Forget Lovebox – Flow, Helsinki is a city festival for grown-ups

Here's one for the glitter-phobes

‘Flow’ in Helsinki calls itself a festival for people who hate festivals. But in reality, it’s also for people who used to like festivals, but now can’t stand the sight of teenagers doing ketamine and snogging each other. In short, Flow Festival is for grown ups, with a pretty effective zero wanker policy.

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A boutique event with only 75,000 attendees all weekend, Flow takes place in an urban industrial area just outside the city centre. That means there is no mud, no grass and no puddles of rain and indiscernible liquid to wade through. So you needn’t splash out on a new pair of wellies; at Flow you have no issues wandering through the (flat!) festival site in your best heels and trainers like the Scandinavian goddess you are.


Flow is designed with adult practicality in mind – headliners on late enough for post-work revellers, loads of portaloos hidden behind attractive gates to block sight and smell. Likewise, it’s not the kind of place to bring kids. In fact, I see no kids in my entire time here. With most of the main acts not kicking off until the late evening and the follow ups largely consisting of DJ sets (Resident Advisor have a whole secluded area), it’s not particularly family friendly. The headliners of 2017 featured Lana Del Rey, The xx and Frank Ocean, none of whom are exactly candidates for the Blue Peter presentership.  For the child-free millennial singletons amongst us, this is no bad thing.

flow festival 2017

If you can’t stand copious amounts of glitter or if the thought of the #festivalstyle hashtag makes you squirm, you’ll feel comfortable in the suitably minimalist Scandinavian fashion on rotation here. There are no vintage clothing booths or sequin stalls, just a sea of chic people dressed in black lounging on Marimekko cushions, browsing vinyl by the champagne stall. Open and expansive stages, black and red colour themes and an absolute minimum level of bunting (save some coloured streamers falling from the eaves) move the festival away from kitsch and cliche to smart and grown up. Uber hasn’t quite reached Helsinki yet, so Flow will make you fall in love with the nightbus again, picking you up from the gates and dropping you right back into the centre in 10 minutes. It’s honestly luxurious.

At this point I’d like to point out that I have nothing whatsoever against bunting, glitter, tents and unicorn costumes – but they are not for everyone, and needn’t exclude you from any festival ever. Flow provides the alternative. Like everything the Finnish design, it’s simple – and it rocks.