Photo: Maarit Kytöharju

Helsinki offers express funding to culture, sports and youth work affected by coronavirus cancellations, school lunches to continue

On 19 March, the City of Helsinki made decisions to support shuttered cultural activities, continue school lunches, stream entertainment, and more.

The City of Helsinki has decided to establish an express fund for people and organisations affected by the closure of culture and leisure events. Earlier this week, the city was compelled to close down libraries, cultural centres, museums and youth centres in order to stop the spread of the covid-19 coronavirus. Since this time, city workers have been working hard to come up with innovative solutions to continue to share these important services.

“The coronavirus will mean major financial and operational difficulties for many organisations and players in the cultural arena. We will do our best to help the sector get through this and make sure the people of Helsinki still have the opportunity to enjoy cultural activities that provide valuable experiences. We are pleased to see how many of Helsinki’s employees in the fields of culture, sports and youth work have been actively seeking out new ways to connect with the public,” said Tommi Laitio, Head of the City of Helsinki’s Culture and Leisure Division.

Application period opens 23 March

The new express fund will promote new forms of events and community-building efforts in the fields of culture, sports and youth work, as well as allow for digital advancements that would enable employees in these areas to continue their work.

The city has allotted a sum of 300,000 euros, with a maximum of 5,000 euros available per applicant. The fund aims to inspire people working in these sectors to come up with innovative solutions and digital means for engaging with the public. The application period will open on 23 March and continue until further notice, and the city will process the applications as quickly as possible. On Friday, 20 March, the City of Helsinki will release more details in the Culture and Leisure section of the city’s website.

Due to the closures and cancellations brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, the city will not request the return of already-granted assistance for culture and leisure activities, and will offer recipients the flexibility to change their plans in light of the difficult situation.

Extensions on season passes, refunds on orchestra tickets

Season passes to Helsinki’s sports services and Urheiluhallit swimming halls will be extended for the time equivalent to the current closures. Season ticket holders to concerts by the Helsinki Philharmonic on the other hand are entitled to refunds. Ticketholders to cancelled events at the city’s cultural centres can either use their tickets at future performances or request a refund.

Top athletes can continue training

The City of Helsinki has also decided to allow Olympic committee-selected athletes from the Urhea Metropolitan Area Sports Academy and certain national sports team members the opportunity to continue their training. Some athletes have started using private gyms, but not all of them have found suitable replacement facilities. Until further notice, these athletes will be allowed to use the municipal sports services at the Liikuntamylly gym and physical fitness centre and the Mäkelänrinne swimming hall. All of the workouts will take place in small groups.

E-books and new streaming content

The City of Helsinki’s network of Helmet libraries provides a wide variety of e-books, e-magazines, language courses and e-music services in several different languages through its shared e-Library service. The City of Helsinki is investing in more licenses for these services, so everyone can have material to read and enjoy. Visit Helmet e-Library to learn more.

The City of Helsinki’s video channel Helsinki-kanava will also begin streaming new content from the city’s libraries, cultural, sports and youth services. This new content will be available online 24/7 for everyone to enjoy. Examples of the new content include author interviews and children’s story times at Helsinki libraries, and videos about activities and outdoor fitness opportunities in the city. The Helsinki Philharmonic will also present an impromptu concert on Friday, 20 March at 7 pm that will be streamed live on Yle Radio 1, Yle Areena and the HKO Screen mobile app.

Annantalo launches virtual support centre for youth

Young people in Helsinki continue to need support, guidance and instruction from specialized counsellors. Youth work outreach will be expanded with counsellor visits to the city’s districts and city-level cooperation with other metropolitan area cities. Online services will also improve; for example, the Sekaisin chat service makes it easy for young people to contact counsellors via social media.

In addition, the Annantalo cultural centre will be transformed into a virtual meeting place for youth. Virtual Annantalo will provide families and young people with a variety of things to do during this exceptional time. The Virtual Annantalo service will begin on Monday, 23 March on Annantalo’s YouTube, Facebook and Instagram channels. Downloadable learning material will also be available on the Annantalo website.

Museums share Finnish-language podcast series

The Helsinki City Museum and the Helsinki Art Museum HAM have joined together to produce a seven-part podcast series in Finnish based on the State of Mind – Helsinki 1938-1945 exhibition. The podcast series will be available on the museum websites and Apple podcast and Spotify services.

School lunches will continue for children who sign up for the service

School lunches will still be served to all interested pupils on Friday, 20 March.

After this, starting on Monday, 23 March, school lunches will be served to all pupils that are still attending face-to-face classroom instruction as well as those students who are studying from home but have signed up to receive the food service. The city will send a message via the Wilma platform with instructions for signing up. It is important that all children that plan on coming to the schools to eat lunch sign up ahead of time to avoid food waste.

School lunches will be arranged in compliance with current hygiene standards and with due regard for limiting close contact.