The Spot-lit Literary Tourism development programme has been launched in Kainuu in Northern Finland, as the first four workshops have been carried out around the region. The potential of literature tourism is good, but requires a new kind of cooperation between the cultural sector and tourism business in order to materialize. Product development and marketing work will continue during the winter, hoping to have some new products available for the upcoming summer season.
Kainuu region is located in Northern Finland, on the Finnish-Russian border. We live in Arctic conditions and have a real winter with lots of snow and a short period of polar nights, but also three other distinctive seasons, with white summer nights and the beautiful autumn colours. There are only 3.6 inhabitants per square kilometre in Kainuu and therefore we live surrounded by wilderness. You will find that certain kind of connection to nature and a natural way of life in Kainuu and also in many pieces of the literature from our region, both old and new. Sounds exotic and a potential for literature tourism? Read and learn more!
Literature in Kainuu
There is a strong literary heritage in Kainuu. For example the nationally recognised poets Eino Leino (1878-1926) and Isa Asp (1853-1872), and writers Ilmari Kianto (1874-1970) and Veikko Huovinen (1927-2009) come from the region. Some of their writings has been translated into English and other languages, raising the potential of literature tourism in Kainuu even to an international level. Whilst speaking about literature in Kainuu, one mustn’t forget that there are also successful contemporary authors that come from Kainuu.
However, there is one factor above others that makes Kainuu interesting as an international literature tourism destination, and that is the Finnish national epic Kalevala. The Kalevala [ˈkɑle̞ʋɑlɑ] is a 19th-century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Karelian and Finnish oral folklore and mythology whilst he was living in Kainuu and working as the district doctor.
The Kalevala is one of the most significant works of Finnish literature, instrumental in the development of the Finnish national identity and the intensification of Finland’s language strife and the growing sense of nationality. The national epic has been translated into a breathtaking 62 languages, giving a unique opportunity to build marketing and experiences on Finnish mythology.
There is also a cultural centre Juminkeko in city of Kuhmo in Kainuu region, dedicated for the Kalevala. The centre’s objectives are to preserve the Kalevala traditions and culture, to practice cultural exchange between Finland and the Republic of Karelia, Russia, as well as international cultural exchange based on the Kalevala.
Some literary tourism destinations and products already exist around the region and all the assets mentioned above may be used for building many more, but this requires new kind of cooperation within the Kainuu region and also with organisations outside the region. The Spot-lit project plans to kick-start this kind of development.
Kuhmo Chosen among the UNESCO Network of Creative Cities
Recently the city of Kuhmo in Kainuu has been selected as one of the UNESCO Network of Creative Cities with literature as its strength. The selection is seen as a unique opportunity to boost development activities around culture and tourism, especially literary tourism. The city of Kuhmo applied for the status of a City of Literature on the initiative of the Juminkeko Foundation. The application was prepared for about six months in cooperation with various actors.
Kuhmo’s application was based on the idea of Kuhmo as the home of the Kalevala but recorded also other actions of the City of Kuhmo and its associates in the field of culture and literature and envisioned what is to be done in the future.
”I’m really glad that we took the opportunity and the Juminkeko team did a great job in compiling the application. This status significantly strengthens Kuhmo’s reputation as an international cultural city and creates content for the development of our cultural industry and tourism”, says Mayor Tytti Määttä.
Spot-lit Programme Aiming to Create New Products and Business
One of the goals of the international Spot-lit is to launch at least five new literary tourism products or services in Kainuu. To contribute to this process, the interested organisations within the region have been brought together to learn about the project and to help plan the activities of the Digital Networking Pilot to be carried out during the project.
In cooperation with the Finnish Local Heritage Federation, a partnership workshop was carried out in October, giving the participants new perspectives on cooperation. The Spot-lit development programme has also been launched in Kainuu and the first four workshops have been carried out around the region. Altogether 112 participants, including the project partners organising the events, attended the workshops. In addition to literature related associations, there were for example municipal representatives, cultural producers, entrepreneurs, tour operators etc. present. In the future, we hope to attract even more SME’s to join the process, as we continue to actual product development and marketing themes.
Many kinds of development ideas, both new and old, were raised at the workshops. Now it is time to match the ideas with the best possible consortiums of developers and operators, that will “launch the ideas out from the project machinery” and build successful products. The work has only begun and the workshop participants have expressed the view that coming into the same table to discuss their ideas has already been very useful.
The four workshops launched a development process continuing with two more advanced workshops during winter 2019-2020. The latter workshops will be carried out by one of the four experts offering product development assistance for cultural tourism at the Visit Finland Academy.
Early in 2020, there will also be a call for applications to the Literary Tourism Product Incubation Programme valued at up to €10, 000 for the workshop participants. We hope to boost the cooperation of culture and tourism organisations and really bring their ideas to life through the development programme!
There are examples of good cross-sectoral cooperation in Kainuu, for example in Kuhmo, where the cultural and tourism organisations have worked in close cooperation for years, successfully combining different themes like chamber music, bears and the Kalevala. How about coming to experience it yourselves next summer, as the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival will be arranged for the 51st time! At the same visit, you may go to Juminkeko to learn about the Kalevala and/ or experience the presence of wild brown bears inside a safe hide in the wilderness.
The joint marketing association of local businesses in Kuhmo and Suomussalmi goes under the name Wild Taiga that has strong experience on product development, online marketing and sales for both domestic and foreign customers. They already have some literary tourism products on sale and they are currently finalising some more in cooperation with different businesses, says representative of the organisation, Ms Sari Rusanen.
The field of culture and tourism is strong in Kainuu. We are expecting many interesting openings in the field of literary tourism in Kainuu, and it will be interesting to see what the first products and services coming out of the Spot-lit process will look like! In addition, we look forward to finding new ways to cooperate and develop sustainable literature tourism in the region.
We warmly welcome new participants to our network!