Finnish Anthem/Firsts Festival – Poetry News Roundup December 7th

We end the week here on My Poetic Side with a look at the National Anthem of Finland. We also bring you information about the 2019 Wirral Festival of Firsts.

Independence Day – Finland

This week, Finns celebrate both Sibelius Day and Independence Day, and the question of the national anthem has once more resurfaced.

It was just two years ago when the leaders of the National Coalition Party campaigned to change the current National Anthem. They wanted to replace “Our Land of Maamme” with Jean Sibelius’s iconic Finlandia Hymn. The attempt to make changes was not a good idea, and Finns were completely opposed.

Despite being the current Finnish National Anthem, Maamme originated as a Swedish-language poem that was written by Johan Ludvig Runeberg – the National poet of Finland. The words were written in an attempt to stir up the feelings of the Finns who, at the time, were ruled by the Russians. Later, the poem was set to music, which was composed by Fredrik Pacius, the German composer. The piece, in its entirety, was first played in public on 13th May 1848 at a gathering of students in Helsinki.

There are plenty of Finns who feel a real affinity to the poem that has become their National Anthem, it was written to inspire their ancestors. There are, however, a growing number who are less drawn to something that was originally written in Swedish and has music composed not by a fellow Finn but by a German composer. And, as rumour would have it to the tune of “Papst und Sultan”, an old German drinking song. Maamme also shares its music with the Estonian national anthem which is a further thorn in the side of many Finns.

Whether they love it, hate it or are indifferent to it, it would seem that the words of Runeberg are here to stay, at least for the moment. Finlandia may need to wait in the wings just a little longer before it may stand a chance of becoming the new national anthem of Finland.

2019 Wirral Festival of Firsts

Preparations are currently underway to organise the 2019 Wirral Festival of Firsts, which will be opened by the poet Roger McGough.

This year, the festival will be a three-week long extravaganza rather than the usual two weeks. It will feature arts and poetry, and the programme of both free and ticketed events promises to be packed.

This year, the festival will be supporting Wirral’s year as the Liverpool City Region’s Borough of Culture. The festival, which will begin on 10th May with the First Wirral Poetry Festival, will be opened by Little Machine and Roger McGough. This event will run for just 2 days. There will be plenty of poetry readings and even a poetry picnic, which will include a tour of Leasowe Lighthouse and of course a journey on the Mersey Ferry.

There will be a wide variety of events taking place all over the Wirral during the festival, with everything from street festivals to theatre acts, and finally, the annual arts and crafts fair in West Kirby.

Entries are invited for the poetry competition, which will be closed to applications on 22nd March. The competition will be judged during the festival.

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