The Contents for Cross-Cultural Events C3E, a Finnish-Russian development project for the creative sector coordinated by XAMK, has started collaborations with Mikkeli Music Festival. A team of C3E experts participated the XXVIII Mikkeli Music Festival on 1.-5.7.2019 at St. Michel, Finland, in order to further strengthen the festival’s international networks and come up with a development plan for the next two years. We highly recommend the festival for music lovers of all genres. This blog is about experiences, observations and the future visions for the festival.

The Mikkeli Music Festival is soon coming to its mature crown-up adulthood, celebrating the 30th years anniversary in 2021, and seems to be at a renewal phase with intend to expand to new genres, reach new audiences and become an integral part of the touristic attractions and not-to be missed summer events in the Finnish South-Savo region for the music lovers of all genres, not only classical.

The multifaceted program of 2019 contained versatile genres and topical discussions

We were impressed by the versatility of the festival. The role of the cross-cultural contents play an important part already in the current festival. A good part of the concerts were broadcasted by The Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE, which means they are regarded very high quality measured by any standard.

The main components of the program:

  1. Classical music concerts by Mariinsky (St. Petersburg), Mikkeli City Orchestra and Vivo Youth Orchestra with prominent soloists and recitals of famous Finnish and Russian performers such as: Irina Zahharenkova, Teemu Laasanen, Tarmo Peltokorpi, Iiro Rantala.
  2. Expanding the classical towards easily approachable prominent young musicians’ involvement, comedy and jazz.
  3. Family concerts and events:Dramatized performances for kids based on plots from Russian and Scandinavian culture, namely The Doll’s tale and Eirik’s Journey to the world’s end, interactive content for kids during music performance by St. Michel Strings, Satu Sopanen, Irina Zahharenkova & Teemu Laasanen.A special concert arrangement transmitting digital material drawn by youngsters in the chamber music hall to the music played by St Michel Strings at the Martti Talvela hall to the audience consisting of the youngsters’ parents. Practical arrangements and artistic planning by OiOi immersive surfaces (the main picture above). Artists including Satu Sopanen, speaker and Irina Zahharenkova and Teemu Laasanen, piano.Dinner with friends – young talents on stage. A new concept of performance and communication. This event combined both improvised and rehearsed music, performed by young talents, inviting restaurant atmosphere, lake view and delicious dining experiences.
  4. The Headquarters symposium and economic seminar – urgent issues concerning world economy, security and climate change discussed by prominent leaders.
  5. The General Public Lectures
    Lectures by children´s psychiatric Jari Sinkkonen about importance of music for children´s growth.

    This is a very compressed version of the program, more details at the festival webpages.
    The Official Opening Ceremonies taking place in the local shopping mall, Vivo Youth Orchestra with Mr. Erkki Lasonpalo as their Conductor.Recitals of prominent Finnish and Russian performers such as Ms. Irina Zahharenkova.The Mariinsky Orchestra (St. Petersburg) conducted by Maestro Mr. Valery Gergiev.
    My Finnish Calendar jazz improvisations by Mr. Iiro Rantala, in the pic with the Festival Manager Mr. Teemu Laasanen.
    Expanding the classical towards easily approachable comedy and jazz – The Fabulous Backström Brothers  Eirik’s Journey to the world’s end, piano music from the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, pianist Mr. Teemu Laasanen, voice actors from the Mikkeli City Theatre.
    The Doll’s tale, music from the Russian composer Tchaikovsky, pianist Mr. Teemu Laasanen, voice actors from the Mikkeli City Theatre.
    Dinner with friends
    Interactive content by created by kids, artistic planning by OiOi during a performance by St. Michel Strings, Ms. Satu Sopanen, Ms. Irina Zahharenkova & Mr. Teemu Laasanen.

The Growth Potential

Thanks to Mr. Teemu Laasanen, the new Festival Manager of the Mikkeli Music Festival, the festival is in a renewal phase and wide expansion towards opening up to new genres of music and even experimentations with new technology, such as interactive immersive elements and gamified processes done with the leading enterprise in the field OiOi from St. Michel, specializing in crafting unique and magical installations and immersive experiences by using the latest technology. Within the C3E project, all the mentioned aspects will we further developed with the expertise of the leading Russian university SPbSUITD specializing in technology and design, the XAMK University of Applied Sciences and the Meduusa Game Studios at the Kouvola Campus for creative businesses. The RDI experts in gamification and service design as well as other key figures and enterprises are invited to collaborate. A good example of these key figures is Finland’s first regional gamification artist Mr. Jaakko Kemppainen, having his office at Kouvola and nominated by the Finnish Regional Council of Arts (TAIKE).

The Mikkeli Music Festival was invited as a partner due to its long-lasting connections to the Mariinski Theatre, its artistic director being Mr. Valerie Gergiev since 1993. Other important factors include the festival’s recognised high quality programme and tremendous growth potential. The leading thread at the program development at Mikkeli has been and will be, according to Mr. Laasanen, the high quality of music and artistic standard no matter what the genre might be: classical, jazz, musical performance, dramatized concerts or even improvisations.

The festival has a remarkable growth potential and will therefore benefit the whole of South-Savo region tourism sector and economy by giving it a vitality shot during the month of July. The festival also offers a unique growth potential for its stakeholders, such as small and medium sized enterprises, restaurants and designers if only all the growth potential is utilized in terms of event tourism development by offering appealing packages distributed and sold by travel agencies on both sides of the border. We recommend marketing in well-selected Russian and Finnish channels and advertising campaigns that combine high quality art festival, the Finnish nature and culinary experimentation to other places of interest within the South-Savo region, not too far from the festival premises.

After observing and participating the festival the C3E research, development, innovation (RDI) specialists regard this as a sound bases for growth if combined with such current trends as immersive digital interactive methods and gamification for younger audiences, combinations of laid back ambiance at the already existing concert concept ‘the dinner with friends’ and dramatized and visualized theatrical performances entailing quality music, actors, stenographs and storytelling.

The challenge of the festival is its timing: most of the Mikkeli residents are enjoying cottage life in the lake district at the time the festival takes place. How to make the festival so appealing that the residents would invite their summer guests and come with them to showcase the best part of the Finnish summer nightless nights?

Most likely some low threshold side elements need to be introduced, such as food tastings or showcasing Scandinavian fashion, design and jewelry. Gamification that is based on collecting points and thus attire and accessory equipment to your character by participating as many festival events and stakeholder events within the festival week as possible, could also be an exciting additional attractive force for younger audiences.

How to further develop the festival within the C3E project

The Content for Cross cultural events (C3E) project, funded by the CBC 2014-2020 South-East Finland – Russia program, aims at furthering skills in innovative management and marketing as well as creates new concepts for cultural festivals, cultural houses and event organizers in St. Petersburg, Kouvola, Kotka and Mikkeli regions. The aim of the three-year C3E project 2019-2021 is to further the attractiveness of regions across the Finnish-Russian border through developing cross-artistic, multi-disciplinary concepts within festival and fashion design industries by using the latest trends in cultural marketing and management, introducing the latest technology as part of performing arts and by utilizing the methods of service design and gamification.

The ideas of further developing immersive interactive elements, gamification and most probably launching a synesthesia competition for young enthusiasts at the participating C3E universities, are all good quality means to catch the media attention and thus receive more media hits and more awareness for these experimentations but also for the already existing quality performances and side program. These special features need to be marketed well also in the local newspapers, not only abroad, so that a wider audience will become aware of the offerings of this festival.

Last but not least the Mikkeli Music Festival has succeeded in combining high-class lecture series and symposiums as part of its core-program thus pursuing the attention of both the high stake decision makers, politicians and the general public and making it a platform for mind provoking discussions in the middle of the best Finnish summer days.

The C3E experts would like to invite the festival general manager and other members of the staff to participate the high stake further education series within the C3E program to strengthen their networks and gain insight into the marketing procedures they would have in the Russian side, be it showcasing, distributing or gaining common ground and establishing long-lasting other relationships than the one’s that already exist. In the further education series by the C3E project aimed at festival managers, the needed additional competences are evaluated together with the participants. The competencies and strategies should take into account the already existing profile of the event, the particular region and its identity as well as what kind of challenges they have already experiences in managing events involving cross-cultural contents.

The C3E team also regards the development ideas concerning introducing cross-artistic elements containing fashion (both making dresses to the performers and showcasing the latest fashion design talent in the form of catwalks), design (Scandinavian tailored and handmade jewelry) as well as bringing in technological innovations as part of the artistic profile, as a good start for further negotiations for collaborations with the universities and the cultural institute ICP.

The types of new partners, which are needed for developing the marketing strategy and relevant networks, are identified and contacted (usually umbrella organizations such as Visit Mikkeli etc.) from both sides of the border. Last but not least it will be evaluated how both the city dwellers and international tourists get interested in new concepts and pilots of cross-cultural events as the festival will soon be celebrating its 30th anniversary and will most likely want to be well-recognized in the cityscape.

Each cultural organization should benefit significantly from working closely with the C3E project partners: The Institute of Cultural Programs, the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences XAMK or the Russian University SPbSUITD fashion design, graphic design and environmental design departments. The C3E project tries to implement the festival’s development tasks into the everyday studies of each participating university. The first steps include identifying the development tasks and finding a relevant study line or a combination of many that will tackle the theme. The first launch of collaboration will be done through the Kouvola hackathon in October 2019. The participating cultural organization, festivals or houses should directly benefit from the expertise of both SPbSUITD and Xamk, as well as the networks to other managers and the knowledge on latest marketing management practices offered in a seminar format by ICP, Institute for Cultural Programs, St. Petersburg Russia. This institute has very close connections to the Helsinki Sibelius Academy Arts Management program as well as to such actors as Finland Festivals and TAIKE in the Finnish side. The XAMK team has also recently been extended to cover expertise from a senior advisor from the cultural field, working closely with the strategic partner Aalto University.

Tourist Packages

The C3E project creates traveling packages and studies the possibilities of cultural events & tourism from the perspective of international tourists. The Market Study in 2019 focuses on the customer point of view and the economic impact of the cultural festivals in the selected regions.

The international tourists might seek to see a variety of culture in scarcely populated Finland: nature, cultural events and festivals or local design & fashion venues, gastronomy and get inspired by the woods of Finland in comparison to the sizzling Metropolitan cultures and attractions of St. Petersburg. Therefore we co-operate closely with such umbrella organizations as Visit Saimaa, Visit Mikkeli, Kouvola Innovations – Kinno and Institute for Cultural Programmes etc.

MikkeliPuisto Greeneri

Park Restaurant Greeneri offers model gardens with versatile opportunities for concerts, food tastings and art-related workshops. Located in the vicinity of the city center, laid back ambiance, a touch of handicraft, seasonal treats and organic food from the local producers.

Anttolan Hovi: Art and Design Villas

Holiday packages for a perfect gateway to the joys and charms of the Finnish nature and nightless nights, wellness center, business facilities and local cuisine. Chance to use rowing boats and canoes, do camping, visit the prehistoric Astuvansalmi rock paintings, pick berries and have a hike in the lush summer forests.

The modern Art and Design Lakeside Villas offer all amenities, own beach and privacy enhanced by hotel services. The villas are located 25 meters from the shore of Lake Saimaa and blend in with the surrounding landscape – nature becomes an integral part of the architecture. The Lakeside Villas have been designed by the architect Emma Johansson.

Showcasing Finnish Design – Wooden Jewelry made of Birch Tree

We recommend collaborating with one of the most prominent award-winning, and internationally recognized wooden jewelry designers to create a Special Edition of Finnish Wooden jewelry made of the birch three with the laser technique, to celebrate the Mikkeli Music Festival 30th anniversary. Since none of the universities in this project specializes in jewelry design, we would recommend to contact a well-established partner to realize the plan.

The jewelry could be presented at the 30th Anniversary, worn by partners, such as the restaurant staff at Mikaeli, at the Greenery and the Anttolan Hovi premises as well as sold at Mikaeli and other concert venues during the festival 2021. The actual theme should be connected to musical terms or otherwise closely linked to the Mikkeli Music Festival ideology.

Recommended partner: Valona Design by Elina Mäntylä

Showcasing Fashion Design

The Xamk and SPbSUITD students of fashion design create costumes for the singers of the Mikkeli Music Festival Grand Opera Gala, Mariinsky orchestra, conducted by Valeri Gergiev and singers from Tchaikovsky-competition winners/laureates. Beside this a fashion catwalk can be organized either at the city center of St. Michel or at the Mikaeli premises to showcase the best creations of the Xamk graduating students or of the Admiralty Needle Fashion Contest, Russia

C3E is part of the CBC 2014-2020 South-East Finland – Russia program funded by the European Union, The Republic of Finland and the Russian Federation.

Photo credit:
Mr. Hannu Kytö

Ms. Heini Haapaniemi
Project Manager, RDI specialist, Expert in cultural administration and development projects within the Creative Businesses
XAMK, the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences

Ms. Ekaterina Prozorova
Head of the Equipment Design for Environmental Objects Department, Associate Professor of the Environmental Design Department, PhD in Cultural Studies
SPbSUITD, The Saint-Petersburg State University of Industrial Technologies and Design, St. Petersburg, Russia