Gourmet will meet eco and all will be well. This sentiment, initially publicised by the Slow Food movement, used to sound like an invitation to scepticism, or worse. In 2009 in Helsinki it remains a minority interest but certainly has momentum as this blog has already indicated. Between such yearnings and the world of city planning there isn’t that long a distance.
The monopolisation of food retail is a giga-trend that’s making life harder for the rich and poor alike, in the global south as well as in northern pockets of privilege where we mourn the loss of those old shops. But if you don’t mention the monopolisation of agribusiness and its tight embrace of food retail it might seem hard to debate what’s wrong with it all. But it’s not impossible it seems. Megapolis 2024 barely touched the centralisation of food retail. Instead, it was enthusiastic, inspiring and fun.
Held in Vanha in Helsinki it was the fourth annual urban festival organised completely by volunteers in the organisation Dodo. This in turn was formed in 1995 as a forum for townies to talk about environmentalism. In those days that topic, at leat in Finland, was largely dominated by people interested in saving bits of nature from industrialisation. Dodo was inspired by people who anticipated that the environmental crisis is above all an urban problem.
And how many times did we hear that statistic (dubious if still powerful) about more than half the world’s population now living in cities – and more coming every day. Grim, grim statistics. But those who came to the event and certainly those who spoke, from Finland and beyond, came from the optimistic end of the humanity, and the one where life has to be more fun because you’re doing interesting, fun and ethically defensible things, like urban gardening off the old railway tracks in Pasila, for example, picked up by the press too. Here a few shots of that wonder.
Megapolis 2024 (as in looking ahead 15 years to that year) included an impressive line-up of speakers on topics to do with food and its place in making cities happier and more sustainable places, a host of exhibitors, some sessions with the ‘Allotment garden game’, films about food and the politics of food and a late-night club to top it all off. In this photo you can see the terrace of Vanha sadly shrouded in a “Sale” sign. But it still gives a view of Stockmanns and the Three Smiths that, well, that’s good for people watching and that one had forgotten about since growing out of the target demographic.
Proceeds from the night’s entertainment were put to excellent use.
This morning Michelin-quality chef Pietro Leemann, the only such creature who doesn’t serve meat in his gourmet establishment, teamed up with Finland’s Carrot-mobbers to offer a vegetarian brunch behind Lasipalatsi. Ten minutes after the advertised start time the queue was huge, hundreds had shown up.
We got the very last glass of vegetable ‘jus’. To our chagrin the last beetroot towers went about seven queuers ahead of us.