The Sound of the North route takes you through the different eras of popular music in Oulu

“The Sound of the North – tracing the origins of popular music” is a digital story route that can be experienced throughout Oulu using your own mobile device. The permanent route, which will be published on 10 April, is part of the Oulu region’s journey towards becoming the European Capital of Culture in 2026.

Kuusrock Festival in the beginning the 1970’s. (Photo: archive of Kaleva newspaper)

Ten nostalgic short stories tell about the phenomena, waves, places and people of popular music in Oulu. The stories were written and are narrated by musician Esa “Katz” Nissi from the band Radiopuhelimet. On the route’s map, the stories are placed close to their actual locations and can either be read or listened to.

“Rattori Club was no more, and the rock folk dispersed all over town”

The vivid stories of the Sound of the North route take you from Kuusrock to Air Guitar World Championships and from Rauhala to NuKu’s discos. Rattori-Lupi, Metal City, Leipätehdas, 45 Special, the Madetoja Music High School and the paska kaupunni (“shitty city”, misspelled) graffiti each also have their own stories.

Many of the places and phenomena in the stories were already familiar to their writer, Esa Nissi. Nissi describes his work as very interesting, but also challenging due to the scope of the topic.

“Of course, I was aware of how multidimensional popular music is in Oulu. The theme could easily warrant a more extensive review, but we wanted to keep the stories concise. A lot of interesting things had to be left out. This part was the biggest challenge in the writing,” says Nissi.

In addition to Nissi’s stories, the route also includes interviews that take the listener even deeper into the world of northern popular music. Views and memories are shared by Kuusrock’s founder Markku Hänninen, Vesa Ranta from the band Sentenced, doorman legend Jorma Karhumaa, Jarno Mällinen from Radiopuhelimet, Petri Sirviö from Mieskuoro Huutajat, event expert Taina Ronkainen, youth work veteran Paula Kariniemi, 45 Special’s Ilpo and Roope Sulkala, student Ella Huttunen from Madetoja music school and Marlene Hyyppä, expert in Oulu’s underground culture.

The route map is published on the Northern Stories – Oulu2026 website. You can also find the route and stories by scanning the QR code on tiles found in the centre of Oulu. Each story is independent and they can be experienced in any order. The stories can also be found on the above-mentioned website.

The stories on the Sound of the North route are available in Finnish, English, Swedish and easy Finnish. The in-depth interviews are available in Finnish and dubbed in English.

The route will remain on the streets for people to experience and is part of Oulu’s journey towards becoming the European Capital of Culture in 2026.

Northern Stories

“The Sound of the North – tracing the origins of popular music” is the second pilot of the Northern Stories project. The content is produced by Filmbutik Oulu.

The first pilot of the project, The Tales of Tar route, was launched in November 2023 and additional stories have been added recently. The project is being implemented by Oulu Culture Foundation. The aim is to develop new ways of creating several themed routes with user-friendly mobile technology in the Oulu2026 European Capital of Culture area.

Highlighting the region’s cultural heritage and offering experiences free of charge strengthens the local identity of residents in their everyday environments and creates tourist attractions. The stories have been mapped and collected together with experts and local residents. The routes will be developed further on the basis of observations and feedback.

The project will end in April 2024, but the routes will remain active. The final report of the project will be published in spring 2024.

Implementer of the project: Oulu Culture Foundation, main financier: Council of Oulu Region

Project implementation period: 1 March 2023–30 April 2024

The artist for the third Oulu2026 mural is being sought in a Europe-wide open call

Artists participating in the open call can send their portfolios from March 27 to April 17 of 2024 and the selected artist will receive an invitation to work in Oulu’s Myllyoja next summer.

Upeart is implementing a series of murals in the Oulu region as part of the Oulu2026 cultural program, with new artworks being completed annually on the way to the European Capital of Culture year 2026. The locations for the artworks are selected through annual voting open to all Oulu residents. This year’s mural will be created in Myllyoja, to a six-story building at Karvarinaukio 12.

The artist will be selected through an open call for portfolios aimed at European professional artists.

“The purpose of the European-wide open call is to bring cultural exchange and diversity to the project. The first open call was a global search from which we selected artists for 2022 and 2023. This year’s open call is targeted to Europe,” explains Upeart’s art coordinator Yiorgos Slunga.

The open call starts on March 27 and ends on April 17, 2024. European professional artists over 18 years old can participate in the open call. In addition to covering expenses, the selected artist will be rewarded a 10,000 € artist fee. Detailed information about the location, participation instructions, and the rules of the open call can be found at www.upeart.com/oulu2026.

The artist selection is done by a professional jury consisting of curator Katariina Kemppainen from Oulu Art Museum, producer Inka Hyvönen from Oulu Culture Foundation, art coordinator Yiorgos Slunga from Upeart, and an artist member who will be announced later.

The artist invited to Oulu will start their work in Myllyoja, where they will meet with residents and look for a theme for the artwork. In 2023 Canadian artist Ilana Pichon created “Ovensuussa” (By the Door) to Tuira and in 2022 British artist Eloise Gillow created “Käännekohta” (Turning Point) to Rajakylä.

“For 2025 we are looking to work with a partner and create an artist exchange. This means in 2025 we are inviting an artist to Oulu, but in 2026 an artist from Oulu will receive a similar invitation. The artist search for the Capital of Culture year 2026 will be targeted to Finland and the artwork will be created in the central area of Oulu,” explains Slunga about the plans for the coming years.

Oulu is the European Capital of Culture for the year 2026. Oulu and the entire northern Finland will be filled with culture, art, and events in the coming years. Northern Finland will rise on the world map in an unprecedented way, as Finnish and international cultural talents create something new in cities, in the countryside, and in nature. This journey spans several years and will culminate in the year 2026.

Additional information:

+358 50 468 6521

The search for artists for the Oulu2026 stage at the Qstock festival has started

The Oulu2026 stage, which highlights artists and bands from the Oulu region, returns to the Qstock festival programme. The search is now open for stage performers for the free-admission area of Linnansaari, near the centre of Oulu.

Kos Mos performed at the Oulu2026 stage in Qstock in the summer of 2023. Photo: Topi Paananen


We are looking for fresh, diverse and forward-thinking artists from the Oulu region for the Oulu2026 stage. The application period ends on 1 March, after which the selections will be made by the artists’ working group assembled by Oulu2026. The application form is available on the Oulu2026 website. The Oulu2026 stage will feature about a dozen performances over two days. Last year, we had a total of 80 applicants.

“Linnansaari is a fantastic place for the Oulu2026 stage, and last year showed that it is a great way to introduce local music to the Qstock audience. We are hoping for a wide range of applications from artists in the region,” says Henri Turunen, executive producer at Oulu2026.

Turunen adds that the stage programme is part of Qstock’s full festival programme, even though the stage will feature up-and-coming stars free of charge. Performing on the stage is therefore a great opportunity to showcase the diverse musical expertise of the Oulu region to the festival audience as well as other locals and visitors.

Qstock will take place on 26–27 July in the Kuusisaari, Raati and Linnansaari areas. The festival is once again expected to attract around 40,000 visitors over the course of two days. The Oulu2026 stage is part of Oulu’s journey to becoming the European Capital of Culture in 2026. Radio Kaleva will also be present in Linnansaari this year, so the weekend’s festivities can also be followed on the radio.

The application form for artists can be found at this link: Link to form.

Oulu2026 is almost here!

Author Piia Rantala-Korhonen is CEO of the Oulu Culture Foundation responsible for organising Oulu2026.

The Oulu2026 Capital of Culture year is just two years away!

Based on previous Capital of Culture years, we know that the busiest years of preparation lie ahead.

In 2026, thousands of cultural events will take place in Oulu and 39 other municipalities, and we expect around two million visitors during the year. The events will bring new customers to companies and employ professionals from a wide range of industries. A successful Capital of Culture year will increase the vitality of the entire region.

Culture experienced together connects people and builds mutual trust. This social capital will help us face the challenges of the future – together, we can do anything!

Over 100 local, national and international top productions have already been selected for the culture programme. Due to the abundance of events, some of them will take place in surprising and interesting locations in addition to traditional cultural institutions. Most of the programme will be free of charge.

The programme will be supplemented with the Me olemme kulttuuria – We are culture programme search, which will open in autumn 2024. We welcome all local residents to join us in building the 2026 culture programme. We are cooperating with local companies, which benefits both the culture programme and the companies.

The programme work shifts into a new gear as the plans for large productions are refined and move into the production phase. Communications and marketing are gradually being expanded to cover the whole of Europe. We are cooperating with Finnish embassies and cultural institutes in Europe to gain broad visibility for the culture programme.

In 2024, we will already be getting a taste of what’s to come. Next summer, a new wall painting will be finished in Myllyoja, and the Oulu2026 stage will welcome future stars. In September, the Oulu region will offer affordable culinary experiences. November is the month of light, inspiring events across the entire Oulu2026 region.

We are all needed for a successful implementation in 2026! This year, we are launching a volunteer programme that offers everyone interesting ways to get involved in the implementation of the culture programme. Now is the time to look at your own home region with love, and to share with others the unique things you can see and experience here at the northern edge of Europe.

In February, the next President of the Republic of Finland will be elected. As soon as the results of the elections are announced, they will be sent an invitation to the Oulu2026 opening ceremony in January 2026.

Who are you going to invite to the opening ceremony?

Frozen People: Open Call

FROZEN PEOPLE is a festival of electronic music, northern art and wintry style. The event takes place on the frozen sea at Nallikari (Oulu) on the 2nd of March 2024 from 14:00 to 22:00. This free-to-enter festival is produced by Oulu Urban Culture and is part of the cultural program of the Oulu2026 European Capital of Culture. The organizers are now looking for enthusiastic artists to implement the art program.

The festival features electronic music artists and DJs. The organizers are looking for implementations that are not disturbed by the music being played at the festival. The artworks can be, for example, visual implementations, installations or participatory community art. This year the area will also have a second stage for performances requiring a sound system. The implementer can also be a self-taught artist or a DIY-oriented group.

It would be preferable if the artists could produce eco-friendly installations that will leave the area clean after the festival. The artwork must withstand windy, cold weather conditions and not cause danger to the audience. The work must be attached to the ice if the structure is light and it has a risk of falling over in a strong wind. The organizers will provide ice screws and cargo straps, which can be used to attach the work safely.

The open call ends on Sunday, the 14th of January 2024 at 4 pm.

You can find more information and the application form can be found at Oulu Urban Culture’s website.

Frozen People -festivaali

The sustainable event production guide has been published

The sustainable event production guide, which encourages the ecological sustainability of event production, has been published on the official website of Oulu: The Sustainable Event Production Guide – Oulu

The guide supports the responsible organization of events in the Oulu region, ensuring that the events are as carbon-neutral as possible during the European Capital of Culture year in 2026.

The guide for sustainable event production is divided into two parts: firstly, guidance and tips for environmentally friendly event organization are presented, covering various aspects of event production. Choices that are less taxing for the environment can be made at every stage, from selecting the event venue to travel, catering service choices, waste management, and procurement. Additionally, the guide includes links to sustainable development goals, regulatory systems, online tools, and the websites or reports of organizations and communities sharing good sustainability practices.

The second part of the guide presents innovation tests conducted at events, exploring how carbon dioxide emissions from events can be reduced through creative inventions. Over two years, the electronic music Solstice festival in Kuusamo developed a recycling system. The Helsinki-based Caracara Collective ultimately succeeded in recycling 80% of all waste generated at the festival, creating art and festival structures from recycled plastic, among other accomplishments

At the Frozen People event, a hybrid power plant was tested in March 2022. Photo: Janne Käpylehto

At the Frozen People event, a hybrid power plant was tested in March 2022. Photo: Janne Käpylehto

Argentinian-Italian architect Valentino Tignanelli designed pavilions from construction waste for the Varjo Festival. They protected the audience from the sun’s heat on Kuusisaari last summer and, after the festival, gained a new life: they now serve as small public saunas in the backyard of Hailuoto Brewery’s Mallassauna in Pikisaaari.

Valentino Tignanelli and Taina Ronkainen at the Varjo Festival in 2023. Photo: Kapina Oy.

Valentino Tignanelli and Taina Ronkainen at the Varjo Festival in 2023. Photo: Kapina Oy.

The guidebook has been compiled as part of Europe’s most sustainable cultural capital project, which sought tools for reducing event emissions. Europe’s most sustainable cultural capital project was carried out in the Events Unit of the City of Oulu and received funding from the European Regional Development Fund ERDF by the Regional Council of Northern Ostrobothnia in the years 2019–2023.

For more information:

Project Manager Taina Ronkainen, taina.ronkainen@ouka.fi, +358 40 6211249

Project Coordinator Antti Takalo, antti.takalo@ouka.fi, +358 40 4196605