Why you should go to Helsinki’s Flow Festival

From its beautiful, imposing grounds to its eclectic line-up, the festival has an atmosphere of Scandi cool that couldn’t be further from the chaos of its UK counterparts.

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London’s city festivals, be it Lovebox or British Summer Time, have always made me cringe – from the Glastonbury fashion (we’re not in the countryside, guys) to the unbearable queues for toilets and bars, to the overpriced food in a city already full of extremely overpriced food. To me, they feel strained, as though someone has picked up a slice of Worthy Farm, forced it into an already crowded portion of central London, and screamed, “YOU’RE AT A FESTIVAL NOW. PUT GLITTER ON YOUR FACE AND ENJOY IT.”

What a relief, then, to visit Flow Festival in Helsinki. From its beautiful, imposing grounds (a former turn-of-the-century power station – all concrete; no grass!) to its eclectic line-up, the festival has an atmosphere of Scandi cool that couldn’t be further from the chaos of its UK counterparts.

Over the course of the weekend, I spent my days cycling to Helsinki saunas (as amazing as everyone said they’d be, Löyly left me feeling like a glamorous princess, or at least a mid-tier Instagram influencer) and my evenings on site, taking in a varied programme of artists from around the globe. My personal highlights included an intimate early set from indie darling Julie Byrne, a raucous performance from Angel Olsen, a reliably atmospheric headline slot from The XX and a moving closing show from Frank Ocean.

It’s a guilt-free experience, too – happily for a festival happening outside a power plant, Flow is one of the first carbon neutral urban festivals to, entirely offsetting its carbon footprint by investing in wind energy ventures.  All of the festival’s site generators are fuelled with biodiesel, and waste generated on site is reused.

Flow wasn’t without its own problems, though – a rainstorm on the Saturday night led to the cancellation of Danny Brown and Sampha’s sets, with many others postponed and tent stages closed for considerable periods of time. But these technical setbacks aside, there’s little you can fault about Flow – and, with only 25,000 visitors a day (and not many Brits), it’s a great alternative to more mainstream European festivals.

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.