World Village Festival was first organised in full in 1995. Over the years the festival has cemented its position as an annual meeting point between CSOs, festival visitors, politicians and thought leaders.
The roots of World Village Festival are in the 1980s, when the Vaasa Association for Developing Countries came up with a new idea for presenting civil society activities to the public. That idea begat the Market of Possibilities, which is still organised every year around Finland.
In Helsinki, the Market of Possibilities grew into World Village Festival, which was first organised in 1995. The festival and the Market of Possibilities were organised in alternating years until 2005, when the market became a part of the festival, which in turn became annual.
Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square 26–27 May 2018
The main theme of the 2018 World Village Festival was the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The festival’s regional focus was on Africa.
Festival artists on the main stage included South African mainstay Freshlyground, Grammy-winning singer Dobet Gnahoré, Congolese band Jupiter & Okwess, Finnish reggae star Raappana and 47SOUL, the Palestinian innovators of the modern genre of shamstep, a fusion of folk and electro.
The festival hosted discussions on topics such as everyday consumer choices, climate change, corporate responsibility and human rights, with a number of voices giving their views on solutions and political measures for a just and sustainable world. Speakers included President Tarja Halonen, actor Aku Hirviniemi, human trafficking victim Itohan Okundaye and Minister of the Environment Kimmo Tiilikainen (Centre Party), who discussed Finnish emissions goals in a Kepa Talks panel.
For the festival weekend, On the Rocks on Mikonkatu was transformed into Village Cinema, the festival’s venue for documentary films. The documentary programme featured films on the challenges of family reunification, the effects of globalisation, the peace work of individuals and more. The festival audience was also treated to the world premiere of Kotimaa Kosovo-Suomi, Olli Laine’s documentary telling of the story of the Hetemaj family, known for their achievements in politics and sports. The screening was accompanied by an interview with the Hetemaj family and director Laine.
Children’s programme consisted of concerts and workshops. The Children’s Corner featured much to do as usual, including lectures on African rhythms and crafts sessions with recycled materials.
The evening continued at the festival clubs. On Saturday, Finland’s top Latin club Fiesta Latina took over On the Rocks, while Afro Sunday DJ’s took over the terrace of Apollo to keep the crowd dancing on Sunday.
Finland’s largest CSO event assembled a total of 406 exhibitors, including 253 CSOs and roughly 60 food vendors, at Railway Square and Kaisaniemi Park. Approximately 80 000 guests visited the festival area during the weekend.
Festival Magazine: Festivaalilehti 2018 (pdf)
Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square 27–28 May 2017
The main theme of the 2017 festival was civil society and the regional focus on Latin America.
The weekend’s biggest attractions included Finnish acts like Anna Puu and Irina, the fiery flamenco rhythms of Fuel Fandango from Spain and M.A.K.U. Soundsystem from Colombia. Sunday’s lineup took a hit at the last moment as singer-songwriter Gaby Moreno was stranded in London due to technical difficulties at the airport. Brazilian outfit Aláfia were thus moved up to close out the festival, and they did not disappoint.
The festival’s talk programme covered topics such as refugees, inequality and the state of civil society. Decision-makers’ panels had politicians from all over the political spectrum looking for solutions for achieving sustainable development goals and realising corporate responsibility. The festival introduced visitors to different ways of working for a just world, offering concrete ways to participate, for example by volunteering with CSOs.
Movies and documentaries with social themes were screened at a new venue, Kino Caisa, which was hosted within Cultural Centre Caisa. Discussions that followed screenings tackled issues like the status of trans people and the state of civil society in Latin America. Following the showing of his film The Wait, filmmaker Maher Abdulaziz took part in a discussion on the role of the Syrian diaspora in rebuilding their wartorn home country.
Nearly 400 exhibitors, including 270 CSOs, participated in the festival in Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square. The festival menu was once again varied, thanks to the 60 food vendors present. Over the weekend, roughly 78 000 visitors attended the festival.
Festival magazine: Festivaalilehti 2017 (pdf)
Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square 28–29 May 2016
In 2016, World Village Festival’s focus was on justice and Asia. Other themes included civil society, refugees, climate and environment, sustainable economy and the 2030 Agenda. 79 000 visitors attended the festival over the weekend.
Festival headliners included Nigerien Tuareg artist Bombino, a British group with Indian and Pakistani heritage in Asian Dub Foundation, Swedish political rappers Looptroop Rockers, Punjabi–American–Danish mixture Alo Wala and South Korean electro trio Idiotape. Finnish highlights included Scandinavian Music Group, Teho Majamäki & Travelogue Ensemble and Mira Luoti.
As usual, there was much for children to do. The festival opener was a children’s concert by Satuja Soitosta on Savannah Stage, while the Reuse Centre taught Kids’ Corner visitors – among other topics – doll house renovation.
Justice was a strong theme in the film and talk programmes. Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Deeyah Khan screened her film Jihad - A Story of the Others, which was a part of a wider discussion on radicalisation and the refugee experience at the festival. A film on human rights in China also attracted much interest. The talk programme included President Tarja Halonen discussing emergency relief with Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Under Secretary Jemilah Mahmood. Leaders of Finnish parliamentary parties were questioned by Kepa’s experts about reconciling energy issues with economic ones.
Festival magazine: Festivaalilehti 2016 (pdf)
Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square 23–24 May 2015
The 2015 festival offered visitors a varied programme and rhythms from Africa and the Middle East. On its 20th anniversary, the festival’s main theme was development and the festival audience numbered approximately 77 000.
Saturday’s headliners included kora virtuoso Ba Cissoko, Sahrawi singer Aziza Brahim and Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, who performed courtesy of the Finnish Red Cross and delivered a reminder about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Sunday at the festival saw the premiere of the most interesting jazz project of the summer as UMO–Helsinki–Cotonou took to stage. Sunday’s main stage lineup also included a performance by Lebanese Mashrou’ Leila and a joint concert by Afrobeat legend Orlando Julius and modern jazz collective The Heliocentrics. The weekend’s top Finnish names included pop singer Janna, the laid-back Kaveri Special, Finnish reggae star Aurora and the always original Pietarin Spektaakkeli.
Kids’ Corner hosted plenty of events throughout the weekend. Saturday at the festival kicked off with a performance of children’s musical story Nukkearkku – matka-arkun salaisuus, while Sunday began with a show by Satu Sopanen ja Tuttiorkesteri.
The factual programme discussed – in addition to the main theme – the environment, inequality, peace work and the global economy. Freedom of speech was the topic of a talk given by Guantánamo Diary author Larry Siems and a panel discussion between Finnish journalists. The festival also hosted Docventures Lounge for the first time, bringing films and documentaries to the Stage Club of the Finnish National Theatre.
The free festival included a total of 60 street kitchens and hundreds of exhibitioners. Scattered showers did not hamper an otherwise sunny festival, which ran smoothly through the weekend.
Festival magazine: Festivaalilehti 2015 (pdf)
Kaisaniemi and Railway Square 24–25 May 2014
The 15th World Village Festival offered its audience a cornucopia of music and a factual programme centred on climate issues. 80 000 visitors made their way to the festival over the weekend. The sunny weather kept everyone in a positive mood and the festival went off without a hitch.
The festival’s Saturday highlights included Mexican band Los de Abajo and the soulful Spanish singer Amparo Sánchez. On Sunday, visitors were treated to a living jazz legend in Hugh Masekela, who implored everyone within earshot to fight global inequality. The festival’s international closing act was Mexican accordion virtuoso Celso Piña.
Finnish acts included Hiphop Allstars, a group of top acts who joined forces specifically for World Village Festival, and the live premiere of Kuperseikkailu, which featured the talents of Mira Luoti, Anna Puu and more. Other domestic artists included the nostalgic Four Cats, Lauri Tähkä, Tuure Kilpeläinen ja Kaihon Karavaani, Minä ja Ville Ahonen and Wimme Saari ja Tapani Rinne.
A panel of experts discussed the coming climate negotiations and called for more ambition from Finland and countries around the world. CSOs offered solutions to the crisis in a special climate-themed tent, while international visitors represented the perspectives of groups such as small farmers and indigenous peoples. The Open Finland tent presented different aspects of Finnish society to recent immigrants. The factual programme also included discussions of the rights of Dalit women, the ethics of clothing, the future of eating meat, community media in Tanzania and the rights of disabled people in developing countries.
The all-ages festival once again attracted a large number of families. In 2014, a record 400 exhibitioners and 60 street kitchens participated, and the programme spanned six stages.
Festival magazine: Festivaalilehti 2014 (pdf)
Kaisaniemi and Railway Square 25–26 May 2013
Having solidified its place as the start of summer and a meeting point for those interested in global issues, World Village Festival gathered 85 000 visitors to Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square.
The festival’s main theme was human rights, with theatre as a minor theme. Regional focuses were in Southeast and East Asia. The festival programme consisted of a record 285 events. 450 exhibitioners participated in the festival, including 60 food vendors and 300 CSOs.
The festival’s sonic landscape included the Korean post-rock of Jambinai, Charmain Clamor’s Filipino jazz, the psychedelic pop of The Cambodian Space Project, Hanggai’s Chinese hillbilly rock and the Indonesian indie of White Shoes & The Couples Company. Artists from beyond Asia included Sierra Maestra from Cuba alongside Kuukumina from Finland, Tanzanian Totoo Zebingwa & Sanaa Sana, Norwegian PelBo and Portuguese Melech Mechaya.
Domestic headliners were Ismo Alanko, who had recently released a new album, and PMMP, who ended their career in autumn 2013. Other Finnish acts included Don Johnson Big Band, Diandra, Kuningasidea, Johanna Juhola & Reaktori, Aino Venna, Color Dolor and children’s band Fröbelin Palikat.
The theatre programme spanned three stages, thanks to collaboration with the Teatris festival.
The factual programme dove deep into human rights, with discussions on racism, the kamalari slave system, politics, water, toilets, human trafficking, family planning, workers’ rights, development cooperation, global inequality, freedom of speech, prisoners of conscience and the economy.
The factual programme was amended on Friday before the festival weekend began, when two members of the Russian group Pussy Riot were able to enter Finland. A storm of media attention arose around Pussy Riot, with coverage in television and print. The media followed the festival closely over the entire weekend. The pseudonymous members of Pussy Riot cancelled their appearance on Saturday morning.
Festival magazine: Festivaalilehti 2013 (pdf)
Kaisaniemi and Railway Square 26–27 May 2012
World Village Festival 2012 was a record-setting event, attracting 105 000 visitors to Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square over the weekend. The festival’s main theme was democracy, while food was chosen as a minor theme. Regional focuses were in North Africa and the Middle East. The sun shined throughout the weekend.
The most popular performances of the weekend included Saturday shows by Arab Pop sensation Natacha Atlas and Finnish pop legend Paula Koivuniemi. Sunday’s biggest draw was the poster child of the Finnish reggae boom Jukka Poika with his Sound Explosion Band. International acts included Nicaraguan Perrozompopo and Israeli-Yemeni-American combination Yemen Blues. The audience was also enchanted by the sounds of a joint performance by Mariem Hassan – the queen of North African desert blues – the Algerian-French El Gafla and Finnish rapper Asa.
The festival’s varied factual programme included talks by a number of top politicians and authors, including President Tarja Halonen; government ministers Heidi Hautala, Paavo Arhinmäki, Ville Niinistö and Erkki Tuomioja; and authors Rafeef Ziadah, Boualem Sansal and Katja Kettu.
Visitors had an opportunity to experience the main festival theme first-hand in the voting installation House of Democracy. Actors posed as voting officials and gave visitors a taste of what an undemocratic voting situation feels like, surprising many and generating a lot of discussion.
New additions at the 2012 festival included local food oasis Herkkukylä and the FNT Stage Club with its film programme. Exhibitioners at the festival included 60 food vendors and 300 CSOs. The festival crowd was large enough to keep all venues packed.
Festival magazine: Festivaalilehti 2012 (pdf)
Kaisaniemi and Railway Square 28–29 May 2011
Finland’s largest multicultural festival attracted an audience of 70 000–80 000 to Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square over the weekend.
One of the brightest stars to perform at the festival was South African freedom singer Vusi Mahlasela. Attendees also got to enjoy the sounds of Senegalese Afro-hop pioneer Daara J Family, New Yorker Hazmat Modine, a joint gig by Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen and electro maven Jimi Tenor as well as a host of other performers from around the world.
Finnish acts included Yona & Pienet Liikkuvat Pilvet, Lepistö & Lehti, Uusi Fantasia, Signmark and punk band Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät, who were reinforced on stage by Pelle Miljoona. Saturday’s party continued at the festival club at Virgin Oil Co.
Over 400 exhibitors from CSOs to food vendors and companies participated in the festival by presenting their activities and offering visitors exotic flavours.
The EU’s volunteerism theme year was also seen at the festival. A special effort was made by Munamies, who had children bouncing around with a message of positivity and volunteerism. Roughly 200 volunteers participated in putting the festival together, with another 1 000 volunteers working with participating CSOs. The popular uprisings in Egypt and Libya, accessibility and migration were also highly visible issues at the festival. The festival’s guests included author Ghada Abdel Aal, an active participant in the Egyptian uprising.
The festival atmosphere was broadcast over the airwaves during the entire festival week thanks to World Village FM, a radio project put on by students.
Kaisaniemi and Railway Square 29–30 May 2010
In 2010, a varied music and factual programme as well as Sunday’s beautiful weather combined to draw a crowd of approximately 70 000 visitors to the festival.
On Saturday afternoon, Anna Puu charmed the audience with a radiant performance. One of the weekend’s most anticipated artists was Mad Juana, who closed out Saturday with a blast of reggae and rock rhythms. A sunny Sunday closed with the positive vibes of Afro-Colombian ChocQuibTown, whose show had the entire Kaisaniemi crowd dancing.
World Village Festival 2010 was held under the theme “200 paths to a better world”, a reference to the valuable work done by various CSOs. Kepa’s panel discussions pondered matters such as Finland’s role in combating global poverty. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, a proposed financial transaction tax gained popularity as a source of funding for climate change efforts and development cooperation, and the idea was endorsed in a panel discussion by members of the three largest parties in government.
The development-minded Globbyist network gathered citizens’ tidings to MPs at the festival with a postcard campaign. Messages on postcards encouraged those in power to take decisive action to fight climate change, global poverty and financial crises. These postcards were collected at popular events around Finland and delivered to MPs in a large Globbyist event in Spring 2011.
Kaisaniemi and Railway Square 23–24 May 2009
The main theme of the tenth World Village Festival was climate change. Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen was on hand to participate in a panel on Finnish climate policy, which called for binding agreements on the national, European and global level. Climate was also present in other elements of the factual programme. Kepa’s Globbyists recognised MPs who had done the most to defend development cooperation and fair trade policies, with Pertti Salolainen (National Coalition) emerging as the favourite.
The main stage featured acts like Colombian La-33, Mozambican Ghorwane, Malian Terakaft and Peruvian Novalima, which also performed a surprise gig at the festival’s closing club night. Finnish highlights included Eino Grön, Jippu, Fat Beat Sound System and children’s favourite Jytäjyrsijät. Monsoon Stage artists included La Casa Bancale from France and Finnish acts Reino & The Rhinos, Maritta Kuula together with the Nartana dance ensemble and harmonica virtuosos Sväng. The evening club held in association with Funky Elephant Festival on Saturday night at Virgin Oil Co. was a huge success, with performers like Canadian The Soul Jazz Orchestra and Up, Bustle & Out from Great Britain.
The festival area was also adorned by climate change themed art, including a Cuban wall installation and a light frame installation by artist Otto Karvonen. The 2009 festival also included a number of side events: The square behind Lasipalatsi hosted a photography exhibition documenting the festival’s history, Galleria Oksasenkatu 11 hosted an exhibition and a discussion on Cuban modern art and Festa Mocambicana hosted by the Tavastia club.
A rainy Saturday hampered visitor numbers, but the additional room on Railway Square helped the festival reach a total audience of roughly 65 000. The festival area was packed with a record number of exhibitioners, nearly 400 in all.
Kaisaniemi 24–25 May 2008
World Village Festival 2008 broke audience records, thanks to a varied music and factual programme and fine weather over the weekend.
Kepa’s theme for the festival was the Globbyists’ Tiedä mitä tankkaat (“Know Your Fuel”) biofuel awareness campaign, which highlighted the effects food crop-based fuels have on food prices and poverty. Kepa was joined at the festival by nearly 300 exhibitioners.
The festival headliner was UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks, who performed courtesy of the UN refugee agency. Hendricks, a resident of Stockholm since 1993, played a fusion of jazz and classical music. Other crowd favourites included Suurlähettiläät, Värttinä, Dissidenten and Malian-French Mamani Keita & Nicolas Repac, who also closed out the festival.
Kaisaniemi, 26–27 May 2007
The 2007 festival featured close to 100 shows and over 300 exhibitors. The main theme of the festival was climate change, which was discussed, for example, in a panel organised in cooperation with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Two stages were erected in Kaisaniemi to support the music programme, with domestic and international stars alternating between the two. The biggest draws were the multicultural Ska Cubano, the thoroughly Finnish Kari Tapio, La Sarita from Peru and Dirty Babylon Breaker from France. The audience was also treated to the folk music of Swedish-Finnish Gjallarhorn, the ska of The Valkyrians and the Maasai traditions of Kenyan il Murran.
While Saturday was a rainy day at the festival, the crowds came out in large numbers to enjoy the sunny weather on Sunday.
Kaisaniemi, 27–28 May 2006
The seventh World Village Festival was organised in Kaisaniemi Park, Railway Square and Cultural Centre Caisa. The programme included music, art, activities and views of the world from four continents. The festival was dedicated to volunteerism, without which the festival itself would not be able to delight its visitors in Helsinki.
The festival’s headliners included Nepathya, who performed courtesy of the Finland–Nepal Friendship Association, and Don Johnson Big Band, one of the top names in Finnish hip hop. Nepathya was not the only band from Nepal to appear at the festival, however, as the James Lhomi Group performed in Caisa thanks to an invitation made by the Wycliffe Bible Translators. Festival visitors also got to enjoy shows by La Kinky Beat from Spain, Vietnamese saxophonist Dac Thien Quyen & Trio Töykeät and Indian-English Bhangra rockers Kissmet. The festival’s roster was rounded out by Paukkumaissi, much to the enjoyment of children and the young at heart.
Kaisaniemi, 28–29 May 2005
2005 was the tenth anniversary of World Village Festival, and to celebrate, the festival was turned into an annual event. The festival’s factual programme was also significantly expanded.
The festival’s main theme was environment, which was especially evident in the Amazonas exhibition, hosted inside a large tent on Railway Square, and in the various environmental CSOs assembled around it. Over a hundred performances were seen over the weekend, including international highlights Cheb Balowski from Spain, Chilean reggae band Gondwana, Somali-English Maryam Mursal and Senegalese hip hop outfit Bogostyle.
Finnish acts included Värttinä, Kimmo Pohjonen Kluster, Jonna Tervomaa and Kymppiorkka, a cover band assembled specifically for World Village Festival. Its members included Paula Vesala, Mariko, Emma Salokoski, Tidjan and Olavi Uusivirta.
The festival’s performers included Cuban Los Cumbancheros, South African hip hop group Black Noise and Sembe from Guinea. The festival audience also got to enjoy a performance by Daimokh, the Chechen children’s dance ensemble that managed to journey to the festival despite the appalling conditions in their home country.
Finnish performers included Katri Helena, Mariska, Bomfunk MC’s and Maija Vilkkumaa.
The main theme for 2003 was food and thus the festival dedicated a separate tent for food vendors representing cuisines from Finland and around the world. Many in Finland may take food for granted, but Kepa and its member organisations reminded visitors of the hundreds of millions people for whom this basic necessity poses an everyday struggle. In 2001, Kepa and its members launched Ruoka-aika, a campaign aimed at ending world hunger.
The 2003 festival also marked the beginning of national biking week in Finland.
Kaisaniemi, 29–30 May 1999
World Village Festival returned to Kaisaniemi in May 1999 with more participants than ever before. The festival’s main theme was the Jubilee 2000 campaign for the cancellation of poor countries’ debts. The festival was also the scene for Felm’s first Jubilee Mass.
The festival lineup included many international guests from Africa. Performers included South African Busi Mhlongo, Cameroonian Sally Nyolo, dance theatre group Casa de Cultura from Mozambique and the Cuban group Klimax.
Finnish performers included Ultra Bra, Eino Grön, Eläkeläiset, Pauli Hanhiniemi & Perunateatteri and Pohjannaula.
Aurora field, 24–25 May 1997
The second World Village Festival was held at Aurora field and VR warehouses. The festival moved from Kaisaniemi Park rather unexpectedly, as the recently promoted local pesäpallo team could not come to an agreement with the festival organisers regarding the use of the field in Kaisaniemi Park. While moving the festival to a new location was not a simple task, in the end the festival programme spanned a total of nine stages.
The festival’s themes were ever-timely: human rights, tolerance and multiculturalism. These themes were evident in the performers, the performances as well as other elements of the festival.
The festival paid homage to the Nigerian author-activist Ken-Saro Wiwa, who was killed in October 1995. The poor human rights situation of Nigeria was also a theme in the performance of Nigerian artist Femi Kuti and his band The Positive Force, who continued in the footprints of Kuti’s father, the activist and Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.
International music flavours were also provided by Indian-English Pardesi Bhangra Music Machine and UN Peace Medal-winning reggae band Third World.
Finnish acts were once again numerous. The biggest names included music export royalty in HIM and The 69 Eyes as well as true originals like Tuomari Nurmio and Giant Robot.
Kaisaniemi, 20–21 May 1995
World Village Festival began its journey in grand fashion, as over 150 CSOs and over one hundred performers assembled in Kaisaniemi, Helsinki. The festival audience measured in the tens of thousands. The end-of-May timing followed in the footsteps of the Market of Possibilities in Helsinki, as the festival was practically built around that event.
The first year of the festival was a one-off event and the Finnish main event of the European Council’s campaign against racism. It also marked the tenth anniversary of the Service Centre for Development Cooperation, Kepa.
As new festival looked to distinguish itself from a crowded field of events, the roster of artists had to impress. International guests included Jamaican reggae legend Black Uhuru, US funk-pop-hip hop fusion Defunkt and Kardo from Kurdistan.
Finnish artists included Rasmus, then in the early stages of their career; Kerkko Koskinen Ensemble, later known as Ultra Bra; Angelin tytöt; Ismo Alanko; M.A. Numminen and Pelle Miljoona & Rockers.