LIFE sometimes seems like it moves in a straight line, until one day it doesn’t. Just ask Ali Elkharam, 20, a consumer electronics salesman from Mikkeli, whose life turned upside down when he appeared as a contestant this spring on the popular television programme Idols, Finland’s version of the Pop Idol format pioneered in Britain. He ended up finishing in second place on the show, which wrapped in May, but turned heads across the country with his deep, expressive voice and – in the midst of an unprecedented electoral season where xenophobic rhetoric ran high – multiracial background. He spoke with SixDegrees about growing up in Mikkeli, his Libyan father, and leaving the sales floor behind to pursue a singing career full-time.

Salvation Army commander Dick Krommenhoek responds to the need of the world.

FACT ONE: The Salvation Army is a Church in its own right, not just the international charity organisation it’s renowned for being. Fact Two: The Salvation Army’s ranks mirror its military counterpart’s. Fact Three: Salvation Army commanders are transferred across the globe at the command of the General with only three months’ notice. That’s how Dick Krommenhoek came to live in Finland – he was appointed The Salvation Army’s Territorial Commander of Finland and Estonia in 2008.

DRAWING on the madcap energy of Monty Python, Irishman Frank Boyle and Brits Jonathan Hutchings and Leslie Hyde developed a cult following in Finland throughout the 1990s with English Theatre Comedy (ETC). After breaking away from amateur theatre group Finn-Brit players, the trio made a name for themselves with their fast-paced, unpredictable and hilarious sketch comedy, performed primarily in pubs.

With the group disbanding at the end of the 90s, Boyle and Hutchings continued with acting, with Boyle’s A Public Reading of Charles Dickens and Hutchings’ performance in Rare Exports notable recent appearances.

COMEDIAN Ali Jahangiri, 29, moved to Finland from Iran as a refugee with his parents in 1991. A business consultant, he started performing stand-up comedy on and off in 2004 and in 2010 decided to take the plunge into full-time comedy. Also a cofounder of the group We Do Comedy, which books comedians for companies and events, he’ll be performing in English at Gloria Cultural Arena in March as part of the Week Against Racism.

Jahangiri sat down with SixDegrees to talk about growing up as an immigrant in Finland and the importance of not being afraid of the True Finns, Christmas, or the black man.

A STUDENT of Political Science and a peace activist, Bruno Jäntti is also a founding member of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) chapter in Finland and is currently researching, amongst other things, the Finnish military with the Israeli arms industry.

I was born and raised in Helsinki and at the moment I’m studying Political Science at Tampere University. After completing my civil service I felt that it was time to leave Helsinki Metropolitan Area for a while and to study either abroad or somewhere else in Finland.