Tampere Hall is full of interesting places, and Managing Director Paulina Ahokas has a key that opens them all. Ahokas has steered the largest congress and concert centre in the Nordic Countries since 2012.
When Managing Director Paulina Ahokas takes her guests for a tour at Tampere Hall, she has two places she is particularly keen to show. The first one is the flag storage room that not only serves the needs of this international congress and concert centre, but also rents flags outside the centre. The storage room contains the flag of every nation in the world, and also quite a few flags of nations that no longer exist.
"The storage room is fascinating, when you think about all it stands for. The flags are not, of course, kept here only in storage, but are often flown on the flagpoles of Tampere Hall to celebrate international events. Some of the older flags are also used for example as film props," Ahokas explains.
Internationality is a natural part of every daily life at Tampere Hall. People from all over the world come to attend congresses, international stars perform at concerts and the hall's staff also come from all over the world.
"For example, the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra's musicians come from various different countries, and when a position becomes open, there are always many international applicants," Ahokas says.
On the other hand, Tampere Hall is also strongly local and regional. A significant part of the hall's cultural visitors come from the Tampere Region. Some of the hall's programme is open for all and free-of-charge, and anybody can pop in any time.
"We have tried to highlight the fact that the doors of Tampere Hall are open for all, even when major events are taking place. We also have cafés, free events and a public cultural space, where visitors can enjoy culture without spending any money," Ahokas describes.
The Tampere Hall waste recycling point is the second of Ahokas' favourite spots to show. When guests line up next to the hall's impressive waste collection bin, intended for 21 different waste fractions, it is easy to explain to them that Tampere Hall sorts, recycles and utilises all of its waste thoroughly.
"Environmental issues and communal responsibility in general have always been of the utmost importance to us, and we were among the first congress centres in the world to draw up an environmental programme back in 1992. Since then, we have continually been developing our environmental operations, but I was just reading the 1992 programme and realised it is still quite current," Ahokas says.
Tampere Hall is also the first congress centre in the Nordic Countries to receive the Nordic Ecolabel. The label shows that the hall meets strict sustainable development criteria and is still ready to further improve its operations.
Which part of the hall is dearest to the heart of its Managing Director? Ahokas does not need to consider the answer for a second.
"The Main Auditorium really is a powerful place. I get goose bumps just thinking about the size of the audience, the anticipation, the applause..."
And no wonder. One night, the Main Auditorium may host a full-length classical music concert, and the next be filled with the sounds of heavy music, to be followed with the tunes of folk music. And so on.
Last year, Tampere Hall hosted 689 different events, which is an all time record. The number includes congress and cultural events, which can simultaneously bring a very diverse group of visitors under the hall's roof.
"During one day, we may host a sold-out opera we have produced ourselves in the Main Auditorium, and a winter vacation event for children and teenagers in the Park Hall. In addition, our congress rooms may host up to 20 different groups going about their business," Ahokas explains.
One day, the Managing Director's key will also open the door to Moominvalley, as in 2016, the Moomin collection given to the city of Tampere by artist Tove Jansson will be showcased in Tampere Hall. The collection includes some 2,000 original illustrations and 3D scenes.
"There are fantastic Moomin locations all over the world, but this is the only place where you can see the originals. Our Moominvalley will be unique and will provide great new content for our visitors. I am sure the Moomins will find new fans from among our visitors too," smiles Ahokas.
The Moomins are already a part of Ahokas' daily life, as she explains the last time she read a Moomin book to her child was the morning of our interview. To conclude our time together, I decide to ask her the classic question: which of the Moomin characters does she most relate to?
"Little My. Obviously."
Photos: Mukbil Pulcu