Conference from the Distance: Paulina Ahokas

07 April 2020

Today our interview series with TMW 2020 Conference panellists features Paulina Ahokas, MD of Tampere Hall (Tampere-talo), the biggest cultural and congress centre in the Nordic countries that celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

Paulina is one of the most influential and active leaders in the Finnish cultural industry. Besides managing the award-winning Tampere Hall she is a member of the board at the Finnish public service broadcasting company YLE and Music & Media Finland, as well as the chairman of the board for LiveX Ltd, among others. She has managed Music Export Finland that won them the Internationalization Award from Finland’s President, was the chairman of the inaugural International Gender Equality Prize jury, and she is also the laureate of a Life-Time Achievement Award at Music & Media. On 27 August, Tampere Hall and the Tampere 2026 European Capital of Culture team will curate the opening night of the Tallinn Music Week 2020 festival at the Fotografiska Tallinn.

Read how the current crisis has affected Tampere Hall’s daily activities and what are the biggest concerns, hopes and future plans of Paulina, a woman who is always on the forefront of positive change and passionate about enabling wellbeing through culture.

How has the situation affected you / your organization?

We have had to cancel, postpone or re-organize a bit over 300 events so far, and the loss of turnover is several million euros. Our incredible staff have gone to lengths to assist all our customers, both B2B and B2C in all possible ways, and the co-operation and patience from everyone has been just incredible. There are several incidences and responses that will stay in my memory forever as the best encounters ever in my 30 years career. We have done all possible measures to cut costs to be able to come back with full energy and resources once the epidemic is over, but we have also unfortunately had to temporarily lay off all of our staff, most of them full time, and some of them part-time, since it is very important for us to be able to serve our clients also during the crisis, and to build a strong future.

What is your biggest concern and your highest hope?

My biggest concerns have to do with health, both mental and physical. I sincerely hope not one person would have to lose their loved ones to the virus. But there are also other health issues: being quarantined at home demands a lot of stamina and resilience, to take care of yourself, whilst also possibly taking care of your elderly and/or children and taking care of their school and food. In the best, but in a very demanding possible scenario you also work from home whilst doing all this, but in the worst case you also have financial worries, and adding to this all, it also demands a lot of money to make two hot meals a day to children, since school meals are temporarily do not fall on your lap at the moment. I also worry that we lose some of our precious, capable staff, during the time they are temporarily laid off.

But I also have a lot of hopes, high hopes. I feel a lot of people have already really only now understood how precious our industry is: how thought-provoking, relaxing, stimulating and simply important to our overall health it is to be able to go and share a concert or other cultural experience together with other people. Once we rise from this, there will be a simply huge demand for shared experiences, for culture, much in the same manner as culture, arts and music saw a huge growth of importance after both the world wars. During this time we will have also developed a lot of new, fabulous music, as well as many new innovations in bringing this to people in an even more sublime way. I am absolutely sure us humans will learn a few lessons from this.

What is the role of music, arts and culture in the future? What will change?

Music, arts and culture will see a huge renaissance. Culture at large will be hugely important in building back people’s trust in our societies, in waking people up from corona coma, and in bringing back the economical activity of people. Economy and its functioning is a feeling, and all of us in culture and music will have to take a huge role in bringing that vibe. Digital development has taken major steps, and in many aspects leaps, so many techniques and technologies will be even more present in all of our actions. I intend to spend all my free time studying and implementing those with our staff. Furthermore, temporarily there will be a huge injection of local cultures and local thinking, but that will pass with time, when the acute crisis eases off.

What is your dream scenario for the future as a result of this?

A much more sustainable society, where people’s understanding of our global connectivity and mutual integrity has risen substantially. Many companies in our sector will grow even stronger since their cultures have been able to embrace the opportunity for innovation, delta force (latin for strongest possible change), resilience and strong work culture. Furthermore, since all decision makers and governments have realized the utmost importance of our sector, huge investments and injections of good policies will have come our way to create an even more flourishing culture and events sector.