Author: Simon Duffy
Lyhty is an innovative organisation, based in Konala, on the western edge of Helsinki in Finland. [Lyhty means “lantern” and is pronounced loo - ch - too]
The organisation provides a mixture of supports to people with intellectual disabilities and has been the spring board for an exciting range of bands, arts and media projects.
One powerful group to come out of Lyhty is Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (Pertti Kurikka’s Name Day): a Finnish punk rock band.
Bass player, Sami Helle describes the band like this “The members of our band are four middle-aged, mentally handicapped men. The music is, of course, Finnish punk.”
Only formed in 2009 the band have already toured in about 10 countries, made a film (The Punk Syndrome) and several records including their latest Album "Kuus kuppia kahvia ja yks kokis" (Six cups of coffee and a coke) They are now earning enough money to live a more elaborate lifestyle and become less dependent on support from the welfare system.
When I asked their singer, Kari Aalto, about their songs he said that the central message of the band was “We are different to other people - some people are just different - but we have the same rights as everybody else.”
All of this was only possible because of the determination and drive of the men themselves, but as Sami said - they needed support to make their dreams come true.
The set up at Lyhty is inspirational in itself. Key features include:
It is not just punk rock, there are many different projects that are rooted in Lyhty:
Markus Vahala, one of the leaders at Lyhty, described the challenge of developing such a high quality support system for people with disabilities:
The old models are very strong in Finland, it would be easy to fall back into the way that the bureaucratic machine works. To combat this we must engage in continuous ethical thinking and ask ourselves - what are we really doing - who are we here for.
One expert observer (a woman) notes:
Lyhty really shows what good support looks like. It is genuine facilitation - enabling people to be the best that they can be, based on their dreams and aspirations. Unusually Lyhty has at its heart a group of men, and they may take a more robust approach to risk-taking - not so keen to ‘take care of people’. They are facilitators - not supervisors.
Sami told me this:
You’ve got to give people these opportunities in the UK. If we have raised the standard you have to come up to that standard. But people must be at the heart of it. You cannot do this for people with disabilities - you have to do this with people with disabilities - even if that means starting one person at a time.
With special thanks to Kari Aalto, Sami Helle, Kalle Salonen, Markus Vahala, Elina Antikainen and Susanna Hintsala.
The publisher is The Centre for Welfare Reform.
Lyhty - Punk Rock and More © Simon Duffy 2013.
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