A strong flow 365 days a year
The Flow Festival began as a small experiment in the state railway company’s former warehouses. In 2007, Thomas and Suvi Kallio and their partners hired the Suvilahdenkatu yard area from Helsingin Energia for EUR 360.
“The world lacked an event of the kind that I would have liked to attend,” says Tuomas Kallio with a grin.
Flow attracted around 70,000 visitors this year. The international media lavished praise on the event:
“The breadth of artists caters to very diverse music tastes, but it’s the gourmet food on offer that makes Flow Festival a true pioneer.” Forbes (US)
“The festival is a work of art in itself.” Frankfurter Allgemeine (DE)
“Without a doubt one of the most unique experiences in live music today.” DIY (UK)
A continuous flow
Tuomas Kallio views the localism of the internationalised Flow as a strength.
“Most of our concert-goers come from nearby, which makes the event ecological and sustainable in spirit. This creates the basis for a tight-knit tribe of followers.”
Many love the continuity of an event which grew up around the gasometers of Suvilahti: culture now flows where energy once did. A decorated, lounge-like setting, a diverse musical offering and gourmet food bring a relaxed, good-humoured feel to the festival.
This is a draw for foreigners as well as locals. Visitors from abroad numbered around 4,000 this year.
Naturally, concert-tourists represent a flow of money for the city. According to a survey, an estimated EUR 16.5–18.5 million was spent in Helsinki during the Flow Festival weekend. Around EUR 4.5–5.5 million was spent at the event alone.
How might we achieve similar flows in Helsinki year-round, rather than just during a super weekend in August?
Free urban space in Kalasatama
“It’s fantastic that Helsinki has created a new culture of working together. But grass-roots events alone won’t be enough to draw international audiences to the city,” Tuomas concludes.
Urban activists can take over the streets from time to time, but professional cultural production cannot be organised on the same basis. For this, permanent premises are needed.
“No new Flow festivals will arise without proper facilities. I’m pretty worried about Helsinki in this respect.”
For example, the draft plan for Kalasatama will not bring tens of thousands of people to events.
“We are widely discussing the issue with various actors in the City. We want the Suvilahti area to continue being a venue for major events that are key to bringing people to Helsinki,” adds Tuomas Kallio.
The people behind Flow are not just promoting their own interests. They have a vision for the year-round vitality of the area.
“My dream is a Suvilahti urban sports park with room to benefit Helsinki every day of the year.”
Text and picture: Riikka Lahdensuo
Tuomas Kallio chose Joni Lindroos as a maker of the Helsinki of the future.