never a dull moment
Managing Pirfest is Annamaija Saarela’s daily work, but at other times she is also busy with her own cultural promotion company Annamaija Music Company and as chairperson of the European Jazz Network. Sometimes her thoughts turn to Northern Ostrobothnia and Raahen Rantajatsit (a.k.a. Jazz on the Beach festival), as Annamaija is the event’s Festival Director.
- I get strength from things like this, being able to do more work at grassroots level and with music. Common to all my work, however, is a desire to improve the position and accessibility of art and culture, she says.
Doing things she really enjoys, she can easily spend a day or two working from dawn to dusk. Sometimes she also has to remember to take some days off.
- Long cycle rides are a good way of emptying my head, for example, from Tampere to Helvetinjärvi National Park, spending the night there and then coming back. That’s a great trek, laughs Annamaija.
From cycling, her thoughts turn easily back to culture as she sometimes also makes cycling trips to festivals. This gives her an idea for cultural tourism: how about themed cycling tours to the cultural festivals of the Tampere Region?
Pirkanmaan Festivaalit ry www.pirfest.fi
Annamaija Saarela www.annamaijacompany.fi/en/Annamaija%20Saarela/
Read this article in Finnish on tampereenseudunvetovoima.fi/visit-tampere/taiteen-ja-kulttuurin-asialla