The foundations of the Helsinki Flamenco Association (Helsingin Flamencoyhdistys) were laid on 16th January 1993. By the end of the year the association had gathered over a hundred members. The year saw also the birth of the Letra magazine, the Finland’s first known flamenco exhibition in the municipal library at Rikhardinkatu, and a Finnish flamenco presentation at Vanha – the Old Student House.
The association was established and registered in 1994. From that year onwards the association has strived to offer workshops and performances of Spanish flamenco professionals to its members and the public. This took the form of Helsinki Flamenco Festival in 1997, where among the performers was the renowned guitar player Vicente Amigo. During the same spring the association became a real ”peña” with its own premises in the basement of Svenska Teatern. The location was refurbished to two dance studios with dressing rooms – eagerly and lovingly used for the next ten years.
2007-2011 was a period of new homes and homelessness. It began when the Swedish Theatre –Svenska Teatern- entered a thorough renovation, the cellar peña being incorporated with the rest of the theatre. In the spring 2008 the association moved to Katajanokka, refurbishing the new peña in high hopes, but the happiness didn’t last a year. The noise of flamenco classes were too much in the residential courtyard and the association was homeless once again. It continued its activities as a subtenant to the Baila Baila dance school at Eerikinkatu.
In 2011 the hard – at times desperate – search for a new very own peña came to an end. The association found, rented and thoroughly renovated an old bakery to two new dance studios, dressing rooms and restrooms. The new peña at Porvoonkatu has hosted workshops, classes and parties organized both by the association and other dance, flamenco and music enthusiasts in Helsinki region.
Through all these years, the association has faithfully organized the yearly festival with its courses, offered training and studios to its members, and published the Letra magazine. And there is nothing in the horizon to prevent it from going on.
By: Terhi Ketolainen, Jenni Spännäri (translation and update 2012)
References: Katja Lindroos: Helsingin Flamenco ry 5 vuotta. Letra magazine 1/98. Letra magazines 1998 and 1999