Turku was the European Capital of Culture in 2011 and the main theme of the year was ”Culture does good”. The year 2011 was experienced in Turku as something shared that changed the city and generated new kind of communality and a sense of pride for Turku. Many services, structures and procedures still live on even though we will soon celebrate the 10th anniversary of Turku’s year as the European Capital of Culture.

As we prepare for year 2021, let’s look back at how Turku has developed since the Capital of Culture year 2011, how the year 2011 changed Turku and, in particular, what the future key factors are from the point of view of culture, wellbeing and involvement.

An external review, “Turku Health Check”, was ordered regarding the impacts of the Capital of Culture year. It was carried out by Neil Peterson and Hanns-Dietrich Schmidt (Inside Track) who have consulted various European Capitals of Culture. A similar Health Check review has been made on Liverpool’s year as the European Capital of Culture in 2008.

The Health Check interviews were conducted in October 2019 and the interviewees included 40 people who had had key roles in the implementation of Turku’s year as the Capital of Culture in 2011.  The interviewees were asked to observe the impact of the European Capital of Culture year on the present-day Turku. They were also asked to give their views on how culture could remain as an important resource in city development even in the future.

Happy residents make a city of culture

According to the interviewees, the atmosphere of Turku has become more open and the city has become more outward-looking and European thanks to the Capital of Culture year. Particularly the role of River Aura as a living cultural space has been successfully enhanced in Turku. Many interviewees found it important that, in order to secure an extensive cultural field and an ability to regenerate, the city also supports the prerequisites of the independent cultural sector.

In addition to conducting expert interviews, a survey was sent to subscribers of the Culture Card newsletter and 227 Culture Card holders responded. The survey helped map out the views of residents on what kinds of things they would like to see and experience in future Turku. Instead of grand spectacles, a strong need for a sense of communality and the desire to see other people happy became highlighted in the responses. Also developing of residential areas and bringing culture services to where the respondents live were considered important. The same themes were also highlighted in the conclusions and recommendations of the review.

Neil Peterson: “We want to see people smiling on the streets and see that they are happy” should be the most important measure of success in delivering the city’s cultural plans! That is an even more important goal in helping to recover from the impact of Corona virus. If that can happen, culture certainly will have done good.”

Review by Neil Peterson ja Hanns-Dietrich Schmidt:  Turku Ten Years On: A pre-10th anniversary culture and strategy “Health Check”.

Further information about Turku’s year as the European Capital of Culture