Eloquent, quick-witted and uninhibited about showing off his broad knowledge of culture, Seppo Nummi had the chance to prove his mettle when he was appointed programme director of the Jyväskylä music and cultural festival in 1957. In his hands, the event in the capital of Central Finland developed into an ambitious summer carnival of the arts, with room for Karlheinz Scockhausen and modern Finnish poets, noisy debate and intimate chamber music.
In the’60s, the Jyväskylä festival developed into a forum for eagerly awaited debates and a testing ground for the pluralist ideal. The baby-boom generation had reached the age of awareness and sought new directions based on international trends, disclaiming the cramped outlook of the war generation and the reconstruction period.
The spread of television boosted the success of the Jyväskylä Summer Festival. The age of images and ‘talking heads’ had dawned. The dignity of consensus gave way to a whirl of dissension. No holds were barred in Jyväskylä: cultural prophets from around the world were invited to speak there.
Who would have dared to suggest that the sprouts of the new, unruly festival may have sprung from the same soil as all the decrepit old national and patriotic festivities, the defunct song festivals, the celebrations of rifle clubs and fire brigades, the provincial feasts and the student unions’ summer happenings?
Present-day festival visitors do not hesitate to admit that they particularly enjoy the ambience of the festivals. Spirit and emotion, the quest for community feeling – these, after all, were the goals of the old song festivals. Labels come and go, primal needs remain.