Viaporin kekri: The Day of the Spirits, The Night of Indulgence
Violeta Salonen 27.5.2019

Viaporin Kekri is an annual event, taking place in November, on All Saints Day and is a result of collaboration between Governing Body of Suomenlinna (GBS) and Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences (HH). GBS’s event coordinator Paula Lappalainen and HH senior lecturer Violeta Salonen are main figures behind the organization of the event.

It is held in an area that bears historical and cultural significance on the international level. An exceptional setting and a partnership nature of organizers’ relationships determined goals for the event. The event represents the mixture of old and new, real and fiction, and we would like to be more experimental and experiential in the future.

The event took place in November 2018. 2018 marked the 4th time of the event happening. It is a one-day festival that combines immersive experiences, art, storytelling, and gastronomy, and is suitable for all ages. 20 Suomenlinna local business and associations, 27 metropolitan area performers, artists, musicians and caterers, and 70 higher education students worked together to create this complex multifaceted event.

The uniqueness of the event lies in its rich storyworld. It is rooted in old Finnish believes that were rediscovered and reinterpreted and that served as an inspiration for new meanings and new stories. Thus, event’s own traditions were established, bold and experimental, but also respectful towards the site’s past and present. The event lets visitors experience the area from a new perspective. This refers both to the reoccurring characters (kekri spirits) that appear only on that day, and to the fact that many places usually closed or even hidden from public open their doors to visitors.

One of the main aims for organizing such an event was to strengthen the image of Suomenlinna as a year-round destination both for regional visitors and tourists. It includes educating customers about cultural heritage, as well as the background of the event which is rooted in national Pagan traditions. Another important point was to promote businesses located in Suomenlinna, improve their visibility, and set a ground for the cooperation between those businesses and the ones from the metropolitan area. Haaga-Helia’s main goal was to give its students an experiential learning opportunity by trusting them with authority to co-create and organize a massive event in a place of historical importance.

Our goal was fulfilled: visitors got to learn about history and culture while being entertained, businesses had chance to get more visibility and revenue during “slow season” and expand network with external partners, and students got to apply theory in practice and create invaluable connections for the future.

For few years we have been thinking to apply for Evento awards in order to get recognition for our student’s work and gain much needed visibility. This year, seemed to have been the right time and mixture of right people on the team. Application for Evento was written in early January and in mid-March, we found out that we got accepted to the finals. This meant we had to pitch for the event, in front of the jury on 4.4 in Messukeskus and attend the gala in the evening. To us, this meant just one thing: creating an experiential pitch and taking our storytelling even further: giving an experience on every touchpoint for the partners and attendees, or in this case, the jury.

As we were dressing up in Pasila campus, I kept wondering, how do I explain such a complex and multidimensional event in just 3 minutes? Would jury recognize and the aim behind the event? Would they reward all hard work we put into Viaporin Kekri? Would academia “push” the industry to take bolder and more experiential steps in event creation? How do we go head to head with companies from our category (e.g. Lataamo and Gelenec) whose budget is way higher than ours?

As soon as we walked in the Congress fair dressed up as “kekri spirits” it became evident that the outcome of the Evento awards was not as important as the visibility and knowledge we managed to gain during the whole process. Students got a chance to write an application for the competition, we got to practice stage appearance, do social media marketing, learn video creation skills and be part of the pitch in front of the top of the industry.

The award came as a cherry on top of the cake!

Even though we did not win in our category, Lataamo did, and congratulations to them, they really did an incredible job; we won a special award, the one that was never given before and as Petri Hollmén – chairman of the jury stated: “We, need to change our own manuscript and give a special award for the team of Viaporin Kekri – future event creators”!

What an incredible feeling and recognition for us all!!! Endless hours of work, phone calls, cooperation, gaining new partners, overlooking concepts, managing people, late night meltdowns, high performance days, tears, and sweat – were all worth it! Our students got recognition they deserve! Award is for all ever involved in Viaporin Kekri – those who were brave enough to kick start the event 4 years ago in less than 8 weeks and those whose involvement is getting to the fifth year, as well as those in between! This award is for you!

Let’s keep on pushing the boundaries and achieving the “unachievable” by setting the bar higher every year! Let’s keep producing the event with benefit in mind for all parties involved. Let’s continue adding that post-modern spin to rich traditions!

Let’s burn our sorrows away with Kekripukki (kekri buck) on the shores of Suomenlinna, once again, for the fifth time, on 2nd of November 2019. Welcome!

 

Violeta Salonen

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