Finland in the throes of change needed new, stimulating forms of togetherness to strengthen the regained sense of community – a new Granfelt to impress the need for culture on people’s minds. Such people were at hand. Their kingpin was Seppo Nummi.
Seppo Nummi left Jyväskylä in 1968 to direct the summer festivals of the Helsinki Foundation, which had been set up a couple of years earlier. The idea was to awaken the capital’s drowsy summer season to new cultural life.
The Helsinki Festival filled in the vacuum left by the Sibelius Week, an event that had lingered on for fourteen summers, elegant but anaemic. According to Nummi, its problem had been the smallness of the targeted public coupled with unimaginative programming based mainly on the works of Sibelius. National hero worship was no longer the order of the day.
Almost unawares, the summer season had swelled into a steady stream of events during the ‘60s. Savonlinna offered concerts as well as opera; Turku had summer festival of the local musical society; the jazz fans had discovered Pori and Kirjurinluoto; Orivesi’s Klemetti Institute had offered summer concerts since the ‘50s; Vaasa was tuning into cultural debates in the Jyväskylä spirit.
Had the cultural summer envisioned by Seppo Nummi in 1959 come true? This had not happened quite spontaneously – the ubiquitous Nummi had been involved in the planning of most of the festivals. At any rate, there was now enough going on in the Finnish summer for Nummi to be summoned to draft an overall strategy. A plan for the jigsaw puzzle of information, marketing and timing had existed for ten years; it only awaited realization. Finland Festivals was entered in the company register on December 28, 1968.
The first, four-page annual report states:
“Finland Festivals was founded in Turku on June 12, 1968 to act as coordinator between the organizers of music festivals and cultural events and thereby to promote familiarity with these events at home and abroad. The signatories were the Helsinki Week Foundation, the Turku Musical Society, the Jyväskylä Cultural Festivals, Pori Jazz ’66 and the Savonlinna Opera Festival committee.”
The first chairman of the new association’s Board was Viljo Virtanen of the Savonlinna Opera Festival, and Päivö Oksala of the Jyväskylä Arts Festivals was vice-chairman. The members were Viggo Groundstroem (Helsinki Festival), Olavi Sarmio (Turku Festival), Tapani Kontula (Pori Jazz Festival) and Henry Lönnfors (Vaasa Summer Festival).
The Tampere Theatre Festival and the Kaustinen Folk Music Festival were invited to become members during the first year. The board decided to accept the Vaasa Summer Festival as soon as it had the appropriate organization.
The board recorded the following decision in principle: “The membership of Finland Festivals (8) will not be increased without specially pressing cause, such as an appropriate festival set up in northern Finland.”
The board had to eat its words the very next years. The Kuopio Dance Festival was accepted as a member, and again it was agreed that the membership would not be increased without special cause – such as “a cultural event established in northern Finland in harmony with the association’s principles”.