Friday, 6 June 2014

Interview with Noora, manager of ARX, cultural centre for Hameenlinnan children

This is Noora Herranen, the manager of the fantastic ARX Cultural centre for Hameenlinnan children.  My daughters Malika and Ameenah (with their grandmother!) attended the family cafes twice a week and we were also regular attendees of the ARXantai, a regular Saturday free event which offered an array of brilliant art/music and performing arts activities for children.

We were so impressed with ARX and I was delighted that my children were so warmly welcomed here!  Thank you ARX team! 

ARX is funded by Hameenlinna city and manages to brilliantly combine arts education for children with social work youth services.  

I caught up with Noora on the way back from our farewell class trip to KoiraMaki (Dog Hill), a Mauri Kunnas based theme park for children in Tampere.   

Noora and her son

How long have you worked at ARX and what is your job role there?
I have worked at ARX since 2003. Actually I have worked here from the very beginning of ARX Arts Centre for Children and Young People.  
I work as the director here at the moment. I have been the director since 2008, but from the beginning of this year my job description has changed a bit due to organizational change. Now I am one of the two directors in a new organization for Youth work and Children´s cultural services. Me and my colleague have about 30 employees, if you count part time jobs there is over 40 employees working here.
What kind of background/ qualifications do you need to do this job in Finland?
I have a Masters´ degree on Arts Management. Some directors have a bachelors´degree as well, but it depends on the organization. In the public sector higher education is very important aspect of qualification. In the private sector it does not matter that much.
What services does ARX offer?
In the new organization our services are divided into three teams/departments: cultural services for children(1), arts school services(2) and youth work services(3).
1.       We offer cultural services for children and young people
a.       in schools:  We offer for example workshops and performances for school groups that take place in the schools facilities, ARX-house or some other arts facilities. The goal is to make cultural services accessible for all children despite of their economical background or where their school is situated. For example we offer the same workshop for every 4th grader on the Hämeenlinna region.
b.      in daycare: For example five year olds have their own theater festival every year where five year olds perform for other five year olds with their own original plays.
c.       for families we have the open family café twice a week, ARXantai-events on Saturdays and Hippalot arts festival during the summer
d.      for young people in their free time we have ARX-stage theatre group where they write, rehearse and perform their own plays.
2.       Arts school offers visual arts education as a hobby
a.       from ages 5-20 years old children/young people go there
b.      same kids come to arts school weekly in the evenings
c.       there is around 400 pupils in the arts school weekly
3.       Youth work services
a.       are also working as part of the school environment
b.      freetime activities such as events, camps and expeditions are organized and youth houses are run
c.       There is also social youth work for those young people who are dropped out from other services and don’t know what to do with their lives
Do most towns in Finland have this kind of facility?
 The biggest ones have, but not all. Youth work facilities are everywhere but the cultural service for children at this volume are not.
 IN the UK we hear a lot about the Finnish education system.  What is it do you think that makes Finnish education number one in the world?
 I think that actually it is the day care system that is one part of the reason. We have a subjective right for the day care which means that all the kids have a right to have a day care place which is organized by the city.  It is also free if your income is low. Also the fact that school started at the age of 7 could be a factor in this. And good teachersJ
 DO you think there are any ways it could improve?
 Yes, I actually think that it is old and dated in terms of using new technology. And we should use more versatile teaching methods.
Also I think that schools and hobbies should come closer together to create a unified school day for the children. Now the school day stops early and parents still work. There is afternoon care for small pupils but still the problem is that almost all the hobbies start when parents come home. If children could have their hobbies at school in the afternoon, the evenings could be free for the family time.
 I know that your children attend a pre-school forest school - is this common in Finland?
There are forest pre-schools all over Finland but specially in Hämeenlinna area its very popular. It is also a fairly new thing, in the last 10 years it has been growing rapidly. In my experience forest school is amazing, kids stay healthier and learn so much in the nature. No wonder it is so popular!
 We know that children in Finland don't start school until they are seven.  How do parents in Finland manage to combine work and childcare?
We have a good day care system. It is not hard to get a day care place for your children becauce it is guaranteed for everybody by the government.
 Finally do you have any events coming up in ARX over the summer?
Yes, we have the Finland´s oldest children´s art festival Hippalot at the 31st of July until  the 3rd of august. Hippalot festival has been organized annually for 37 years.
And  this year we are also organizing an opening event for the re-opened outdoor swimming pool that was used in the 1952 summer Olympics. This opening event is organized at the 12th of June in the Ahvenisto park area and it is for everybody, also families.
Ameenah enjoying eating sand at an African themed ARXantai
 Malika loved all the dance activities
Beautiful setting on the banks of Lake Vanajavesi 

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