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Ruissalo is an island in the Archipelago Sea and is a district of the city of Turku in Finland. You might not think Finland would be a hotbed of rock festival culture, but you’d be wrong. It is home to Ruisrock, the second oldest festival in the whole of Europe. Only Pink Pop in the Netherlands has been going longer.
It began in 1970 after Finland’s longhairs and rockers petitioned the classical Turku Music Festival to include rock bands. The organisers, seeing the way the wind was blowing, said “OK, groovy” or whatever is Finnish for OK and groovy.
That first show was a 3-day affair and had local acts on the bill, including a legendary Finnish fiddler and who doesn’t love a fiddler? But it was headlined by Colosseum and Argent, which was a good reason to attend.
By 1971 the Finnish authorities had insisted it be cut to a one-day affair and would remain that way until 1983 when it moved up to boeing two days. Pink Floyd turned down an offer of £500 to play - that’s about £5,000 in today’s money. They also asked the Stones to play but they were otherwise indisposed. However, The Kinks, Canned Heat, Finnish prog rockers Tasavallan Presidentti, Fairport Convention and Jeff Beck Group all played, which is a really strong bill.
In the coming years 1972 saw Uriah Heep, Lindisfarne, Osibisa, the MC5, Jake Holmes and, once again, Tasavallan Presidentti make for an eclectic bill. 1973’s show was Jan Rohde, John Martyn, Status Quo, Tasavallan Presidentti (again!) The Savage Rose, Vinegar Joe, Wigwam and Wizzard. 1974 saw Swedish proggers Hörselmat, Hungarian rockers Locomotiv GT, Nazareth and Procol Harum. 1975 saw Mahavishnu Orchestra, Rory Gallagher and Wishbone Ash on the bill.
It went on through the years and is still alive and well today as a festival.