[Festivals Stories] Meidän Festivaali / Our Festival

17 Aug 2021

Meidän Festivaali / Our Festival
25 > 31 July 2021
Järvenpää / Tuusula, Finland

Music, dance, visual arts

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Our Festival is a chamber arts festival, taking place annually at the end of July by Lake Tuusula, Finland. We concentrate on intimate experiences and close encounters between our artists and the audience.

When the pandemic hit in spring 2020 we were sitting on a finished, polished festival programme, just waiting to be released. It never was. After the initial shock, we saw we had two choices: to pull the plug or to reimagine things.

After long consideration we decided to dismantle our programme, take it back to atoms and see what could be salvaged and how. We had some public funding and one of our core values is to make artistic encounters possible, so in the end the decision to plan a pandemic-proof version of the festival was a no-brainer. At least we then would have something to cancel, if worst came to worst.

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In the end we were able to put out less than 20 % of our normal ticket capacity in 26 concerts, and we sold 98 % of them, the remaining 2 % mainly being tickets that had to be returned due to virus symptoms on the concert day. A further 13 events were held free of charge. We opted for different concepts, starting from socially distanced audiences to a three-part radio programme, just to be sure we had a zero-encounters option in our back pocket if the pandemic situation prohibited all activities. We brought in two international artists for long-distance collaboration, where the Finnish artist was present and making music live with recordings of the other two. We had concerts outside and a sound installation at a local heritage site, and two streamed concerts and two radio broadcasts.

The concerts held at our signature venues, artist's home museums Ainola and Halosenniemi, drew most attention. In this series of relayed concerts, mini audiences of 7 to 10 people were guided in and around these beautiful villas. This way we were able to make sure that the audience could enjoy a full concert without being contained in small indoor venues for too long. Everything was perfect. Our volunteers guided the audiences like pros, music programmed by our artistic leaders, the Kamus String Quartet, worked perfectly. Even the weather was on our side.

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We were very lucky: the festival was held rather late in the summer, when the pandemic situation was manageable. However, there are three things we are most proud of: our audiences, who were not afraid to take on the outdoor elements and who were also responsible and canceled their tickets if they had any virus symptoms; our artists and especially artistic leaders, who were incredibly flexible and really jumped through unimaginable hoops; and first and foremost, our staff and volunteers, whose professionalism, attitude and expertise were the key reasons we even dared to imagine endeavoring such extreme arrangements.

More info: meidanfestivaali.fi/eng

(General Editor: Simon Mundy)