Kaupunkifoorumi (City Forum) was organised in Oulu on 12.-13.10., and it gathered a noted crowd of experts to discuss the development of cities and city centres. Themes of the forum were international interaction’s new order, future of city centres, and sustainable economies where cities are the drivers of change.
The Mayor of Oulu, Päivi Laajala’s opening words were followed by Minister Krista Mikkonen who reminded the attendees about the significant role cities have in surviving from the pandemic.
–Cities’ innovativeness, development capabilities and the opportunity make fast movements are now in an important position. Coronavirus affected the typical services formats and city centres went quiet, the distress of the cultural industry grew, and surrounding nature became even more meaningful to people, Mikkonen said.
A Lovely City for People
Professor of Urban Geography at the University of Helsinki, Mari Vaattovaara, addressed in her speech the state of city development. Vaattovaara had a message to cities and said that cities’ task is to further the wellbeing of its citizens, and to organise it in a way that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. Vaattovaara questioned the current construction trend of building small apartments and high-rises where the view is the wall of the high-rise next door.
–Quality of the surrounding environment cannot be emphasised enough, Vaattovaara said.
Addition to Vaattovaara, the panel consisted of Director General at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment Marja-Riitta Pihlman, Mayor of Lahti Pekka Timonen, and Chief Executive Officer of the Mortgage Society of Finland Ari Pauna. The panel was moderated by Piia Pasanen. Timonen praised Vaattovaara’s goal about a lovely city for everyone and said that the positives of Lahti are its urbanity, and that surrounding nature begins right from the back door.
–The city must have something enchanting that attracts you to the city centre. One must ask whether it is good to be here, said Timonen.
Other topics that were discussed in the panel included money, international markets, and cities’ attractiveness from the perspective of investors. Pihlman also brought up the importance of work-based migration. Conversation was also buzzing around the appeal of city centres and cities’ empty spaces.
The Capital of Culture Position Goes a Long Way
Dr Beatriz Garcia from the University of Liverpool spoke about international interaction and how far-reaching benefits the cities have achieved from the European Capital of Culture title.
–Culture should be seen as a development tool, said Garcia.
Information sharing between countries and cities is also important according to her so that everyone could develop and regenerate. She said that she has had a frontline seat in monitoring and investigating the European Capitals of Culture and their development for years now. According to research, the title has increased the locals’ participation in culture long term, and 50 to 90 per cent of the citizens have felt that the city has become a better place following the festival year.
–The European Capital of Culture position has many benefits to the cities locally as well as internationally. Around 30 per cent of tourists use the Capital of Culture as one of the criteria when choosing the destination, and 60 per cent of local population has participated into at least one Capital of Culture event, said Garcia.
Director of Oulu2026, Piia Rantala-Korhonen explained about the scope of the project and how 32 municipalities have joined Oulu in the project. The North has many advantages, and Rantala-Korhonen mentioned in her speech some projects that have a strong connection to locality.
–Arctic Food Lab brings forward the Northern flavours and local ingredients while also connecting local food providers and consumers, Rantala-Korhonen said.
Mervi Luonila and Vappu Renko, who are researchers at Cupore, discussed about the research that is conducted over the next years. They said that their task is to produce research knowledge about the impact of Oulu2026 before, during and after the festival year.
From Retaining to Enchanting
Stuba Nikula, CEO of Helsinki Events Foundation, held a concise speech that evoked excitement in many listeners. What came across from his speech was that residents living in cities appreciate change. Change that can also last longer than just a moment.
–Cities should enable an abundance of options. People search for experiences and encounters in the city centre. Do things so well that the neighbouring city becomes interested, Nikula summarised.
Air Guitar World Championships have been held in Oulu for a long time, and its producer Hanna Ikonen said that Oulu is precisely the right place for the competition. Ikonen specified that the event community is tight-knit and highly international, and that the event has been tried to be bought elsewhere. She said that many locals come to her astonished about why anyone would want to come to Oulu.
–Oulu could not be prouder of itself. Both the organisers and the attendees think that the setup and atmosphere for the Air Guitar World Championships have always been tremendous. For many, the trip to Oulu is a yearly highlight, Ikonen said.