In the past year the collaboration between Kiasma and Vattenfall, URB on Tour, has visited provincial capitals around Finland, including Jyväskylä, Tampere and Hämeenlinna. Urban art has also been taken to places not usually considered very urban, such as Heinola and Oulainen. Some have even humorously suggested that the towns' urbanity does not extend to concrete, let alone traffic lights.
The five-stop concept of the URB tour has alternated from the regional entity of Tampere to the URB event in Heinola. Doubts about the ‘urbanity' of smaller locations are possibly well founded when it comes to the size of their infrastructure but are incorrect when it comes to the enthusiasm expressed by the young participants. Many of the young people who participated in the workshops said that for once they had the opportunity to do things they normally do not get to do in their home town.
Performers as seen on the Net
The various contacts from all around Finland are behind the concept and planning of the URB on Tour. Young people have asked why the URB festival and its workshops are arranged only in Helsinki. Young people of today are proficient in the use of the Internet, and Helsinki is no longer the 'big world' in the sense that it was a few decades ago. In the 2000s, young people pick and choose their influences from urban cultures around the world. Strong communal subcultures function and keep in touch through the Net, regardless of the places of residence of their members.
The stars in their fields are known through video clips and websites. For example, the instructor of the break dance course arranged in Kangasala, Jussi "Focus" Sirviö, was familiar to the participants of the beginner course, and no introductions were necessary. Of course everyone knew Focus.
However, the information flow from the Net and television may cause misunderstandings that the workshops have helped rectify. For many, break dance has meant only Music TV-type ‘wiggling the butt', which has nothing to do with break dance itself. This has been discussed particularly when the group has consisted only of girls.
VJ is a video mixer
In the Jyväskylä and Tampere regions the original idea was to organise the workshops outside the regional centre to show the young people that they do not necessarily have to seek hobbies in the regional centres; however, no one signed for the first video-mixing workshop in Muurame in October 2006, so it was moved to Jyväskylä. The same thing happened to the video-mixing workshop in the Tampere region. The workshop was originally meant to be organised in Pirkkala but it was moved to Tampere where the workshop was fully booked in a matter of days. On the basis of the experiences (and tribulations) of the workshop, it became evident that the concept of video mixing and its abbreviation VJ (video jockey) was completely unknown to 15- to 19-year-olds. The work had to be started from the very beginning. In Pirkkala, Petri Ruikka, one of the two instructors of the workshop, visited the lower and upper secondary schools to explain the meaning of the VJ concept to the young people.
From murals to rap
The workshop programme has varied according to the locality and the size of the area. The idea was not to replicate the workshop and events from one locality to the next. The contents of the workshops were always negotiated with local co-operation partners. Views on what kind of content would best suit each locality, and what things are not otherwise available, were discussed in these meetings
The most popular workshop was the mural workshop and it was arranged in each of the five stops of the tour. Murals were painted in local youth centres using spray paint and latex. The easy approachability contributed to the popularity of the workshop, particularly in the smaller localities.
In the rap workshop, the participants put themselves on the line by rapping in front of others. The rap workshop's marginal nature is, of course, further increased by the fact that the participants have to be interested in the means of expression of rap and hip hop cultures. A lecture on the history of murals and graffiti from cave paintings to New York's street culture was given in connection with the mural workshop. The lecture aimed at correcting prejudices about ‘smudges on the wall' and the subject was approached rather from the perspective of art.
Performances in the events
An URB on Tour event was organised on each of the stops on the tour, in which the workshop instructors took to the stage. In addition, these events presented performing opportunities to local groups and artists. The Tampere URB event in the Hällä stage was sold out, whereas the atmosphere in Heinola was more homely. When Beatboxer Felix Zenger stepped onto the Youth Centre Pleissi's stage in Heinola an autograph hunter marvelled aloud about how amazing it was to see Felix live when he had just been performing on Voice TV.
Waiting for continuation
The co-operation with local partners was flexible. The programme for the tour was planned in collaboration and the aim was to find the right target groups. Hopefully, workshops will be organised in the future as well. For example, in Hankasalmi, Nokia and Kangasala actors in youth and culture work asked for tips and ideas on how they could organise similar courses by themselves when there was an apparent demand and enthusiasm for them among the young people.