Brave Hinterland: Nature town Kuusamo

Kuusamo, on the eastern border of Finland, has become a meeting place for both nature and animals as well as people from all directions. Kuusamo is one of the most visited nature town in Finland. Unique nature of Kuusamo offers many possibilities to find a little explorer and great nature person inside you.

Kuusamo lies in Koillismaa, in the north-east corner of the old Oulu province. Kuusamo community centre is 217 kilometres from Oulu, 195 from Rovaniemi and 245 from Kajaani.

A flight from Kuusamo to Helsinki takes less than an hour and a drive from Kuusamo to Oulu two and a half. Kuusamo is also one of the snowiest areas in Finland with snow cover up to 80–90 centimetres.

Ruka is the most popular ski resort in Finland. 

In the third episode of the program series Brave Hinterland, Katariina van Earle went to explore Kuusamo’s history, present and the future.

(text in English)

This programme is the second part of the Brave Hinterland series commissioned by the Oulu2026. The programme is subtitled in Finnish and English.

The script and production of the program is the responsibility of the Oulu Cultural Events Association. The episode was filmed and edited by Saha Prod. The program is subtitled in Finnish and English.

Brave Hinterland program episodes

University Campuses will be filled with culture in 2026 – program proposals are being accepted now!

yellow wall from university of oulu
Have you dreamed of a more lively university campus? Would you like to be able to enjoy the cultural activities also during the working day, for example during the lunch hour? Could the campuses of the University of Oulu offer an attractive cultural program in the evenings, which would encourage the members of our community to come to the campuses even after studying and working?

Creative Campus project is now looking for imaginative event ideas and enthusiastic cultural creators, with which we can together enliven our university in the European Capital of Culture year 2026.

Send your ideas by filling out the attached questionnaire: https://link.webropol.com/s/Oulu2026CampusAsAStage.

Event ideas are accepted until 31 March 2023. Uniresta’s coffee tickets will be drawn among the respondents.

The University of Oulu and OYY participate in the Oulu Capital of Culture Year program with their joint Creative Campus project, whose events consist not only of established events but also of new event concepts. One of the event concepts to be published in 2026 will be the Campus as a Stage event series. The aim of this event series is to open the community and interaction spaces of the University of Oulu’s campuses to the use of cultural actors for, among other things, concerts, performances and art exhibitions. The purpose of Campus as a Stage events is to strengthen community and well-being, and to bring culture closer to the everyday life of our university community.

Frozen People – electronic music festival 4th March

Frozen People

Dance the frost away 4th March!

Frozen People is a festival of electronic music as well as northern arts and wintry style. The unique event defies the weather conditions in winter on the sea ice. The festival will take place on the 4th of March 2023 at Nallikari beach area in Oulu.

It’s time to start preparing for the most freezing event in Oulu: create your own arctic style, invite your friends and get ready to dance frost away!

Frozen People is part of the official culture program of the Oulu2026 – European Capital of Culture. Entry to the festival is free of charge.

Read more:
Frozen People | Oulu Urban Culture

Northern Lights

Finland is one of the best places in the world for viewing Northern Lights (aurora borealis). The probability of catching them is highest in Lapland but Oulu is not far behind. According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, we can see Northern Lights about 25% of the nights here – as long as there’s darkness and there are no clouds in the sky.

In the summer the sky doesn’t get dark enough in Finland to see auroras. At midsummer the Sun barely touches the horizon in Oulu. But in September darkness begins to overpower light, opening a window of opportunity to watch Northern Lights in Oulu all the way to April.

And what a spectacle we can enjoy here when the lights arrive, swirling and dancing. Sometimes they look like curtains, other times they’re like long trails in the sky. Most of the time they’re green, but sometimes they’re red or purple.

What causes this beautiful natural phenomenon? Here’s an explanation by Thomas Kast, a professional photographer and tour guide based in Oulu who specialises in taking photos of the Northern Lights.

“Northern Lights occur when eruptions on the Sun release charged particles into space that interact with the Earth’s atmosphere. The results of these collisions are glowing emissions that are visible on clear nights around the Arctic Circle.”

Oulu is located about 200 km south of the Arctic Circle. To residents’ and visitors’ delight, auroras have been occurring at an increasing frequency recently. What’s the reason for that?

“It’s got to do with the solar cycle,” says Thomas Kast. “The Sun has an 11-year cycle that includes passing through a Solar Maximum and a Solar Minimum. There are more Northern Lights during Solar Maximum, the next of which is in 2026. It’s a lucky coincidence that it’s the same year when Oulu is Europe’s Culture Capital. We can expect to see a lot of Northern Lights that  year.

“It’s only 2023 but we have already started seeing more Northern Lights in Oulu as they tend to occur increasingly frequently at either side of the Solar Maximum.”

Thomas Kast has joined forces with Tietomaa, Oulu’s Science Centre, to create a Northern Lights project that’s part of Oulu2026’s cultural programme.

“The title of the project is Aurora Revelare and it consists of two parts: one is an interactive exhibition in Tietomaa that will cover the scientific and cultural aspects of Northern Lights. For instance, we’ll explore what Northern Lights mean in different Sami cultures, what myths and traditions are related to them. We’ll also give tips to people on how to find Northern Lights and how to interpret space weather forecasts.

“The second part of the project is to take people out to nature to hunt the lights. There will be evening tours in the Oulu area and also longer ones taking two to three days when we travel north and east of Oulu, but still stay in the Oulu2026 area.”

And what’s Thomas’ best tip for people who can’t wait for the tours in 2026 and want to see Northern Lights in Oulu now?

“Get out of the city centre. Find a place away from street lights, ideally a field or a meadow or a river, facing north. My favourite spots are places along the river where the water doesn’t freeze. I love reflections of the Northern Lights on water. They’re so beautiful.”

ISES RWC Finland provides real-time information on Northern Lights in Finland.

Text and video by Erika Benke

Nearly 300 projects submitted in the Oulu2026 Open Call

Oulu is a 2026 European Capital of Culture. The Oulu2026 cultural programme is mainly built through a series of Open Calls, the second of which closed on 9 December. In total, 274 applications from Finland and 20 other countries were received.

open call i2022 results infographic

Oulu and the entire northern region of Finland will be filled with culture, art and events in the coming years. Northern Finland will emerge on the world map in an unprecedented way as Finnish and international cultural talents create a completely new programme in cities, the countryside and nature. The Capital of Culture project is a journey of several years, culminating in 2026.

“The first Open Call was open to everyone and took place during the European Capital of Culture bidding phase. The proposals we received at that stage were really ambitious and formed the basis for our Bid Book. I am delighted by the huge number of applications we have received through our most recent Open Call, and we are very excited to go through all the applications with our external evaluators,” says Samu Forsblom, Oulu2026 Programme Director, Oulu Culture Foundation.

The main theme of the culture programme is Cultural Climate Change. The culture programme is further divided into three main programme themes: Brave Hinterland, Wild City, and Cool Contrasts. The Open Call targeted projects with a far-reaching impact around these themes, requiring a longer time, even years, to prepare and realise. The “We are the Culture” Open Call for short-term, stand-alone community events and projects will open closer to 2026.

The Capital of Culture brings Europe together  

The Open Call was open to international applicants and proposals were received from 20 countries in addition to Finland. Some 90 percent of the proposals came from Finland, with 65 percent of these from the Oulu2026 region, and the remaining 35 percent from areas throughout the country, including Helsinki.

“One of the tasks of the Capitals of Culture is to promote collaboration between artistic and cultural creators in Europe. The cultural programme offers a platform for building an inspiring future for the North with a European dimension. I believe that, right now, the world needs cooperation much more than

separation,” says Forsblom.

The projects applied for a total sum of EUR 47,309,960 in co-funding. For the present Open Call, Oulu Culture Foundation has allocated co-funding worth EUR 5 million.

“The total sum of funding applied is nearly ten times the amount we have available. This shows that Northern Finland has more than enough creative potential to build a much wider cultural offering than is currently the case and that there is a demand for additional funding outside the framework of the Capital of Culture,” says Piia Rantala-Korhonen, CEO, Oulu2026, Oulu Culture Foundation.

The Oulu2026 team met with nearly 1,000 potential applicants in various events during the Open Call. The webinars concerning the Open Call process were registered by 700 persons, in addition to which face-to-face and online helpdesk clinics were also arranged.

The funding decisions will be announced by 31 May 2023.

Further information:

Samu Forsblom, Programme Director
Oulu Culture Foundation, Oulu2026
+358 (0)44 703 7558

Health and wellbeing – naturally

The Arctic Food Lab community keeps growing and has most recently been joined by the farm Linnunradan tila (Milky way’s farm) from Tyrnävä. The farm specialises in growing hemp and raising alpacas. Among its Arctic Food Lab products are food products homemade in Kempele and bakery goods made using hemp and sold at the farm café, which is open during the high season. Entrepreneur Sanna Siira says she developed the idea by herself.


The farm shop Sateen Tupa is open as agreed, during events and the seasonal cafés, the Summer Café and the Winter Café, are open during high season. The Christmas café in Sateen Tupa shop is open on Sundays 27 Nov and 11 Dec 12pm–2pm and during the Christmas week on Wednesday 21 Dec and Thursday 22 Dec 12pm–2pm.

Siira says the idea behind her farm Linnunradan tila came from her own interests. Hemp cultivation is ecological and offers an efficient way of binding carbon. All parts of the plant can be utilised by various industries.

“Both hemp as a plant and alpaca as an animal are very ecological species to grow and produce and support the principles of sustainable development.”

Besides producing wool and serving as a therapeutic animal, alpaca can also be used in natural and effective landscape management. Through animal-assisted activities, alpacas bring joy and new experiences to people.  Siira says both hemp and alpacas support human health and wellbeing in a most natural way.

“My love of nature and animals is at the core of my business. When you are passionate about something, your story will be authentic and interesting. There is very little training available specifically on these two species, only on the more general level of farming, product development, service design and animal care. Being an entrepreneur has as such taught me a lot.”

Book a visit to walk with the farm alpacas!

Siira has originally trained as a designer and she also holds a master’s degree in the arts from the University of Lapland and a rural entrepreneur qualification. She says her journey has sometimes been one of a fighting windmill but she has never lost her passion.

“The prejudices against hemp products only show how important it is to share facts and information.  I feel I’ve been a pioneer in this field in Finland. Alpaca is also a relative new animal in Finland and as an alpaca farmer it is my task and responsibility to support others to understand the natural behaviours of the alpaca.”

From field to table

Siira’s products awarded the Arctic Food Lab label include cold pressed hempseed oil, whole hemp seeds, hemp meal and Sira’s hemp and apple granola. The seasonal cafés serve bakery goods made with hemp, such as hemp rolls, hemp seed crispbread and garlic hemp oil for a garnish. The growing season for hemp is long and it makes efficient use of the light northern nights. Linnunradan tila is a family farm with an artisanal approach to production: oils are pressed to demand to ensure that it is always fresh and of the highest possible quality.

“It is the quality and taste that make our products so unique. We have received positive feedback for the mild and soft nutty flavour of our hemp oil. The hemp variety (Finola) has been developed here in the north, under the arctic sun, which gives the products a unique taste.”

The company cultivates the hemp in Tyrnävä and all products are handmade in Kempele. Siira says the company is in charge of all aspects of production including the product development, visual identity, marketing, advertising and sales as well as deliveries.

“We control the entire chain from field to table. We work with a select group of local collaboration partners, who use our hemp food products in preparing their products. In our café products, for example, we use locally produced or at least Finnish ingredients whenever possible.”

Our products are deeply local in character. The raw materials are produced and processed locally. The company also aims to source all packaging, labels and other additional materials locally. They also invested a few years ago in a new building to house the café and farm shop as well as the food production facilities.

“The building is made of Finnish timber and built by local builders. We prioritise local and Finnish producers and partners in everything we do.”

Genuinely local

Even though the use of domestic raw materials or services can increase production costs for certain products, Siira is committed to delivering the highest possible quality and supporting local enterprises.

“Locally produces food is clean and authentic. In other words, you know where something was made and produced and by whom. The chain is transparent, and one should also not forget the importance of ensuring that Finland remains self-sufficient.”

For Siira, the purpose of using and displaying the Arctic Food Label on products is to immediately tell the customers that the products are authentic and locally made. The label promotes local and Finnish work and production. Siira hopes that the label is a strong enough signal to steer the choice of the customer towards the labelled products.

“I also want the label to communicate that the product and service has been created here, in our unique Arctic environment. It also speaks to our respect of nature, that our production is carefully thought out and the entire production chain of our products is sustainable.”

Siira hopes to see the local food culture develop so that local ingredients would become an even more prominent part of the offering in companies and public organisations such as the meals served in schools, nurseries and workplaces.

“I want to see us favour Finnish work even more and to forage and utilise natural herbs to a greater extent.”

In addition to the farm shop, the products of Linnunradan tila are also available through the Reko network of local food companies and Pohjolan Lähiruoka online shop as well as various local retailers from Raahe to Kello.

Linnunradan-tila (linnunradantila.fi)
Alpacafarm visit and walk in forest – Kempele 

The Arctic Food Lab offers northern Finnish flavours and experiences. It is a brand dedicated to the food of northern Finland showcasing products and ingredients grown and produced in the region. The Arctic Food Lab programme shows the richness of northern Finnish cuisine and the vast potential of the pure, Arctic ingredients through local high-quality, uncompromising expertise. Look for the Arctic Food Lab label on packaging and products in restaurants and shops. The Arctic Food Lab label helps visitors from near and far recognise and learn about locally produced food and the local food culture. The Arctic Food Lab is part of the Oulu 2026 European Capital of Culture programme. Want to know more? Contact Niina Keränen