On 17 January 2023, at the London Guildhall, Dr Jaakko Nousiainen, Director of the Finnish Institute in the UK and Ireland, gave a talk about the Institute’s recent and forthcoming projects. Jaakko Nousiainen has been with the Finnish Institute for six years and took over as Director in 2021. He has a multidisciplinary background in several different areas of the arts; he is an expert in digital and new media applications and has a Doctor of Arts degree in media art from the University of Lapland. 

On 21 February 2023, at St Anne’s Church, Soho, George Parris, Artistic Director of the Carice Singers gave a talk “Listening with Sibelius”. Jean Sibelius’ close relationship to the natural world is a significant reason why his music continues to achieve mainstream focus. Inspired by his own experience of listening to and performing Sibelius’s music, George Parris based his talk on a certain approach to creativity which belongs to the Finnish composer’s engagement with nature. He invites us to listen with Sibelius, and in doing so consider elements of the Finnish landscape, human imagination and phenomenology together with properties of sound, complemented by musical examples and references to other genres. Since graduating from the Sibelius Academy in 2020, George Parris has remained a semi-permanent resident of Helsinki where he works as a freelance choral conductor, singer, and artistic director. In the UK, he has promoted the performance of choral music from the Nordic region, giving talks and through performances with his own group, The Carice Singers.


The AGM was held by Zoom on 15 March 2023. Sir Paul Lever, President of the Society, welcomed 33 members to the 69th AGM of the Society since its resuscitation after the War. H. E. The Ambassador, Mr Jukka Siukosaari, said a few words to begin with. He expressed his and his predecessors’ appreciation of the work that Paulus Thomson had done for the Society over the years. At the AGM, Paulus Thomson stood down as Chair and Honorary Secretary but was elected to remain on the Council to act as membership secretary. Clive Suckling was elected Chair, and Antti de Ruano was elected Hon. Secretary. The Independent Examiner, John Gracey also stepped down, after serving as Examiner since 2013. His interest and guidance throughout those many years had always been welcomed with gratitude. Due to industrial action affecting transport the AGM had to be held by Zoom rather than in the Residence. 

On 24 April 2023 at the Swedish Hall in London, the Anglo-Swedish Society invited members of our Society to join them for the renowned Finland-Swedish author, Ulla-Lena Lundberg, talking about her work and giving a brief introduction to the Swedish literature of Finland – bigger than you think and livelier than most. Ulla-Lena Lundberg was born in 1947 on the small island of Kökar in the Åland archipelago and lives in Borgå east of Helsinki. As an author, she is at home both in fiction and non-fiction, but is best known as a novelist. She has received numerous awards, including the Runeberg Prize and the Finland Prize awarded by the Swedish Academy. In 1993, she was made an honorary doctor at Åbo Akademi University. In 2012, she received the Finlandia Prize for her novel Is, translated into English as Ice in 2014.


On 2 May 2023 – 30 members and guests of the Society gathered for a Spring-Vappu-Valborg Lunch at the Great Hall of Lincoln’s Inn, while the Wisteria was flowering outside.


On 17 May 2023, at St Anne’s Church, Soho, Professor David Goldsmith gave a talk to a full room of audience in the Allen Room on “The Swedish-Russian War of 1808-09 – short, maybe, but not so sweet, and with immense consequences for both Sweden and Finland.” This event was organised together with the Anglo-Swedish Society. 


On 6 June 2023 – A 500th Anniversary Lunch to celebrate the beginning of the reign of King Gustav I Vasa, elected King on 6 June 1523, was organised jointly with the Anglo-Swedish Society, with 35 attendees from the two Societies, at the Great Hall of the over 600-year-old Lincoln’s Inn. This day marked Sweden, then including much of Finland but not Skåne or Scania, regaining its modern independence following the Kalmar Union.


On 21 June 2023 at the Purdy Hicks Gallery in South Kensington, London, the Society was treated to a private view of an exhibition of works by the photographer Santeri Tuori who was present to talk about his work – a fascinating insight enabling us to discover how much more there is to the art of photography, not least with digital technology enabling layers of photographs to create a work of art quite beyond what many may imagine photography being. We also heard how his forensic skills from having originally trained as a lawyer found a new significance in the art of photography. The remote Åland island of Kökar made a second appearance in our programme this year, as some of Santeri Touri’s works are from photographs of the woods in Kökar. 

Santeri Tuori is one of the most significant artists in Finnish contemporary photography with an international reputation. He has exhibited in London with the Purdy Hicks Gallery on several occasions: ‘Santeri Tuori (born 1970, Espoo, Finland) studied at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Helsinki. A multifaceted artist, Santeri Tuori’s work is primarily focused on the properties of nature and its power to change. Photographing in his native Finland his recent subjects include skies, forests and water lilies.’


On 28 September 2023, at St Anne’s Church, Soho, we had a talk by Pauliina Ståhlberg on Nordic Noir. This event was organised and hosted jointly with the Anglo-Danish Society. “Nordic Noir” is a crime fiction genre that applies to a type of literature and film or TV drama characterised by plain language, unassuming lead personalities and bleak settings. However, this superficially uninspiring mix has, arguably, led to one of the Nordic region’s greatest cultural exports, appealing to audiences around the world and inspiring copyists in many other countries.

Our speaker, Producer Pauliina Ståhlberg, described the genre, provided a brief history, shared her views on its impact and influence and her thoughts on how it might develop in the future. Her words were complemented by clips from a selection of Danish, Finnish and other Nordic Noir dramas. She also shared first-hand experiences from the making of the series Deadwind (Karppi) for Netflix.

Pauliina Ståhlberg is a highly respected broadcast media professional now working in cultural export. She has experience of all aspects of media production from feature films to documentaries, from live television to Nordic Noir series. During her career, she has been scriptwriter, producer and director for both national and independent companies including Finland´s National Broadcasting Company (Yle), the BBC, Discovery Channel and Arte. Between 2018 and 2020, Pauliina worked as a Producer at Dionysos Films, producing the second and third (and final) seasons of the Nordic Noir series Karppi (Deadwind in English) which can be seen on Netflix worldwide. Following that success, Pauliina is now developing a Nordic Noir-inspired thriller feature film set in London with the English production company Pinball London. It is based on the book “A Gift to my Mother” by Jouko Heikura (Gummerus 2020) that has not yet been translated into English. She has been based in Spain since 2021 where she is the Director of the Finnish Cultural Institute in Madrid, having previously been the Director of the Finnish Institute in London (2015-2018) where her mission was to develop cultural exchange between the UK and Finland.

On 3 October 2023 at the elegant and Cosmopolitan Ognisko Polskie in Kensington, our King Sigismund Dinner took place, organised together with the Anglo-Swedish Society, continuing the celebrations this year 2023 of the 500th anniversary of the accession of King Gustav Vasa to the Throne. His grandson, King Sigismund was King of Sweden and Poland and Grand Duke of Finland and Lithuania. Professor Neil Kent and Professor David Goldsmith gave some historical background.

A Toast was raised to HM The King, the Royal Patron of both Societies, with his Coronation year coinciding with the 500th anniversary. A Toast was also raised to the Heads of State of the four nations: HM The King of Sweden and TE The President of Finland, The President of Poland and The President of Lithuania. 

Our guests of honour were Ms Heli Lehto, Minister and Deputy Head of Mission, of the Finnish Embassy, and Ms Lina Zigmantaite, Deputy Head of Mission, of the Lithuanian Embassy. All four nations, Sweden, Finland, Poland and Lithuania, were represented by attendees from all the countries together with our British friends.


A group of members and guests visited The Queen’s House in Greenwich on 30 October 2023. To celebrate Black History Month this year, the visit was organised with a focus on the sculpture of Olaudah Equiano, the writer, freedman, and abolitionist.

Sculptor Christy Symington MRSS talked to us about the sculpture, why and how she made it and the storytelling elements that can be found on it, like the back of the shoulders reflecting the African continent, the direct replication of the Brooks slave ship diagram and a detail of a female figure from the diagram. It was an interactive event with many artists present asking questions.

We were also told about the life of Olaudah Equiano and we enjoyed a guided tour of The Queen’s House, Inigo Jones’ architectural masterpiece, with an opportunity to also view the exhibition ‘The Van de Veldes: Greenwich, Art and the Sea.’

Olaudah Equiano was known during most of his life as Gustavus Vassa, named after Gustav Vasa, who was elected King of Sweden (and Finland) 500 years ago, this year, hence the Nordic connection, inspiring us to discover more about Olaudah Equiano, as the last but not least of our 500th anniversary events this year. Another Nordic connection with The Queen’s House Greenwich is that it was built for Queen Anne, born Princess of Denmark, the wife of King James VI and I. This event was organised by the Anglo-Finnish Society jointly with the Anglo-Swedish Society.

The Chair and the Hon. Secretary represented the Society at a Reception of the Confederation of Scandinavian Societies (CoScan) at the Buck’s Club on 9 November 2023.

On 14 November 2023, Edward Clark, the President of the UK Sibelius Society, gave a talk on ‘Are Sibelius and Elgar alike?’ in the Allen Room, at St Anne’s Church, Soho. Jean Sibelius is a national hero of Finland and a composer of global significance. Sir Edward Elgar was one of the greatest British composers whose musical influences are commonly considered to be typically English. The differences between two great composers are seemingly unbridgeable. However, our speaker, Edward Clark acted the contrarian and promoted his thesis on the generally little recognised similarities between the artistic goals shared by both composers in the last decade of the 19th century. It was an opportunity to hear several examples of their music, as Edward sought to prove his thesis. Edward Clark is well-known to our members as an eloquent speaker on Sibelius.


The Chair and the Hon. Secretary represented the Society at the Preview of the Christmas Fair opened by H.E. The Finnish Ambassador Mr Jukka Siukosaari on 23 November 2023 at the Finnish Church in London. The Council represented the Society at the Finnish Independence Day Reception at the Residence on 6 December 2023. 


On 12 December 2023, our Christmas lunch took place at the Finnish Church in London, with an opportunity to enjoy traditional Finnish Christmas dishes that are not widely available in London otherwise. After a welcome drink, we were treated to everything you would find in a Finnish Christmas table, starting with rosolli-salad (Finnish vinaigrette), herrings, salmon, rye bread, mushroom salad etc as hors d’oeuvres, the main course of Christmas ham with swede, carrot, potato and liver casseroles, and as a pudding a Christmas tartelette, and coffee, tea, and glögi (Finnish mulled wine). 27 members and guests gathered for this merry occasion.


The Burgon Society kindly welcomed our members to an online talk by Dr Nicholas Rowe on ‘The doctoral sword of Finland – tracing an academy’s right to bear arms’ on 15 December 2023.