Creative Dundee

Field Study Visit 01 – Helsinki


Kellohalli, Helsinki – try your hand out at a new foodie career before committing.

We kick-start the New Year with a new feature and although the focus of Creative Dundee is pretty darn obvious, we appreciate that keeping an eye on what’s happening globally helps consider how to develop things locally. So, Creative Dundee’s Field Study Visit has been born.

We know you visit or come from some interesting places and we’d love it you could report back to your fellow creatives about what’s going on culturally, artistically, creatively, digitally – whatever and wherever you fancy. Creative Dundee kicks things off with the first of 2013 – Finland’s capital, Helsinki.

Visiting on a December holiday-come-inspiration-booster trip, we were keen to check out the final events in Helsinki during its status as World Design Capital 2012 – a year-long event which celebrates cities using design as a tool to reinvent themselves and improve social, cultural and economic life. A useful event to explore and consider in light of Dundee’s recent announcement that it will bid to become the next UK City of Culture in 2017.

Creative highlights included Kellohalli, an industrial abattoir unit turned restaurant and forum for food chat; which offers a 4 week course for people considering setting up a restaurant. In their final week, participants actually run their restaurants for real. An incredibly simple, yet really powerful way of folks testing their dreams quickly and inexpensively – very tasty too.

Helsinki was European City of Culture back in 2000 and so naturally it feels like culture is pretty well engrained across the city. From the large public art galleries selling local bands’ CDs; the amazing Kaapelli (or Cable Factory) packed full of cultural organisations, galleries, artists and creative businesses; to University cafes which encourage the general public to come chat topical issues with the students. It’s clear that creativity is central to enhancing everything about the city.

Student cafe welcomes all to chat.

University cafe welcomes everyone in to chat.

The recently built, sculptural but beautifully functional, Kamppi Chapel of Silence has been loving created in curved fir wood and is a space for finding peace rather than religion, amidst the hectic centre of the city. It’s a pretty immense space to sit and reflect.

Kamppi Chapel of Silence.

Kamppi Chapel of Silence.

There are so many small underground activities happening city-wide. Free downloadable maps created by individuals and art collectives guide you around the city depending on your interests – the design district, the underground art scene, the font walk of cool typefaces, and the secret light gardens of Helsinki map – taking you around hidden areas lit up by artist light installations.


Secret light gardens of Helsinki walk – artist light installations.

These low-fi innovations were some of my favourites – using existing resources and a lot of human capital, individuals and small groups offer immense experiences, create conversation and really improve the culture of their city.

So, where does Dundee fit into all this? Although the population of Helsinki is closer to that of Edinburgh than Dundee, Helsinki has a fairly compact city centre, is situated right on the water complete with operating port, has long dark winter nights, a large student population and an above average number of people employed in the creative industries… It’s fair to say there are more than just a few resemblances to our own city.

It’s pretty clear in Helsinki that the small creative fish work collaboratively with the bigger fish and the whole pool seems to get what everyone adds to the cultural ecosystem. A cheesy analogy perhaps, but one we’ll be working our little cotton socks off to make sure Dundee gets even better at, this coming year.

All it takes is a group of creative passionate people to kick-start it – and Dundee is fortunate to have these in abundance – probably our greatest cultural asset.

We really look forward to working with you again this year, with all the best for the year ahead,

team Creative Dundee.

If you’d like to write the next Field Study Visit feature, please drop us a line:

The Font Walk - so who wants to help us realise this for Dundee?!

The Font Walk – so who wants to help us realise this for Dundee?!


Collecting audience and customer data – the fun and sticky way!


More stickers… The city is helping raise the profile of local designers and retailers.


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