Grassroots actions create an edge for the city
"Helsinki has a strong cultural scene and a DIY spirit. Other Nordic populations often expect that the public sector or state takes care of things. There is a good kind of craziness here."
Urban activist Jaakko Blomberg thinks that nature and city exist in a fine balance in Helsinki. There are plenty of cultural activities in relation to the size of the city, but the forest is never far away. The central areas are easy to navigate on a bike. "It's quite rare that there are beaches everywhere in a capital city. I feel that people don't fully understand it. Finns see beaches as something self-evident."
Blomberg is one of the founders of Helsinki Urban Art, an association focused on art in the cityscape. In addition, he also works as a consultant, organises events and workshops, makes artistic projects and conducts research. Blomberg's most beloved Helsinki memories have to do with events that he has participated in organising. Blomberg was one of the founders of Cleaning Day, Dinner Under the Sky, Vegan canopy kiosk and Helsinki Sauna Day.
"Community has an important role for me. People can do huge things together. When everyone does their own little part, you create amazing things without huge resources."
"Helsinki has become livelier"
Blomberg moved to Helsinki from the northern city of Kajaani in 2003 when he started to study folkloristics at the University of Helsinki. His first impression of the city was that it is big and busy. At the same time, all the possibilities of the capital city felt attractive. "Helsinki has undergone positive development in the past decade, it has become much livelier. Citizens have started to organise their own events and to actively make their surroundings nicer."
Blomberg feels that it is important to support DIY culture. "Grassroots actions give the city an edge. It is not always understood in the city just how important this is. The fact that there are different layers and non-commercial activities make a city interesting."
Grassroots events are also very important for citizens themselves. They are a way to gain a voice, and to make the city into something its residents can relate to. "Active doing creates an emotional bond with the cityscape. The feeling is very different when you can think that the cityscape belongs to you and you can do things there."
Profession: producer and urban activist
Lives in: Vallila
What you didn't know about me: "I mainly studied humanities subjects at university, such as history and arts and culture studies. I really did not see myself doing what I do now. For most of my student years, I worked however in events. Combining that experience with a humanistic education has been a great help in creating new urban culture."
There are open rocks scattered here and there in Helsinki where you can sit around, especially around Kallio and Alppila. These high, open rocks are an interesting and very unique feature in Helsinki. At sunset, my favourite rocks are the ones by the Linnanmäki amusement park. During Corona times, their importance has only grown.
The Sunday flea market at the Dallapénpuisto park parallel to Aleksis Kiven katu doesn't have a central organisation, people just operate it organically. I am happy that it works so well. At Dallapénpuisto, selling is not even the primary point. The thing that people like to do there most is just hang out. There is a pleasant feeling in the park, and sometimes there are also people selling food, some music and other signs of life.
Mustikkamaa creates a strong contrast with the downtown area right beside it. The nature there is very enjoyable, and there are not usually too many people. It's the beach closest to my home. I like to swim all around Helsinki. Every area has its nice spots that you might never know of unless you live by them.
It has been fun to see that sauna culture has really picked up in recent years. Different saunas suit different moods. Arla Sauna is located inside an apartment block, it has a nice feeling.
There is always a library nearby in Helsinki where you can find all sorts of things. I really appreciate that. Sometimes I just go to the Rikhardinkatu library even if I don't have any specific business there.