The Night of the Arts is the biggest celebration in the annual Helsinki Festival – a whole day when the city celebrates its creativity in all manner of ways. Last year we weren’t able to attend but this year I was out and about in the city centre soaking up the proceedings. There was a wonderful atmosphere in the city – lots and lots of people out enjoying themselves, either performing or watching. It was great to see small little acts that had obviously just come along to make the most of the opportunity to perform in public.
Last year’s main event at the Night of the Arts was a procession of puppets through the city – these had been crafted by by locals at puppet-making workshops that had been held across Helsinki over the preceeding days (we unsuccessfully tried to take part in the workshops…). This year the main event was a 4 km-long giant domino chain running through the city centre – like last year’s puppet parade it also had a public participation component, with volunteers handling the setting up (and clearing up) of the dominoes. After quite a long wait I was able to glimpse through the crowd the dominoes falling. I was expecting a bit more noise and excitement, but since the event managed to get thousands of Helsinki residents together sharing an experience I guess it was a success. The event was organized by the British performance company Station House Opera which has previously staged similar domino chains in England, France and Slovenia. The “dominoes” were donated by the city’s public works department, and will apparently now be used in by the city (see the article in the Helsingin Sanomat). The can see some of the action in online videos at the Helsingin Sanomat or YouTube. Apparently only one short stretch of the 10’800 dominoes was knocked over accidentally before the event (apparently by a tourist nonetheless!).
While I was a bit under-whelmed by the dominoes, there were lots of other really interesting things happening. Museo Aero Solar lead workshops where volunteers helped to turn their old plastic bags into a giant balloon, which was then (partially) inflated in the Lasipalatsi Square on the Night of the Arts.
I ventured into the Musikkitalo (the Helsinki Music Centre) for the first time to find “The Most Beautiful Sounds of Helsinki” – an installation by Päivi Takala. Residents were asked to imitate sounds from the city, and these video and audio was then carefully presented on five separate screens. It was a fun piece that had me always guessing: what sound is that? As an aside, I though the Musikkitalo was really a beautiful building – I definitely want to visit there again to listen to music in the main concert hall which looks a bit like a quarry pit but apparently has amazing acoustics.
My favourite act was two jugglers who just arrived and started performing in the Lasipalatsi Square – they were excellent performers with some really good skills. I found myself laughing out loud at the crazy tricks they managed – in fact, I would suggest that the best evidence of the quality of their performance was that it didn’t matter when a trick failed, because everyone was still enjoying the show.
On the way home I popped past our local park (Karhupuisto) and was surprised to find a big net of red yarn spun between two trees – scanning the QR code attached to the web shows that it was an advert to a dance performance happening a short distance away.
I think The Night of the Arts is really worthwhile attending if you are near Helsinki – for me it was a bit like a giant version of Ravintolapäivä, except instead of pop-up restaurants there was pop-up performances everywhere (in addition to a few pop-up restaurants!). Don’t miss it if you have the chance to see it!