History | World Village Festival


Mikko Toivonen

In the mid-1980s the Vaasa Developing Country Association came up with the idea of presenting civil society activities through organising a so called Markets of Possibilities involving many different organisations. These events soon spread throughout the country.

In 1995 the first fully-fledged World Village Festival grew out of the Markets of Possibilities held in Helsinki. The festival was held in alternate years with the Markets of Possibilities until 2005, when the Markets became part of the annual festivals.


Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square 27–28 May 2017

Over the weekend, World Village Festival once again brought together many different CSOs, visitors, politicians and other thought leaders for a just world. The festival's programme included music, art, discussions and activities for the whole family. The festival's main theme in 2017 was civil society and the regional focus on Latin America.

The festival's main attractions included Finnish stars Anna Puu and Irina, the sizzling flamenco rhythms of Spanish duo Fuel Fandango and Colombian-by-way-of-New-York group M.A.K.U. Soundsystem, whose songs take on societal ills such as global inequality. Sunday's music offering suffered a setback as headliner Gaby Moreno's flight from London to Helsinki was delayed due to technical difficulties, thus cancelling her gig at the festival. Brazilian band Aláfia were switched into the role of closing act and they kept the crowd in a sunny mood as the festival weekend drew to a close.

Numerous documentaries and movies were screened during the weekend at Kino Caisa, which was hosted in the facilities of Cultural Centre Caisa. Filmmaker Maher Abdulaziz was on hand after the screening of his film The Wait to talk about the role of the Syrian diaspora in the country's rebuilding. "Appalling living conditions can make refugees fall victim to radicalisation. On the other hand, the values of a democratic society may also find root in Syria through returning refugees," Abdulaziz said.

The festival's talks and discussions touched on issues like refugees, inequality and the state of the civil society. Decision-makers' panels had politicians from all parts of the political landscape looking for solutions to realise the goals of sustainable development and corporate responsibility. The festival highlighted different ways of working for a just world and offered visitors concrete opportunities for participation, for example through volunteering with CSOs.

At Railway Square and Kaisaniemi Park, the festival hosted almost 400 exhibitors, roughly 270 of which were CSOs. The festival boasted a wide-ranging menu thanks to the 60 food vendors who were also encouraged to observe environmental factors in choosing their ingredients. From Saturday to Sunday, roughly 78 000 visitors attended the festival.

Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square 28–29 May 2016

Justice and Asia were seen and heard all around World Village Festival 2016. Other themes included civil society, the refugee experience, climate and environment, sustainable economy and Agenda 2030. In total, 79 000 visitors joined in a celebration for a just world.

The festival’s musical offering was headlined by Nigerien Tuareg artist Bombino. Other main acts included Asian Dub Foundation, a British electronica band with roots in India and Pakistan; political hip hop crew Looptroop Rockers from Sweden; American-Danish-Punjabi mixture Alo Wala as well as South Korean electronic trio Idiotape. The music programme highlighted numerous acts with roots in Asia living in a multicultural world. Finnish top names like Scandinavian Music Group, Teho Majamäki & Travelogue Ensemble and Mira Luoti also acted as ambassadors for justice on the festival’s main stage.

The kids’ programme featured a variety of engaging workshops along with music and dance numbers. Fairy tale concert Satuja Soitosta opened the festival weekend on Savannah Stage. The Reuse Centre showed children, among other things, do-it-yourself doll house renovation and how compost worms create soil. Constructing hobby animals proved so popular that the workshop almost ran out of material – old wool socks.

The theme of justice was also heavily featured in the festival’s documentary film programme as well as in talks and discussions. Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Deeyah Khan presented her 2015 film Jihad - A Story of the Others, and the festival featured several discussions around radicalisation and refugees. Human rights issues in China also attracted many viewers. Talks and discussions included, among others, a conversation between President Tarja Halonen and Jemilah Mahmood, an Under Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Meanwhile, the leaders of Finnish parliamentary parties were interviewed by Kepa’s experts about making energy solutions work within the framework of the economy.

Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square 23–24 May 2015

Held at the tail end of May, World Village Festival offered visitors a variety of programme and rhythms from Africa and the Middle East. The main theme at the 20th anniversary edition of World Village Festival was development, and the festival audience numbered roughly 77 000.

The main performers of Saturday’s music offering included kora virtuoso Ba Cissoko, Sahrawi singer Aziza Brahim and Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, whose performance was produced by the Finnish Red Cross and who reminded listeners of the ebola epidemic raging in West Africa. On Sunday, the festival audience was treated to the premiere of one of the most interesting projects of the jazz summer as UMO – Helsinki – Cotonou took to stage. Sunday also featured gigs by Lebanese gay rights advocates Mashrou’ Leila and a collaborative performance by Afrobeat legend Orlando Julius and modern jazz collective The Heliocentrics. The weekend’s domestic attractions included pop singer Janna, the laid-back Kaveri Special, Finnish reggae star Aurora and the truly original Pietarin Spektaakkeli.

As usual, the weekend included plenty of kids’ programme from workshops to dance, theatre and musical shows. In addition to activities at Kids’ Corner, Savannah Stage also featured programme aimed at children, with musical fable Nukkearkku, Satu Sopanen and Tuttiorkesteri opening the festival weekend.

The festival’s factual programme was also a big draw. The main theme was complemented by discussions around environmental issues, inequality, peace work, the global economy and more. In addition, freedom of speech was brought to the fore in a speech by Larry Siems, author of Guantánamo Diary, as well as in a panel discussion between Finnish journalists. The festival also featured films and documentaries through the first ever Docventures Lounge, held at the Finnish National Theatre’s Stage Club.

A festival for the entire family, the weekend event included a total of 60 street kitchens and
hundreds of exhibitors. Isolated rain showers could not dampen the sunny atmosphere, and as a whole the festival ran smoothly.


Kaisaniemi Park & Central Railway Square 24–25 May 2014

The 15th World Village Festival treated its audience to a variety of music, while the factual programme focused on climate issues. In total, 80 000 attended the festival over the weekend. The sunny weather kept festival visitors happy and the lack of problems did the same to the organisers.

Saturday’s programme was highlighted by an energetic performance by Mexican band Los de Abajo and the soulful Spanish singer Amparo Sánchez. On Sunday, living jazz legend Hugh Masekela enthralled audiences, encouraging everyone to fight against global inequality. The final international guest of the weekend was Mexican accordion virtuoso Celso Piña.

Some of the most interesting Finnish acts included Hiphop Allstars, a group of top Finnish hiphop acts assembled specifically for World Village Festival, as well as Kuperseikkailu, featuring among others Mira Luoti and Anna Puu and performing live for the first time during the festival weekend. Other Finnish performers included the nostalgic Four Cats, Lauri Tähkä, Tuure Kilpeläinen ja Kaihon Karavaani, Minä ja Ville Ahonen, as well as Wimme Saari ja Tapani Rinne.

The expert panel discussed upcoming climate negotiations and called for more ambition, both in Finland and around the world. The NGOs’ climate tent offered solutions to the climate crisis, while international guests expressed their own views in climate discussions from the perspectives of small farmers or indigenous people to name a few. The Open Finland tent showcased Finnish society to people new to Finland. Additionally, the factual programme included discussions on the rights of Dalit women, the ethics of clothing, the future of eating meat, community media in Tanzania and disabled rights in developing countries.

The World Village Festival has evolved into an event for the entire family, once again attracting a number of family groups. 2014’s festival featured a record 400 exhibitors and 60 food vendors, with programme spanning six stages.


Kaisaniemi Park & Central Railway Square 25–26 May 2013

Having established itself as the opening festival of the summer and a forum for global issues, World Village Festival attracted around 85 000 visitors to Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square in Helsinki.

Human rights was the main theme and theatre the sub-theme of the festival. The geographical focus was on Southeast and East Asia. The record of 285 performances enticed audience all along the line. Altogether there were 450 exhibitors at the festival from which 60 were food vendors and 300 were CSOs. The weather on the festival weekend was fairly warm and sunny with an occasional shower of rain.

The geographical focus on Southeast and East Asian music was received enthusiastically by the crowd. The audience had the opportunity to hear Korean post-rock performed by Jambinai, Charmain Clamor's Philippine jazz, Cambodian psychedelic pop by The Cambodian Space Project, Hanggai's Chinese hillbilly rock and Indonesian indie performed by White Shoes & The Couples Company. Other international performers included Sierra Maestra (Cuba) which performed together with the Finnish Kuukumina, Totoo Zebingwa & Sanaa Sana (Tanzania), PelBo (Norway) and Melech Mechaya (Portugal).

The domestic lead performers were Ismo Alanko, who released his new album earlier in the spring, and PMMP, who brought their ten-year career to a close in the autumn of 2013. Don Johnson Big Band was involved in the Metro FeatFest -contest, that was organised for the first time and where the winner of the online contest got to perform together with the band at the festival. Other renowned domestic performers consisted of Diandra, Kuningasidea, Johanna Juhola & Reaktori, Aino Venna, Color Dolor and children’s band Fröbelin Palikat.

Alongside music, the cultural programme included a fair amount of theatre, poetry, children’s programme and street art. Theatre programme was performed on three different stages as a result of the Teatris cooperation (national theatre event for youngsters).

The factual programme that emphasised on human rights dealt with topics related to racism, Kamalari slave system, politics, water, toilets, human trafficking, family planning, employee rights, development cooperation, global inequality, freedom of speech, political prisoners and economy. Several well-known politicians and factual programme guests were starred in the discussions.

The visit of the most interesting factual programme guests was not assured until on Friday of the festival weekend when two members of the Pussy Riot group were confirmed to appear at the festival. The visit of the group caught the media's attention along with the news broadcasts and press releases on Friday. The media attention remained high throughout festival due to the cancellation of Pussy Riot ahead of the planned performance on Saturday.

Kaisaniemi Park & Central Railway Square 26–27 May 2012

One of the biggest multicultural and CSO events, World Village Festival attracted a record audience of 105 000 festival-goers into Kaisaniemi Park and the Central Railway Square over the festival weekend in 2012. The main theme of the festival was democracy, with food also having its own thematic programme. The geographical focus was on North Africa and the Middle East. The festival weekend was exceptionally sunny and warm, the festival site as well as the festival-goers basking in the early summer sunshine.

Two sets of hard-hitting superstars were witnessed during the weekend: Saturday saw a trio of powerful women featuring the queen of Arabic pop, Natacha Atlas; Finnish schlager-wonder Paula Koivuniemi; and President Tarja Halonen. Sunday's super group was reggae troop Jukka Poika & Sound Explosion Band, whose gig temporarily shut down the festival site as it reached maximum capacity and couldn't accommodate all of the eager listeners.

International artists included Nicaraguan Perrozompopo and Israeli-Yemenese-American band Yemen Blues. Queen of North African desert blues, Mariem Hassan and Algerian-French El Gafla featuring Finnish rapper Asa also enchanted audiences.

The myriad factual programme offered something for everyone. Discussions were fronted by several frontline politicians and writers. Factual programme numbers also featured the likes of ministers Heidi Hautala, Paavo Arhinmäki, Ville Niinistö and Erkki Tuomioja, as well as writers including Rafeef Ziadah, Boualem Sansal and Katja Kettu.

The democracy theme came up close and personal in the House of Democracy voting installation. Actors posing as voting officials created an experience of the most dismal democracy in practice most voters had ever seen. Furthermore, the installation was cause for a lot of laughter and serious thought.

Throughout the entire spectrum of the programme, all performances found their audiences. The Food Village and FNT Club Scene venue – the new additions for 2012 – were also very popular. The list of exhibitors also broke previous records with a whopping 450 exhibitors. 60 of these were food vendors and 300 NGOs. In addition to the stage programme, the audience found and enjoyed the exhibitor programme as well as all other performances showcased in 2012.

Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square 28 – 29 May, 2011

Over the course of a single weekend, Finland’s largest multicultural festival attracted around 70 – 80 000 visitors to Helsinki’s Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square.

One of the festival’s brightest stars was the South African Vusi Mahlasela, who performed his freedom songs on Sunday. The crowd also grooved to Senegalese Afro-Hop pioneers Daara J Family, New Yorkers Hazmat Modine, the duo performance by Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen and elecroman Jimi Tenor, among other talents from all over the world.

Representing the Finnish music scene to a packed Railway Square were Yona & Pienet Liikkuvat Pilvet, Lepistö & Lehti, Uusi Fantasia, Signmark and the punk band Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät featuring Pelle Miljoona. Saturday night continued at a sold out festival club in Virgin Oil.

A record-breaking 400 exhibitors, from CSOs to food vendors and businesses, demonstrated their activities and served up exotic flavours.

The European Year of Volunteering 2011 was a clearly present theme through various organizations. Munamies (“Eggman”) got the kids jumping and urged everyone to do positive volunteer work. Around 200 volunteers helped organize the festival, and an additional 1000 volunteers representing different organizations also took part in the festival.

Besides volunteer work, central themes in the factual programme’s over 100 discussions included the Egyptian and Libyan insurrections, accessibility, and immigration. Among the guest speakers was writer Ghada Abdel Aal, who took an active role in the Egyptian uprising.

World Village FM Radio, operated by students for one week, helped tune into the festival spirit.

Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square, 29 – 30 May, 2010

Diverse musical and factual programmes, as well as sunny weather on Sunday, attacted around 70 000 visitors to the eleventh World Village Festival in Helsinki’s Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square.

Anna Puu’s brilliant Saturday afternoon performance banished the rain clouds and charmed the audience. Mad Juana, one of the festival’s most anticipated acts, topped off Saturday night with their explosive reggae and rock rhythms.

Sunday climaxed with the Afro-Columbian group ChocQuibTown, whose positive energy caused dance mania throughout Kaisaniemi Park.

The festival’s theme was “200 paths to a better world”, referring to the valuable work done by different CSOs.

The panel discussions, organized by Kepa, included topics such as Finnish perspectives on how to solve poverty worldwide. One alternative to funding developmental work and the battle against climate change would be a financial market tax, the popularity of which has grown due to the global recession. The idea also received support from panelists representing the three largest political parties in Parliament.

The Globbyists, a network of Finns interested in developmental work, collected citizens’ postcard greetings addressed to Members of Parliament during the festival. The cards encouraged decision-makers to participate more actively in preventing climate change, global poverty, and financial crises. The Globbyists gathered postcards at various events around Finland, and presented them to newly elected MPs in Spring 2011.

Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square 23 – 24 May, 2009

In 2009 the festival was organised for the tenth time. Due to a rainy Saturday there were less visitors but the newly incorporated area of the Railway Square made sure that around 65 000 people enjoyed the festival. There was a record-breaking number of exhibitors, around 400.

The main theme of the factual programme was climate change. Calls after the binding domestic, European and global agreements were made in the panel discussion ”Finland and climate politics”, featuring among others Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen. The theme was further discussed in other factual programmes. The Globbyists of KEPA awarded those members of parliament who had made most effort on defending development aid and fair trade politics.

The main stage featured Colombian La-33, Ghorwane from Mozambique, Malinese Terakaft, as well as Peruvian Novalima, who later performed a surprise gig at the Sunday evening club. Finnish artists Eino Grön, Jippu, Fat Beat Sound System and the kids' favourite Jytäjyrsijät took their audiences. Monsoon stage featured La Casa Bancale from France and Finnish Reino & The Rhinos, Maritta Kuula with Nartana dance group and harmonica maestros Sväng. Saturday's club, organised in cooperation with Funky Elephant Festival, was a major success, featuring Canadian The Soul Jazz Orchestra and Up, Bustle & Out from the UK.

The festival area played host to art installations during the festival. The Cuban wall installation and artist Otto Karvonen´s light sign installation both focused onthe climate theme. A record-breaking number of side events were organised, featuring among others the Ten Times World Village Festival photo exhibition arranged at Lasipalatsi Square, Festa Mocambicana at Tavastia club and an exhibition of Cuban modern art and a panel discussion on the same topic in the Gallery Oksasenkatu 11.

Kaisaniemi 24 – 25 May, 2008

A record number of visitors came to the 2008 World Village Festival. In addition to the diverse music and other programmes, the weather was splendid all weekend. KEPA's theme at the festival was the globbyists' "Tiedä mitä tankkaat" (or, "Know what you're pumping") - biofuel campaign. It raised awareness of the effects of plant-based fuel on food prices and poverty. In addition to KEPA, there were almost 300 other exhibitors presenting their activities.

The main musical act was singer Barbara Hendricks, also a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. She has been living in Stockholm since 1993. The world famous star's performance blended jazz and classical music. Other crowd magnets were, among others, Suurlähettiläät, Värttinä, Dissidenten and the festival's final act, the Malinese-French Mamani Keita & Nicolas Repac.

Kaisaniemi, 26 – 27 May, 2007

In 2007 the World Village Festival had over 100 performances and over 300 displays. Even the rain on Saturday didn't affect the number of visitors, as a sunny Sunday helped fill the park. Climate change was this year's theme, and was discussed, for example, in a panel discussion organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Two stages were built in Kaisaniemi exclusively for music this year, with both foreign and Finnish top artists alternating on them. The biggest crowd magnets were the multicultural Ska Cubano, the genuinely Finnish Kari Tapio, the Peruvian La Sarita, and Dirty Babylon Breaker from France. The audience also enjoyed folk music played by Swedish-Finnish Gjallarhorn, The Valkyrians' ska, and il Murran's traditional Maasai music from Kenya.

Kaisaniemi, 27 – 28 May, 2006

The seventh World Village Festival was held in Kaisaniemi park, the Railway Square, and the International Cultural Centre Caisa. Music, art, activities, world views and possibilities from four different continents were all there to be sampled. Volunteer work was especially kept in mind, without which it would not be possible to organise the World Village Festival for the pleasure of Helsinki dwellers and visitors.

The headliners included Nepathya, whose performance was organised by the Finland-Nepal Friendship Association, and Don Johnson Big Band, one of Finland's top rhythm music groups. The Wycliffe Bible Translators invited the James Lhomi Group, also from Nepal, who performed in Caisa. La Kinky Beat from Spain warmed up their audience, as did the Vietnamese saxophonist Dac Thien Quyen with Trio Töykeät, and the Indian- English bhagra rock band Kissmet. The Finnish Paukkumaissi entertained children and child-minded adults.

Kaisaniemi, 28 – 29 May, 2005

By 2005, ten years had passed since the first World Village Festival. In celebration of this, the festival became an annual event. This year was environmentally themed, which was represented by the massive tent set up in the Railway Square. It housed an Amazonas exhibition, and environmental organisations arranged their displays around it. The festival's programme content concerning serious societal matters increased greatly.

Over 100 groups performed this year. Popular international artists were the Spanish Cheb Balowski, the Chilean reggae band Gondwana, the Somalian-English Maryam Mursal and the Senegalese hip hop group Bogostyle. Among Finnish artists were Värttinä, Kimmo Pohjonen Kluster, Jonna Tervomaa. Such vocalists as Paula Vesala, Mariko, Emma Salokoski, Tidjan and Olavi Uusivirta performed cover classics as part of Kymppiorkka, a group formed especially for this year's festival.

Kaisaniemi, 17 – 18 May, 2003

Food was the major theme at the fifth World Village Festival in 2003. Food may be taken for granted by people living in Finland, but KEPA and its member organisations recognise that millions of people do not have access to this most basic necessity. KEPA and its member organisations launched a food security campaign in 2001. On-going until 2005, its goal was to purge hunger from the world. The festival had a Food World tent, serving fairly produced food from Finland and elsewhere.

Los Cumbancheros from Cuba, the South African hip-hop group Black Noise, and Sembe from Guinea performed at this year's festival. Daimohk, the Chechen Children's Dance Ensemble, put on a wonderful show – despite the miserable and dangerous situation in their country, the group made it to the Village and delighted festival-goers. Finnish performers included Katri Helena, Mariska, Bomfunk MC’s and Maija Vilkkumaa. A national bicycling week was also started during the festival.

Kaisaniemi, 26 – 27 May, 2001

Kaisaniemi Park had become the established festival location by the time the fourth World Village came to town, hosting international artists from visual, performance and theatre backgrounds. The festival's focus was on food and development cooperation. Names were collected for a petition in favour of raising appropriations for development cooperation in Finland. The petition was also signed by many of the festival's performers.

Foreign artists included the Siberian throat singing band Yat-Kha, Galaxy from Senegal, Orquesta Caribe from Cuba, and Jamaican ska music veterans The Skatelites. Cliche, Tasavallan Presidentti, Mari Rantasila, Piirpauke, Kwan and Apulanta were the weekend's Finnish musical entertainment. Ultra Bra, who had performed at all the first four festivals, gave their last World Village performance before breaking up later in the same year.

Kaisaniemi, 29 – 30 May, 1999

The World Village Festival returned to Kaisaniemi Park in 1999 with more visitors than in previous years. The festival's main theme was clearly the Jubilee 2000 campaign, which aimed to cancel third world debt. The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission also held its first Jubilee mass at the festival.

Many international artists came from Africa. Two African women, Busi Balongo from South Africa, and Sally Nyolo from Cameroon gave great performances. Also visiting the Village were Casa de Cultura, a ten-person youth dance theatre company from Mozambique, and the Cuban group Klimax. The eclectic Finnish music programme offered everything from Eino Grön to Eläkeläiset. Pauli Hanhiniemi & Perunateatteri, Ultra Bra and Pohjannaula did their share to keep standards high.

Helsinki Aurora Field, 24 – 25 May, 1997

The second World Village Festival took place in the Helsinki Aurora Field and at the VR warehouses in 1997. The festival relocated because its organisers and the Kaisaniemi Tigers (a Finnish baseball team, which played at the Super League level for a few years) couldn't reach a consensus about the use of the field in Kaisaniemi Park. Organising the festival in a new place was a challenge, but nine stages were erected nevertheless.

The festival themes for 1997 were the ever-current issues of human rights, tolerance and multiculturalism. They were visible in the choice of artists, performances and other activities. The Nigerian author and human rights activist Ken-Saro Wiwa, killed in October 1995, was commemorated at the 1997 festival. Femi Kuti's band The Positive Force, continuing the tradition of father Fela Kuti's activism and afrobeat, gave a performance which raised awareness about Nigeria's dire human rights situation.

The Indian-English Pardesi Bhangra Music Machine, together with Third World, a reggae band and recipient of the UN Peace Medal, were also memorable international performers at the festival. Dozens of Finnish artists performed once more, including world-famous stars like HIM and The 69 Eyes, as well as the original Tuomari Nurmio and the street-wise Giant Robot.

Kaisaniemi, 20 – 21 May, 1995

The World Village Festival made an impressive debut in 1995, when over 150 CSOs and some 100 performers gathered in Kaisaniemi, Helsinki. Tens of thousands of people visited the festival during the weekend. An event combining culture and social activism was clearly in demand.

The festival immediately became a summer kick-off event. Holding the festival in late May complemented the Markets of Possibilities schedule-wise, because the former happening was essentially built around the latter. The first festival was arranged as a one-time occasion, as the main event of the Council of Europe's anti-racism campaign in Finland. The Service Center for Development Cooperation ­ KEPA was also celebrating its 10th anniversary the same year.

Because a new festival has to stand out from the rest, the artist line-up was particularly impressive. Musicians, such as the Jamaican reggae legend Black Uhuru, the U.S. funk/pop/hip hop group Defunkt, and Kardo from Kurdistan, got the crowd moving. Finnish favourites included The Rasmus, who were just starting their musical career, Kerkko Koskinen Ensemble (later known as Ultra Bra), Angelin tytöt, Ismo Alanko, M.A. Numminen and Pelle Miljoona & Rockers.