Monday, 28 April 2014

Chats with Mina on Finnish Sisu and Silence

This is Mina my supervisor at Viisari...she's a milliner by trade and has worked teaching weaving/
handicrafts/ crocheting for the last three years at Viisari.

This week I've been reading a lot on the Finnish idea of and social practices of silence, (hiljaisuus) and the concept of sisu which means a combination of determination, grit and resilience although most believe it is really tricky to translate directly....I had a chat with Mina about this to see what she thought of these Finnish concepts and life in Viisari...Here is a link to the essay I've been reading, "Coding Personhood through Cultural terms and Practices: Silence and Quietude as a Finnish "Natural Way of Being" which you can read if you are interested or really bored!

How do you like working at Viisari?
I like this work very much as the clients make it such a good place.  It's a good environment, a calm environment.
Is this concept of silence still important to the Finnish people?
Yes somehow it is.  But nowadays many people are afraid of this as people are alone.  If you don't co-operate with yourself and your mind it will kill you. 
Many people like the forest here for silence and in Aulanko, the park in Hameenlinna, we have natures own silence.  Hiljaisuus is a very meaningful word for the Finnish people. 
What does this concept of omissa oloissaan (when people are undisturbed in their thoughts and actions) mean to the Finnish people?
Sometimes in Finland it's like we're still Forest people who don't have neighbours!  Even though we live in bigger houses now and people here commonly live in flats, we don't often want to see our neighbours or feel like we are bothering them.  Sometimes in the newspapers we read of mummified old people that have been discovered after years.  Last year there were two or three cases like that and eventually the signs of death were the smell and a stack of post..
I lived in a block of apartments for ten years in Hameenlinna and after this time I didn't know all the neighbours.  It is very deep in our culture that we don't want to bother people.
Tell me about the Finnish concept of 'sisu' ...
We can think of sisu as banging your head through a hard stone.  Yeah sisu is a concept which kind of incorporates self-determination, an idea that the individual will manage and can just keep going no matter how tough the circumstances,  This idea probably means we don't want to show our soft side, our weak side.  This idea of not showing weakness definitely has an effect on stigma of mental health in Finland.  Yes we have the Kamppi Chapel in Central Helsinki which is a church/mental health resource but that is in Helsinki.  Here in Hameenlinna we are in the middle of everything but actually in the middle of nowhere. 
Hameenlinna hasn't developed like other big cities around it and the people here are so conservative on the inside - there is always a no to everything new.
I don't think it is really open in Finland yet to be open about having a mental health issue because of this concept of sisu and self-reliance on the part of the individual.
IN my own family I saw this when I was growing up...My mother suffered from post-natal depression but refused to take medication for it.  She felt that only hard work could get rid of problems.  Later when my sister had some mental health issues and went to speak with my mother, my mother put her hands to her ears - she didn't want to know.  This is still the same with neighbours in Finland - people do not want to know one anothers problems.
As well as this we don't like to stick out from each other in Finland and we have a saying in Finnish culture that instead of showing off we put our candles under the basket.  We do not show off here and of course this also has an effect somehow on mental health issues...

Thanks Mina! 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Herkullista Paasiaista! Delicious Easter

After non-stop running around Finland for the last five weeks it was great to take a break at Easter to:

Have a delicious Easter! 
Have a birthday lunch with my dad at the Gingerbread house
Mango birthday cake
Embrace the chaos!

Sit in the forest
 Walk by Lake Vanajavesi
Another year older 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Radio Valo - Helsinki

When I was up in Helsinki last weekend to interview Pertti Kurikan Nimipaivat, I unexpectedly ran into the lovely Onni, the producer of Radio Valo and we had a quick chat about his show.

Radio Valo are live on Radio Helsinki every Thursday from 8-10pm and it's the first time in Finnish radio history that adults with learning disability have made programmes.  They feature a famed live Hammond player on each broadcast, Kale Salonen, who Onni tells me, is one of the best Hammond players in all of Scandinavia!  (Here's a link to his profile from the recent Funky Elephant Festival, Helsinki...)
Onni has been with Radio Valo for two years following the agreement with Radio Helsinki, and he had studied radio production at university becoming the first employee with a background in media.
Radio Valo have lots of associates internationally and in Finland and they want to encourage adults to join some of their frequently held workshops.
Onni really believes that Radio Valo is an exception in Finland and while it is an expensive service to run, it is normal media work which really matters. 
The show features interviews with different people in Helsinki as well as a slot for people to talk about their three favourite records, one of which is covered by the Hammond player Kale Salonen. 
Last year Radio Valo won best radio show of the year at the equivalent of the Radio Oscars in was great meeting Onni and I would love to see more work like this across Finland. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät: my favourite Finnish punk band

“The film [The Punk Syndrome] tells about Pertti Kurikka’s Name Day… so it’s about one retard who sings punk and three retards who play punk. You should watch it and think about whether you should hate disabled people or love and respect them.”– Kari Aalto, Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät

On Monday April 14th I went to interview the brilliant Pertti Kurikan Nimipaivat at their rehearsal space in North Helsinki.  Their fame is spreading fast these days with the release of the critically acclaimed documentary The Punk Syndrome so I was delighted that they had given up some of their time to talk about  Finnish punk bands, winning awards and the trials of life on the road…

                                                            I don’t want to live in a group home

I don’t want to live in an institution

I want to live in Kallio in the privacy of a bomb shelter

Congratulations on all the recent awards that the Punk Syndrome has won recently – Have you attended all the awards ceremonies?  Sami: Not all but some of them yes.  It was fun as we have got acknowledgement for the hard work we have done.  It’s really nice.  Some of the awards were from different places in Europe and last year in Finland we won two Jussi awards (Finland equivalent of the Oscars) for best documentary and best editing.

I see you guys have gigs coming up in Helsinki and Turku – are you playing at any music festivals this summer?  Sami: We don’t have so many gigs lined up for this summer yet as we are busy recording a new EP here.

I know you are influenced by Finnish punk bands Karanteeni, Kollaakestaa etc.  Do you like any British punk bands like the Sex Pistols, Raincoats, the Slits etc?  Sami: That guy Pertti, he’s our punk freak!  He likes the British punk band the Hardskins.  The singer was our driver when we were on tour last year in the UK.  We played in London, Sheffield, Leeds and Sheffield.  He also likes the Sex Pistols.  Kari likes the Sex Pistols, Ramones and the Clash.

Lets talk touring….What do you like and dislike about touring?  What is the best gig you have ever played?  Sami: I like to meet people but the one thing I hate at times is these guys!  I don’t want to see these guys!  We are so tight like a family and I see these guys more than my parents, my girlfriend and friends.  That’s the minus of touring because you’re a really really long time away from home.  So that’s my worst thing of touring – 95% these guys!  They can really get in my nerves!

Sami: Pertti likes to go to different countries, meet people and have fun but when he plays the song wrong he gets pissed off.  Toni loves gigs, the actual playing of gigs and the music, that is his main love, playing music and he doesn’t like it when people talk loud.  Kari loves touring to drink booze, see people and play music but he thinks there’s a lot of fighting at times and he doesn’t like it.

Do you sleep on the bus?  Sami: I can not sleep on the bus at all but the rest love to and you can always hear it when they are asleep!

In the UK at the moment it’s very hard to make a living from making music.  Is it the same in Finland? Sami:  I’m going to say no comment as I really don’t know.  We have made out OK.

 Can you tell me who your musical heroes are?  Pertti: a punk band called Klamydia.  Toni: I really like Pelle Miljoon.  Sami: I’m really different, I’m a Whitesnake guy!

What message do you want to get across in your music? Sami:  I’m going to try to speak for everybody here.  We are different but we’re the same ie we are no that different in the punk scene.  You know we can do everything like anybody else if you give us a chance.  There’s a lot of mentally handicapped people who can do things really good but they’re not given the chance to do it.  That’s our message – just give them the chance!  Give them the chance to make their life happy. 

What message do you want to send to people in Scotland, many people in Scotland who are in a similar situation but finding it hard to make music….; I know of some people in Scotland who wanted to make this kind of music but they were not allowed.  What would you say to this?  Sami: That’s a no-no!  More people say to people who are mentally handicapped that they can not do, they can not do but they must play what they want and do what they want.  No-body has the right to say to anybody you can’t do it.  This is our life and nobody elses.  Nobody has the right to say to anybody they can not do. We wanted to show to everybody we can do this!
Sami with his bass, the same as Lemmy from Motorhead...
Pertti's amp with brilliant self-portrait

To learn more of the band and the documentary click here...xx

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Policy and Paintings

I have spent the last few days wading through the 98 page tome that is the Finland Disability Policy Programme 2010-2015.  Actually it is extremely comprehensive and interesting reading, (really!) even at nine at night when I have just got my two girls to sleep and I am feeling frazzled!

I found the part on rights to participate in cultural activities really interesting as I work alongside a very inspiring lady called Justyne who runs Artsability, which is a performance arts group for adults with disabilities across Aberdeenshire.

I was curious about cultural activities in Hameenlinna for adults with disabilty so I followed one of the clients to an art class on Tuesday at the brilliant ARX which models itself as a venue with opportunities for creators and producers of culture.  I love ARX and the art class did not disappoint; it was the last class of the session so I was lucky enough to have a viewing of all art produced in the current session some of which is for a summer exhibition in Hameenlinna while other artworks will be entered for a competition in Germany.

Kimma's brilliant collection. 

and Henri was one of the most prolific artists I have ever met...he produces two paintings most days and rearranges his collection at home when he wakes up...pictured with his collection and painter/teacher Katherine


Monday, 7 April 2014

Social services in Lapland

Just off the night-train from Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, twelve hours north of Hameenlinna.  We had an amazing trip and visited Santa Claus village, took a reindeer safari through the forests and frozen lakes and went on a midnight safari to see the Northern Lights.  We went with two hardcore explorers one of whom was taking his 15th trip since January.  When they saw us arriving at the tour HQ with Malika and Ameenah they did not look impressed but I think they quickly realised we were tough and up to the challenge of hiking and looking for the lights.  The whole night was incredible, we travelled for an hour outside Rovaniemi and travelled up the mountainside by snowmobile to a cosy wooden tipee where we could hang out while waiting for the lights.
The Northern lights were incredible and we saw a really rare phenomena called a Corona as well as the dancing Northern Lights. In Finnish, the name for the aurora borealis is "Revontulet", which literally translated means "Fox Fires." The name comes from an ancient Finnish myth, a beast fable, in which the lights were caused by a magical fox sweeping his tail across the snow spraying it up into the sky.

When we arrived back at the hotel at 4am with Malika and Amneenah we got some odd looks from the receptionists...Ameenah who is 18 months was the youngest child that has ever been on the tour.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon in the Artikum museum of Lapland which was housed in a fabulous building designed by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto .....There was a range of brilliant child-friendly exhibitions on the science of the Northern Lights, the effects global warming is having on the Artic region, and exhibits on the Sami culture....

In this harsh climate how do social services adapt and rise to the challenge of providing services in an area that is under deep snow for over six months of the year?

This morning I found this interesting report on recent research conducted by the University of Lapland which summarises that the Sami People of Lapland need more social and health services.  The Sami people are less satisfied than average with social and health services and their availability.  Only slightly over one third (38%) believe that their social services are good. 
During my time in Rovaniemi I realized how harsh the living conditions are for the Sami people....when we visited one reindeer farm, the owner told us that her nearest neighbour was over 60km away and that they are under snow cover for over six months of the year.  Global warming is effecting the Artic more rapidly than other areas and has had a devastating effect on reindeer husbandy, the livelihood of so many families in the Artic area. 

The 1995 Finnish constitution guaranteed the Sami people the right to their own language and culture and although the 2010 Health Care Act guarantees Sami speakers the right to use Sami language when using healthcare services further development is needed for childrens services, older people and rehabilitation services.  Long distances and poor public transport are major factors in the respondent's lack of satisfaction. 

Below is a link to the report...