Last month we went to Helsinki, Finland. (you know you can catch a ferry to Russsia from there? RUSSIA).

This was the first phase in a new project we’re developing called Hope Springs Eternal. We’ll be working in Kannelmaki in May 2018, building a temporary spa-type experience with the local community, so this was a scoping trip for our mad ideas.

We stayed by the harbour in an area called Eira and visited Kannelmaki, a north western suburb of the city, for an arts festival organised by the Baltic Circle team.

Helsinki is built on a big rock next to the sea, as we flew in we saw islands and pine forests. Very Moomin.

We met Satu, Hanna, Maja and the rest of the team from the Baltic Circle Festival who were just GREAT. In some ways it felt like an international art solidarity trip – going to a place far away and meeting people who share your values and approaches. Very empowering. But we also met a lot of local people in Kannelmaki who were hanging out in the square and part of the festival.

We chatted about plans, logistics and concepts and it was well received. Someone said ‘wow, what a project!’ in a positive way, I think. What’s not to like about hot tubs, bubble machines and gold rainments?

We also went to a sauna, a flea market and a sea pool. We went to a Russian bar (and left at some point I think). We tried some horrible blueberry cider. We drank Tom of Finland coffee. If you haven’t come across Tom of Finland, google him.

We didn’t get out loads but one thing is that it seems to be more centralised / government run than ours. Most cities have a city theatre, for example. I think what Baltic Circle are doing – getting out of arts institutions and developing more socially engaged practices – is rare. This work is new and radical, pushing the boundaries of what is art, who does it and where it happens.

One of the most surprising things about Finland is that it is SO CLEAN. Although that wasn’t really surprising. But I mean really clean. And you can’t buy alcohol from an off licence after 9pm. That was a shocker.

The next steps for Hope Springs Eternal is spending some time researching and developing water rituals here in Bradford. We’d like to get some bubble machines going in Oastler Square and see what happens!

– Rosie

Hope Springs Eternal in Helsinki