The Irish Festival of Oulu

Official program partner of Oulu 2026

Organisation

Oulu is Finland’s Irish Culture Mecca

The Irish Festival of Oulu (IFO) is the world’s most northerly Irish cultural festival recognised nationally and internationally for its versatile and inclusive programme of world class traditional Irish music, dance and multi-disciplinary culture events. Since 2006, 104.179 participants from Finland, Europe and USA have attended the festival.

And of course, the festival is known near and far for its warm, friendly and fun atmosphere.

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“Lively, warm and welcoming atmosphere amongst friends”

The unique aspect of the IFO is the event’s ability to unite people in an intimate atmosphere celebrating Irish culture events while delivering a memorable authentic cultural experience for a majority Finnish audience. Simply put, the festival performers, audience and staff come together for one long week to celebrate life through Irish music, dance and culture.

IFO is organised by The Irish Music Society of Oulu (IMSO) and is also an official branch of
Comhaltas

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is a non-profit organisation involved in the preservation and promotion of Irish traditional music. There are hundreds of Comhaltas branches around the world and IMSO is the world’s northern most Comhaltas branch made up of about 30 musicians.

The IFO has been a positive leader in Finland with the advancement of artistic skills, knowledge and opportunities in Irish oral traditional art forms, namely traditional Irish music, dance, storytelling, poetry, film and theatre. We have strived to positively inspire, enhance, empower and develop Irish culture art forms through organising a variety of high level authentic Irish cultural activities. This has resulted in immense cultural opportunities for participants and enthusiasts throughout Finland and the Nordics.

The Irish Music Society of Oulu is a non-profit society promoting Irish music, culture and dance in Oulu since 2006. It is made up of professional musicians, dancers and enthusiasts of Irish culture. We organise year round multidisciplinary art events: traditional Irish music, storytelling, film, cultural presentations, poetry, dance, courses and The Irish Festival of Oulu.

We also work closely with the local and national schools. Since 2004, our Irish music, storytelling and culture performances have reached over 87.000 students in Oulu and Finland.

 

All students are familiar with the Gaelic phrase tóg é go bóg é and can also sing Óro Sé Do Bheatha ’Bhaile.

Local Scene

Currently, the local scene of musicians have regular monthly traditional Irish music sessions at St. Michael Irish Pub and Hemingway’s Bar and Cafe. There are about 20 musicians playing instruments such as tin whistle, flute, concertina, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, uilleann pipes, accordion, bodhrán, bouzouki, and singers singing in English as well as sean nós style. Additionally, slow sessions are organised in order introduce the genre to newcomers at a relaxed and comfortable pace.

 

As of 2024, we organise monthly storytelling events as part of our year programme with local Irish storyteller and content creator Aaron Gorman (irishinfinland). These events are entertaining and also encourage the audience and other locals to dig out their old oral stories and tell them. It is the art form of oral tradition and we are trying to revive and celebrate it through storytelling.

 

The local and national scene of traditional Irish music, dance and culture is active with festivals and events, sessions, dance groups and courses, poetry, storytelling spread throughout Finland from north to south. We at the IFO/IMSO support and collaborate with many organisations sharing in our goals in the promotion and participation in traditional Irish music, dance and culture.

 

The light is always on and the door open for anyone interested to participate in our events or collaborate in any way, shape or form.

Goals

Mission Statement

Our goal to promote and celebrate the richness of Irish oral traditional multi-disciplinary art forms in Finland. We strive to enhance Irish culture participative engagement opportunities equally and inclusively for all people in Finland and from abroad by organising inclusive and versatile activities. This also includes the promotion of Irish Oral Traditional art forms in their true and authentic forms.

Goals

  1. Diversity and Experience: a versatile cultural program inclusive for everyone that offers an authentic glimpse into Irish oral tradition and culture
  2. Participant engagement: to encourage, inspire and empower cultural participation in our programme, courses, workshops, events.
  3. High quality: the performers, venues & programme content are selected using strict professional criteria based on professional merit.
  4. Innovation: the creation of new events, taking into account all types of culture as a broad concept
  5. Education: to bring music & culture enthusiasts together to learn & develop new skills. Participants explore their skills, creativity, gain experience and discuss up close and personal with professional artists.
  6. Hospitality: Irish culture events belong to everyone. We welcome all visitors to the festival and Oulu so they feel “at home”

Facts

2021 – IFO is recognised as the best example of Irish cultural engagement in the Nordics by the Irish Government’s New Nordic Strategy 2025.

2026 – Official Programme Partner of Oulu 2026 European Capital of Culture. Our Cultural Kaleidoscopes Project will bring the streets alive with Irish cultural heritage as well as aspects of Finnish cultural heritage.  It could be the 1st programme partner of a European Capital of Culture programme outside of Ireland.

IFO is the premier Irish culture festival in the Nordics. It plays a major part of the Irish Government’s New Nordic Strategy 2025 as the best example of Irish cultural engagement in the Nordic countries.

The IFO is a key cultural partner of the City of Oulu representing positive European Dimension and cultural engagement through its successful operations and visibility for the City. The IFO has positively enhanced, empowered and developed opportunities for participants in Irish culture art forms in Finland, the Nordics and abroad through its high level of professional activities that are inclusive for everyone. This has resulted in immense cultural opportunities for enthusiasts throughout Finland. We welcome all people of all ages to participate in our events.

IFO is the premier Irish culture festival in the Nordics. It plays a major part of the Irish Government’s New Nordic Strategy 2025 as the best example of Irish cultural engagement in the Nordic countries.

The IFO is a key cultural partner of the City of Oulu representing positive European Dimension and cultural engagement through its successful operations and visibility for the City. The IFO has positively enhanced, empowered and developed opportunities for participants in Irish culture art forms in Finland, the Nordics and abroad through its high level of professional activities that are inclusive for everyone. This has resulted in immense cultural opportunities for enthusiasts throughout Finland. We welcome all people of all ages to participate in our events.

Oulu

Oulu, Finland is located 200 kilometres from the Arctic Circle and is the 2026 European Capital of Culture. The Irish Festival of Oulu is an official programme partner of Oulu’s 2026 European Capital of Culture year which makes IFO the first ever Irish cultural festival that is part of a European Capital of Culture programme outside of Ireland. Our project is called Cultural Kaleidoscopes, which is a 3 day street festival bringing the streets alive with Irish cultural heritage. Stay tuned.