Doctors in the Finnish city of Turku will this year be dispensing a new form of medicine to those feeling a bit down - a visit to a one of the thousands of cultural events taking place during the next 12 months. Alongside Tallinn, Turku is also a European Capital of Culture this year, and event organisers have adopted the slogan "culture cures". Doctors in municipal health centres will be handing out some 5,500 prescriptions entitling free entry to events such as the Cirque Dracula circus performance and a theatrical version of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamozov.
Turku's year in the spotlight will kick off next Saturday with a spectacular show along the River Aura involving pyrotechnics, acrobatics and a thousand lantern-bearing schoolchildren. The show has been orchestrated by the British-based group, Walk the Plank.
Other highlights of the Turku year will include an Alice in Wonderland contemporary photography exhibition, the musical Hair performed by a middle-aged cast, a display entitled 876 Shades of Darkness (something Finns get used to in the long nights of winter), a celebration of Turku's 20,000 island-strong archipelago and 1827 Infernal Music, a heavy metal take on the Great Fire of Turku of that year.
"Art and culture increase your well-being in a number of ways," says Suvi Innilä, programme director of the Turku 2011 Foundation. "Sometimes this will happen with fun, easy cultural experiences; other times with art that evokes emotions, even sometimes irritation or antagonism. A good Capital of Culture provokes discussion ... "