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Viaporin Kekri – a look at the face of darkness with no fear


Violeta Salonen

senior lecturer, service business
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Julkaistu : 25.10.2019

Viaporin Kekri is a festival held on the island of Suomenlinna. It is a result of collaboration and co-creation between Haaga-Helia’s students of Bachelor Degree Programme in Hospitality, Tourism and Experience Management (HOTEM, ENG); Hotel and Restaurant Management Degree Programme (HOTRA, FIN), the Governing Body of Suomenlinna, the island’s service providers and businesses from mainland Helsinki. This year the festival marks its fifth year of existence with a record number of partners and students involved.

One of the main aims of Viaporin Kekri is to create a new event which exploits the darkness of the fortress through combining elements from Finnish Kekri-traditions with post-modern interpretation and rich storytelling elements. It aims to promote Suomenlinna UNESCO World Heritage Site as a year-round destination for visitors. The event also helps the local service providers and/or artists to promote and present the variety of their services as well as gives a possibility to strengthen and create connections with Helsinki mainland businesses. Students taking part in event creation gain practical experience and expand their network. This event is truly a win-win-win situation: each participating side benefits from it.

Viaporin Kekri is crafted by using rich storytelling elements – it’s a rediscovered and reinterpreted version of the traditional Finnish pagan tradition called Kekri. It celebrates the end of the harvest season, by greeting the new dark season and welcomes upcoming year by celebrating with good food, drinks, fire and other festivities. The festival program includes immersive experiences, live music, theatre, dance, food pop-ups, sauna, museums, exhibitions and many, many more activities for all ages. The richness of the event is that there truly is something for everyone: this year the (rather long) program list includes even yoga!

New winds are blowing for Viaporin Kekri this year. The event is prolonged from just one day to multiple days: parts of the program are running already from Wednesday, 30th October. Besides this, something we have tried to pitch for two years came finally true: this year we are joining forces with Haaga-Helia’s third year Hotel and Restaurant Management students and their exceptional teachers. What this means is that the event will have food service concepts designed and run by this talented bunch, who with their great innovation and attention to detail have planned the concepts and the whole production for three pop-ups in Suomenlinna: one at Linna Bar, another at Beer Fest at Tenaille von Fersen Banquet Hall and one at Levyhalli, where also the Finnish Light Art association FLASH holds their exhibition.

These pop-ups are run and funded in cooperation with local bar Linna Bar, which has worked tightly together with our students to make all of the concepts come true. Besides the light art exhibition created by FLASH, also another program number is deeply connected with the food concepts: the Kekri Sauna. This is something that has never happened in Viaporin Kekri before, and makes one almost wonder why not! Sauna fits perfectly to the theme of the event and Finnish traditions. A sauna tent for 30 people will be set up next to Linna Bar in Suomenlinna during the week of Viaporin Kekri and will provide visitors with a relaxing, traditional and atmospheric sauna experience accompanied with refreshing drink specially designed for the occasion.

For the Kekri Sauna to become true, it needed some sponsors. This is something the restaurant management students excelled in: their skills for pulling in sponsors and the growing popularity of the whole event of Viaporin Kekri has raised our amount of partners this year to 64 as opposed to last year’s 47. Our partners range from breweries to spa product companies, and from theater production groups to the Red Cross. It is amazing to think that during the day of Viaporin Kekri all these different companies and associations come together to be part of this event. With this many partners on board, we can proudly say that Viaporin Kekri is making its way to the big wide world of Helsinki city festivals. The Evento Special Award for Future Event Creators, which Viaporin Kekri was awarded with at the 2019 Evento Awards has truly raised our bar and has given us power and motivation to develop into more and more professional way of operating.

Talking about the way of operating: this is how the whole of Viaporin Kekri organization runs. The two main brains behind the whole project are Haaga-Helia’s senior lecturer and experience designer Violeta Salonen; and Suomenlinna Governing Body’s event coordinator Kaisa Koskinen. In close cooperation with them operate the twelve (12) second and third year HOTEM students in management roles and content creation. One main lead on the project is third year HOTEM student Taru Granholm who not only runs the project throughout her studies in Haaga-Helia, but also as a part of her work for Governing Body of Suomenlinna. There are 56 first year HOTEM students working on operational level and creating some of the concepts, and around 30 third year HOTRA students concepting and producing food. This year the amount of students involved is bigger than ever before.

A lot lies underneath the facade of the event: everything, starting from creating a website and getting the first partners to join, has to be done by our team. Our work consists of marketing plans, billions of online excels and documents, multiple prolonged meetings and ideation sessions, coordinating and scheduling, planning visuals, communicating with partners, cancelling and reconstructing plans, taking care of practical arrangements, planning and executing a media event… and the list goes on.

What a unique experience it is, to get this real-life experience of what event management and design really is. This knowledge cannot be gained simply by reading a book or working on an imaginary case. Much like the event itself, it must be experienced.

To provide you, dear reader, with a little example of our program, here is a short description of some events at Viaporin Kekri: Kekri Buck Burning Ceremony at the shores of Varvilahti, Childrens Science Lab at Pajasali Banquet hall, Beer Fest with six different breweries and tasting sessions at Tenaille von Fersen, Drumming Session for the whole family in the Gunpowder Magazine, Brewery tours at Suomenlinnan Panimo, pop-up performances by Light Dance Group Spektri, to name a few. As usual one of the main attractions are venues usually closed to public such as Caponier Blomcreutz tunnels, Hallways between Myllysali and Tenaille von Fersen as well as Clock Tower. Come and see what else this event is made up of, or have a sneak peek through our website

Release your sorrows by writing them down on a paper and burning them together with a kekribuck!

Come to Suomenlinna on 2nd of November and let Viaporin Kekri take you on a journey to the festivities of the dark season. Welcome!

Written by:

Taru Granholm – third year student of Hospitality, Tourism and Experience Management Degree Programme

Violeta Salonen – Senior Lecturer of Experience Management and event experience designer – Haaga-Helia

Picture: Cecilia Palombo