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.

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

Oulu powers up Lumo Light Festival to delight visitors with spectacular visual art despite energy crisis


In 2022, Lumo Light Festival brought light to Oulu for the tenth year.

There were 20 fascinating light installations on show in the city centre and Hupisaaret Park from November 18 to November 20, drawing an estimated one hundred thousand visitors.

Most people would probably agree that beautiful light art has the power to boost morale in the darkest time of the year in northern Finland.

But some have been wondering if it was a good idea to stage a light festival during a major energy crisis.

It may come as a surprise to many people that Lumo’s electricity costs were remarkably low.

“Last year we used 950 kWh of electricity over the three days of the festival which was a bit lower than the monthly consumption of a detached house that uses electricity as a source of heating,” says Jarkko Halunen, Head of Programme for Lumo.

“When people visit Lumo, they switch off the lights, the TV and other electrical appliances at home, thus saving energy.

“Therefore it’s possible that the city’s overall energy consumption was lower during the festival than it would have been without it,” Halunen argues.

At the time of writing this article, the exact figure for Lumo 2022’s electricity consumption was not yet available. But Halunen expected it to be roughly the same as it was in 2021.

“Come and Enjoy”

“Lumo is the brightest, lightest, happiest festival in Oulu,” says Anna Lanas, producer for Lumo Light Festival.

She says the organisers’ goal is simple: they want people to come and enjoy the installations.

“The mission will be the same in 2026 when Lumo will be a big part of Oulu2026’s cultural programme,” adds Halunen.

The organisers are understandably reluctant to reveal detailed plans but there’s already plenty of buzz about Lumo 2026.

“We’re working on some great plans. Lumo will be big and wonderful in 2026,” adds Lanas with a smile.

A feel-good festival that’s accessible to all

“The end of November is the hardest time of the year for many people. It’s dark and usually there’s not much snow yet. People are getting tired of spending too much time indoors and not having very much to do outside,” says Halunen.

One of Lumo’s artists couldn’t agree more.

“The end of November is so dark and dismal that the light and the spectacle of Lumo really enhances people’s lives,” says John Collingswood, a British artist based in Oulu who’s built an installation for seven Lumo festivals over the years.

“I think the best thing about Lumo is the sheer volume of people; the crowds who make an effort to come and see the installations,” Collingswood says.

According to Jarkko Halunen, the secret of Lumo’s popularity is  its accessibility.

“Lumo is for everybody. It’s a free event: people can come and go as they wish and they can pick and choose to experience parts of the festival that they like. It’s accessible to people from different backgrounds, children and elderly people alike,” Halunen explains.

Anna Lanas points out that in 2022 Lumo was even more significant than in it was in earlier years.

“At a time when there’s crisis after crisis in the world, with covid19 and a war in Europe, Lumo is needed more than ever.

Light art is fascinating. It can give great joy and happiness to people at a time when happiness is really needed.”