The first public rehearsals and the importance of community
IHME Helsinki Commission 2023, Chicago Boys – While We Were Singing, They Were Dreaming, began last week! In Chicago Boys, a diverse group of musicians and non-musicians, who are united by the desire to play music and to think about the connections between the neoliberal economy and environmental changes to everyday life, form a band and practice together for six weeks.
The band meets on Mondays for private rehearsals at Stoa Cultural Centre and on Saturdays for public rehearsals in various parts of Helsinki. The venues for Saturday rehearsals, which are open to the public, are decided by the band. They are always in some way connected to the themes of the Commission; the venues, for example, share the fact that their fate is threatened by neoliberal values.
The first public rehearsals took place at Lapinlahti Hospital on Saturday 22.4. The day began with a guided tour of the Hospital area and its history under the leadership of Ville Pellinen, CEO of Lapinlahden Lähde.
Lapinlahti Hospital, built in 1841, was Finland’s first mental hospital. The neoliberal value system played its part in mental hospitals beginning to be run down in the 1980s. The mental hospital ceased operations in 2008. After ceasing to be a hospital, Lapinlahti has served for almost ten years as a citizen-oriented center of art, culture, mental well-being and small entrepreneurship, where people are united by an entrepreneurial spirit aimed at achieving a better world. Pellinen emphasized that the actors at Lapinlahti are guided by values other than the neoliberal pursuit of economic profit.
The Lapinlahti area is also interesting for its park areas and rich vegetation. Pellinen emphasized the importance of the area in terms of its natural values, in addition to its social and cultural values. Species such as the endangered moth Depressaria chaerophylli and its host plant the Bulbous Chervil (Chaerophyllum bulbosum), as well as flying squirrels (Pteromys volans), live in Lapinlahti. The parks have also played, and still play, an important role in supporting mental health. It is easy to achieve a peace of mind when walking around Lapinlahti.
The situation of the Lapinlahti Hospital building, which is owned by the City of Helsinki, has long been undecided, and is under threat of privatization, although Lapinlahden Lähde and many other actors have kept operations there active and communal. The community has succeeded in blocking construction projects in the area, but the fight currently continues, for instance, against a new truck tunnel and a hostel.
Lapinlahti’s community seeks to influence the plans from the grassroots level. Pellinen says that to protect Lapinlahti a foundation has been established, with which they hope to cooperate with the city. The goal is to prevent the hospital from ending up mostly in the ownership of a private international real-estate company, and for the foundation to become a second owner alongside the city, in order to ensure that the Lapinlahti Hospital area can continue along current lines and in accordance with its current values.
Having got to know Lapinlahti, we gathered in the Auditorium of the Hospital’s main building, and started with discussions and playing music together. The discussions raised, for instance, the importance of community and grassroots activities, loneliness, and gratitude for being able to be there together. During the rehearsal, there was also an interesting discussion of the problematic nature of the term “world music”.
The mind map that accompanies the band at all rehearsals also began to be transformed from a blank canvas into a collective visual manifestation of ideas and thoughts.
During the rehearsal, the cultural diversity of the band members and the spectrum of different worlds of experience became visible in a wonderful way. The band members played and sang songs in Finnish, English and Kurdish. One of the songs was Oravan laulu (eng. The Squirrel), written by Aleksis Kivi, Finland’s national writer, who himself was once a patient at Lapinlahti Mental Hospital.
The next public rehearsals are at Puotinharju’s Puhos on Saturday 29.4. from 15.00 to 17.30! Welcome!