Cultural personality of the week: Rumon Gamba

Rumon Gamba

This week’s Cultural Personality is the Chief Conductor of Oulu Symphony Orchestra, Rumon Gamba, who says that his name is a rather unusual name for an Englishman.

–rare Cornish first name, Italian second name.

A lifetime of playing and studying music has lead him to where he is now, from a young cello student via University Music Degree and Postgrad Diploma in Orchestral conducting to conducting countless orchestras all around the world for the past 25 years.

What projects are you working on now?

I travel a great deal guest conducting orchestras, usually for a week at a time but my biggest project at the moment is working as Chief Conductor here in Oulu. Overseeing the artistic aspects of the orchestra, musicians, planning and trying to build an interesting programme for the public so they feel drawn to our concerts and become part of what we are trying to do.

What does Culture Climate Change mean to you?

In my profession we are always talking about ‘breaking down barriers’, making what we do relevant and inspiring for absolutely everyone. Let’s blur those lines of separation, let’s not allow anything to become compartmentalised.

What do you think about Oulu and North Finland? 

I love the energy of Oulu, such a wonderful mix of people both in age and cultures. People seem very open-minded and are willing to sample different things. I like how the city seems to feel comfortable in its own skin without too many glances towards the South…

How does Oulu look like to you in 2026?

It looks like a mountain of possibilities – hopefully an expanded/heightened version of what it is now, but even more connected. No separate islands, everything relating to each other and feeding from each other.

If you think of Oulu and its region as a visitor, what would you like to experience while here?

I think I would like to experience something quite different from where I come from. The nature, emptiness of the countryside, vast expanses of water, regional food and folk culture.

What is your favourite thing to do on your free-time here in Oulu?

Walking/running in areas of natural beauty where there is no one else around and….silence!

What does culture and music mean to you?

Music and culture in general is what I am built from, it’s deep in my DNA and is affecting how I go about my life, how I am as a person, what I gravitate towards, how I feel, what I am drawn to, the decisions I take and which direction to go in. I wish everyone could feel this connection so deeply.

What are your plans and hopes for the future in professionally?

I’m always looking how to deepen my relationship with music and musicians, to communicate with the utmost expression to as many people as possible, without words, just music.

Picture: Oulu Symphony

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Oulu Symphony

Culture personality of the Week: Petri Kuusela

Musician Petri Kuusela

Our Cultural Personality of the week is Petri Kuusela, an Oulu-based guitarist, producer, songwriter and educator. Petri says he has been given the tools to form a positive and restorative relationship with listening, playing and creating music from a young age.

“Jamming with my mates in my early teens gave me an inkling of how playing and engaging with other musicians can be a deeper form of communication than speech.”

However, a career in music was not a given for him. In fact, after finishing school, he impulsively applied to the Oulu Conservatory for the vocational study programme majoring in the guitar almost.

“I started my studies virtually as an autodidact, without any experience or knowledge about music as a professional field. My studies offered me quite the learning curve on how to interact and communicate in a creative industry.”

Petri says that the same social sensitivity is central to all interaction in all fields of art and culture. While studying at the Conservatory, playing and practicing became his fulltime occupation, and during those years he also built meaningful relationships and musical partnerships.

“I have always been interested in how recordings are made and how a single instrument or the quality of its sound affects an entire piece and the emotion it conveys.

After graduating from the Conservatory in 2014, Petri met Tanja Torvikoski, with whom he started writing his own music and they soon established a group called Lanai. The group’s debut album was released in November 2019. The process of the studio album served as an education for producing, arranging, composing and recording music.

“Making an album from start to finish mainly between the two of us also taught us a great deal about the fascinating myth that surrounds the process of making music.” In addition to Lanai, I have had the privilege to collaborate with many great artists and musicians, including:StepaRob MooseTommi KaleniusPeltokurkiLauri PeisteräDimi SaloEdu Kettunen, Eereka and many more.”

Today, Petri thrives on dividing his time between producing, playing the guitar and writing his own music. He feels that variety keeps him growing and the different aspects of his career feed his inspiration. A typical day in Petri’s life includes studio sessions, gigs, meetings, and song writing in various configurations.

What are you up to these days? How do you spend your spare time?

Thank you for asking, I’m doing great! I spent last week in Northern Finland on holiday at our cottage, finished by a solo gig to a full house at Kahvila Wanha Hamina in Ii. I’m next headed to the Norwegian wilderness for a week of fishing. The summer has been a busy period of juggling between gigs and recording sessions, which keeps the mind awake. There will be a few more gigs and recording sessions and I’ll be teaching ensemble playing at the Oulu Conservatory before the summer is over. I will dedicate most of the autumn for creative work.

I love the natural environment in Finland and I aim to make the most of my days off by moving in nature and fishing. To me, it’s the best way of putting my everyday concerns into some perspective. I also play the guitar just for the joy of it and meet with friends when I’m not working. I enjoy exploring different musical phenomena in more depth, and when I’m working, there isn’t enough time to do that.

What is it like to work in Northern Finland? How do you find the Oulu2026 region at this present time?

I see Oulu as a refreshing environment for creative artists as well as in terms of its cultural offering and demand. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is still acutely felt but it is great to see that, at least for the past five years, Oulu has produced a number of unique internationally relevant artists who have the courage and ability to use their Finnishness and cultural heritage as a basis for their art. The city has (and will have even more) healthy competition within the live club scene and between festivals and, perhaps thanks to the Capital of Culture project, smaller events and the creative ideas of their organisers have received more encouragement and support.

I think Oulu is seeing a new wave in art, by which musicians and other artists are seeing the value of their Oulu identity in a new light historically and geographically and are willing to utilise it. As a region, Oulu is beyond compare, and I only hope that we succeed in maintaining and directing our resources even more effectively towards exporting Oulu-based art and international collaboration. On a national level, I wish to see the Oulu Region gain more significance as a region of artistic creation equal to all others in the eyes of the gatekeepers of, for example, state subsidies and grants.

What will the Oulu2026 region look and feel like in 2026? How do you think the Capital of Culture title will impact Northern Finland?

In 2026, artists and creators in Oulu will be enjoying a free, mutually inspiring and encouraging atmosphere in which both high-brow and popular culture can thrive side by side. This requires that the organising bodies and the local authorities are smart enough to invest in diversity, to take risks and to make space for grassroots cultural operators as well as large-scale cultural undertakings. Oulu is a hotbed of rising cultural entrepreneurship, which I believe will elevate the level of cultural production in the city and increase its diversity as we approach 2026.

I’m positive that with the Capital of Culture title, the value of Northern Finland as a rich and inspiring environment can be made even more visible internationally. The long-term effects of the Capital of Culture project may not be immediately obvious but we are heading in the right direction.

What does music mean to you personally?

For me, music is a way of self-expression and a journey in which the work and art of others serve as an infinite source of inspiration and a reminder of how we all are perfect just the way we are.

What could Oulu do to improve the position of creators and consumers of culture?

It could offer more funding, visibility and resources for projects, actors and event producers starting from the grassroots level up to supporting the internationalisation of local art. This could include providing a platform for workshops, master classes, and international collaborative projects in all areas of art to open up pathways for local artists for networking and sharing their expertise. The availability of well-equipped, affordable rehearsal and work spaces is still a bit scarce in Oulu, so directing more resources in this area would benefit both artists and producers.

Follow Petri on Instagram

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Photo:Jutta Juvonen

Cultural Personality of the week: Charles Gil

Charles Gil

This week’s Cultural Personality is Charles Gil, Festival Manager heading the Raahe Jazz on the Beach for the seventh year running. Hailing from Lyon, France, Charles arrived in Finland in 1995 and the very next year, 1996, he visited the Raahe Jazz on the Beach for the first time. Then in his thirties, Charles says he fell in love with the festival right away.

“Since then, I’ve been to Raahe countless times.

The 33rd Raahe Jazz of the Beach took place on 28–30 July 2022, and Charles says it was a great honour to be part of such a committed and professional organising team.

Charles is also the manager of the touring and booking agency Vapaat Äänet. The first tour of the agency started in 1996 from Raahe. Since then, Charles has been the promoter of French jazz in Finland with a passion for building cultural bridges between Finland and France. Vapaat Äänet organise four to five tours of French jazz every year, with Charles in charge of tour planning and the practical arrangements.

“It is important to me that artists feel at home and that things go smoothly. That’s when artists feel welcome, are able to give their best and the audience enjoys the performances.

Charles’ agency also helps Finnish musicians to promote their international careers. Collaboration with artists such as Mikko Innanen started more than two decades ago. The French jazz export through Vapaat äänet has been supported from the beginning by the French Ministry of Culture and the French Institute.

On top of all that, Charles also served as the Artistic Director of the Pori Jazz Ultra Music programme from 2003 until 2013. In addition, he is working on his Slow Touring concept particularly in Finland and the Baltics.

What are you up to these days? How do you spend your spare time?

I’m great, busy getting ready for Jazz on the Beach as we speak. Festival organisation involves a lot of practical, invisible work, from catering to scheduling and logistics, so that’s what has taken up my summer.

I do try to take an occasional break and spend time in the Inkoo archipelago. My aim is to always take some time off even in the midst of a busy schedule. I read a lot and swim in open water all year round. I discovered swimming even before I moved to Finland, it is something that really helps me to wind down. Although I don’t really go to saunas much, I do enjoy a good, traditional smoke sauna.

What does our leading theme, Cultural Climate Change, mean to you?

I started my career as a tour promoter way back in 1987 in Lyon, and the job has taken me around the world. I got tired of one-off events and deliberately try to avoid unnecessary travel. I don’t organise one-off gigs for my artists either, as I’d rather book more gigs within one region to make the journey worth their while. This approach is not just more ecological but it also improves the wellbeing of the crew from the artist to the light technicians. If it means I can’t book a certain act this year, I’m happy to wait until the next year. Life is all about knowing when to give in and wait. Because we postpone one or two artists until next year, does not make this year’s event any worse.

The entire Raahe team is on the same page with me on this, as we don’t want to overburden the planet. Sustainable development is at the heart of what we do and therefore we serve local plant-based food and fish at the festival. We source the equipment locally, which helps us avoid unnecessary transport. Raahe Jazz on the Beach is an artist-driven festival focused on sustainable development.

We have plenty of young, enthusiastic team members with whom the more experienced organisers are happy to share best practices.

What is it like to work in Northern Finland? How do you find the Oulu2026 region at this present time?

The importance of openness and transparency has become more emphasised, which is having a positive impact on culture. Culture is extremely important in the current global situation. We need to think what different cultures can give us and what Northern culture can give to the rest of the world. After the coronavirus pandemic, we must restore the value and status of culture to the level where it belongs and to get back to being a community.

I have visited Oulu several times on tour and I find that Oulu is beginning to come out of its shell more and more. The Oulu Music Festival is a welcome injection of energy to the cultural ecosystem and I enjoy collaborating with people from Oulu.

What will the Oulu2026 region look and feel like in 2026? How do you think the Capital of Culture title will impact Northern Finland?

I hope that by 2026, culture has regained its position. Engaging with audiences is crucial for artists and I hope 2026 offers a major opportunity for that. We mustn’t forget the mistakes that were made in the field of culture during the pandemic, we must learn from them. I believe that as a cultural capital, Oulu will grow even more open and attractive to new international interest and opportunities.

Without volunteers, none of these events would be possible, so I hope that the joy of working together is something that lingers long into the future.

What does culture mean to you personally?

To me, culture is life. It is the film I watch, the book I read, the theatre shows I go and see, and all the dance, music and song. Without culture there is no meaning to life. Culture need not be present at all times but it does need to be accessible, always. It means sensations, and even sports culture is part of all culture. Culture means wellbeing.

Raahe Jazz on the Beach

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Cultural Personality of the week: Anna-Mari Nousiainen

Photo of artists Anna-Mari Nousiainen

Our Cultural Personality of the week is Anna-Mari or Ansku Nousiainen, who describes herself in her Instagram bio as: “Failed film-maker, mediocre artist and soon-to-become bad tattoo artist.” Ansku confirms she is all that but also a lot more. At least, a loyal hype girl, pathetic softie, a bit tough, but deep down a really sensitive soul.

Ansku dreamt of becoming an artist since primary school, but her career in film happened accidentally. After finishing upper secondary school, the doors to the art schools did not open and, in panic, Ansku applied to any further education programme that mentioned the word culture or media. Sitting at the entrance interview for Salpaus Further Education, Ansku was wondering why on earth they were asking strange questions about XLR cables and connections and tried to steer the interview towards comics. Eventually the interviewers asked, “You do know this is an audio-visual media programme?”.

Ansku had thought she had applied to the graphic design programme, so thinking on her feet, quickly replied, “Yes, I LOVE cinema!”

Miraculously, Ansku was accepted and was later able to study film and work in the industry. Throughout her studies, however, Ansku also studied and worked with art and insisted on calling herself an artist.

Today, Ansku makes art across disciplines and her career is currently in transition. Ansku has moved from film more towards festival work, and in her artistic work she has expanded into photography, video and installations as well as 3D and audio works. Stories, not just showing them but also telling them, are at the core of Ansku’s work.

This spring, Ansku is mostly focusing on her role as the artistic director of the Oulu Music Video Festival, which brings all her professional interests together. Ansku has always loved music videos and is a complete “music video freak”. When she realised she, too, could be making music videos, there was no turning back. Ansku started attending the Oulu Music Video Festival (OMVF) first as a video maker and, inspired by the event, she launched a small Musavideorama music video event in Tampere together with Anna Alkiomaa. Recently, OMVF was looking for a new artistic director, Jaakko Mattila, who was leaving the role, suggested to Ansku that she should apply. Ansku has been working as the artistic director of OMVF since 2019.

You have just moved to Oulu from Helsinki. Tell us more! How did you come to that decision? How does it feel now, to live in Oulu?

Many people have asked me “Why would anyone move from Helsinki to Oulu?”. I could write an essay or a short story about it, but I think I’ll just settle for a short “Why not?”. Helsinki was cold and I was longing for something else. I have managed to travel to Oulu once a month for an entire autumn and winter, for one week at a time, so I thought Oulu could could just as well be my home and I could travel from here. I was nervous about the move mainly because my friends mostly live in the south, but people did support my decision! I have always travelled a lot all over Finland, so this was not as radical a choice as it may sound. My mum agreed with my decision and said “It’s great that things are happening elsewhere as well, not just in Helsinki!” My home has always been critical of Helsinki-centredness and I guess that has rubbed off on me.

My relationship with Oulu was purely the result of the music video festival – first as a visitor, then getting more involved with the event and now finally as the artistic director. I have no family here, and before the festival, I didn’t know anyone in Oulu. Through the festival, I had quickly built a very close circle of people and relationships that are important to me. I called it my music video family, and I started spending more and more time here outside my work as well. Summer 2021 was probably the turning point when my thoughts came together. Elektorni, festivals and events, perfect rollerblading routes and bright summer nights completely charmed me. Oulu was flirting with me like nobody or no other place has ever done before!

I must say that the campaign to get me to Oulu was persistent but subtle (these people are professionals after all!) and eventually very successful. So here I am! As my friend Vilma said: “There must be something very special about Oulu for you of all people to move here!”

What are you up to these days? How do you spend your spare time?

I’m great! I moved here about a month ago, so I’ve mainly been tidying up my place, nest building (and building my doll’s house) and hanging around vintage markets (Oulu has the best vintage markets, I have found the best pyjamas, mesh tops, china and homeware here). The first two weeks I spent just unpacking and decorating my place, and the pastel colour scheme is almost ready. It’s time to move my focus to day-to-day life, and at this time of the year this includes writing grant applications.

I was hoping that after unpacking all my stuff I would be just organising my china, lying in bed and drinking endless cups of coffee in the morning. And that’s precisely what I’ve done all February! I’ve found it difficult to read for the past couple of years, but since I moved, I’ve found myself with a book in my hand every day!

This month’s book and other spring-time tips:

Syyskirja by Johanna Venho

Travelling Light by Tove Jansson

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer


And so as not to sound more intellectual than I am, I have also been obsessing about the reality TV show Too Hot To Handle. To the point that I’ve found out which of the couples are still together… I never used to watch reality TV but then I came across Fboy Island on HBO and I was hooked!

I am also trying to rest more this spring, before the summer’s hectic festival season begins.


What does our leading theme, Cultural Climate Change, mean to you?

Climate change as a term is quite dramatic and of course we associate it with the state of our environment and it makes us worry about the future. I have long been a huge fan of domestic travel and I think that surprisingly few people in Finland have travelled widely in their own country. I really want to encourage everyone to embrace the idea of cultural climate change, and if there was anything positive about the coronavirus pandemic, I would hope it is people discovering domestic travel. For example, the Bättre Folk festival draws wide audiences from outside Oulu, which only goes to show that distance is not an issue. After all, people travel abroad to go to festivals.

As a term alone, climate change is shocking in a negative sense while cultural climate change to me means openness, kindness, collaboration and lack of prejudice.

What is it like to work in Northern Finland? How do you find Oulu at this present time?

I think Oulu is a perfect size to work (and to live!). You can make things happen and people seem very open to cooperation and new experiences.

I am constantly positively surprised how I don’t have to spend all day commuting and dealing with some complicated issue, as was the case in Helsinki. I love it that getting about without a car is so easy and quick. The city centre is very compact and I absolutely love that about Oulu! As a festival organiser (and visitor!) this is a real positive – people can easily attend several events in one day and with effective marketing, the pre and post-festival parties can also be squeezed in the same night!

Oulu is like a big park, in a good way. The woods and water are never far away. I am impressed by how many accessible, non-commercial spaces there are in the city centre where people can meet up and spend time.

For most of my career I have worked in Northern Finland during the pandemic, which of course has had an effect on what working in the cultural and festival sector has been like for me. I would like to see more cooperation between event organisers in events marketing (we should have our own Oulu Hypend!). I think there are a lot more young party- and festival-goers that we are not yet reaching. It is also interesting how easy it is to travel from here to Sweden and Norway overland! It will be exciting to see how the connections between the neighbouring countries are utilised in the Capital of Culture project.

What will Oulu look and feel like in 2026? How do you think the Capital of Culture title will impact Northern Finland?

It feels a bit wild to think that far ahead at the moment! I hope that Oulu presents itself as the lovely green city that it is, where the sun is shining and people are busy going to events. I hope to see an even livelier and more accessible, diverse and open-minded urban culture.

I would like to be shocked about how many of my friends have never been to Oulu, but then again, before the music video festival, neither had I. But that shows we should never underestimate the power of culture! I believe that the Capital of Culture title will encourage us to build new networks, venture into unknown territories and organise even more and more diverse events.

I also think that the impact will be seen in Oulu residents learning to appreciate their city and the region more, and in that the appeal of Oulu will be noticed further afield that in Northern Finland alone.