A song and dance festival in the UK to celebrate Estonia’s centennial

The European Estonian Song and Dance Festival in the English city of Leicester in September will feature performances by choirs and singers from Estonia and the Estonian expat communities from 14 European countries.

After the Second World War, tens of thousands of Estonians, who had been forced to flee their country amid the imminent threat of the Soviet occupation, were refugees in Europe, in North and South America, and in Australia. But the refugees took their traditions with them – where Estonian communities were established, a choir and dance group were created.

The expat Estonian communities also carried on with the song and dance festival tradition, annually organising summer events in Sweden, Germany, the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. In Britain, these events started as “Suvepäevad” (Summer Days) in 1953.

The European Estonian Song Festival

As the years went by, affordable travel became easier and in 1974, the first European Estonian Song Festival was held in Münster, Germany. Singers from Germany, Britain, Sweden, France, Belgium and elsewhere got together to sing the well-known songs from Estonia, the country they had been forced to leave years earlier.

The event was repeated four years later, again in Münster, and then in 1982 in Leicester, the UK. Heidelberg in Germany hosted the event in 1986, but by this time, the political situation was changing in the homeland and Estonia regained its independence in 1991. Estonians abroad could now more easily visit their old motherland and attend the national song festivals, held every five years in Tallinn, the Estonian capital.

However, in the last 15 years, tens of thousands of young Estonians have yet again emigrated, especially to other European countries in the European Union – and many of them brought along the affection and passion for the traditional song and dance culture. Coinciding with Estonia’s centennial celebrations in 2018, the resurrection of the European Estonian Song Festival was for once more suggested. After a 36-year-gap, the English city of Leicester will be hosting the festival again, in September 2018.

A historical journey

The theme of the 2018 event is “100 years of Estonian song and dance at home and abroad”. The programme of songs and dance performances will take the audience on a musical journey through the last hundred years: from the Estonian independence in 1918, through the Soviet occupation after the Second World War; and subsequently the singing revolution in 1988, culminating with contemporary choral music from the era of restoration of the independence from 1991 to the present day.

The festival will feature performances by choirs and singers from Estonia and the Estonian expat communities from 14 European countries. The line-up includes the popular Estonian folk band, Curly Strings, as well as the London-based Estonian band, ÖÖ (“Night”).

A photo exhibition, which will highlight the cultural life and activities of the Estonian communities in Leicester and elsewhere in the UK throughout the last 70 years, will be on show at The Venue@DMU, De Montfort University.

The central information point for the festival is at the Leicester Estonian House, where the festival goers will be also able to enjoy Estonian food and drink.

Why Leicester?

After the Second World War, thousands of Estonians were accepted as refugees in the United Kingdom, to work in hospitals, in textile factories, in coal mines, agriculture and merchant shipping. The small city of Leicester in East Midlands of England emerged as one of the three Estonian community centres in Britain – the other two being London and Bradford.

The Leicester Estonian House was established in 1960 and is still the centre of Estonian culture in the Midlands. The community and their descendants, along with more recent arrivals from Estonia, have added to the multi-cultural nature of Leicester. To Estonians and their friends, the Estonian House is a place where they can take part in the traditional singing and dancing, celebrate Jaanipäev (Midsummer’s Day), Estonia’s Independence Day and other special occasions.

The European Estonian Song and Dance Festival is organised by the Association of Estonians in Great Britain, established in 1947. As an umbrella organisation for Estonian community groups throughout the UK, its main goal is to maintain, promote and introduce Estonian language, culture and traditions abroad. This is a big event for the association and many people, including this author, are spending much of our free time on preparations to ensure a successful outcome. Personally, I remember the 1982 event very well and hope that we can match up to those high standards again.

Reet Järvik, the secretary of the association and one of the organisers, emphasised that the event was suitable for an audience of all ages, all nationalities, all ethnicities. “I really hope the multicultural population in Leicester will come and support the event as a great time is guaranteed for all,” she said. As a member of the “European Estonian Choir”, Järvik has been in regular contact with the various choirs and dance groups coming from all over Europe, ensuring that the programme would run smoothly.

Interest in the event has been shown also by the remaining few elderly Estonians who were among those who fled their country in 1944. “I am too old to travel to Estonia, but Estonia is coming here. It will bring back memories,” one lady said. “I live abroad where there are few Estonians, but this event has encouraged me to make the journey to Leicester,” another one added.

Read also more news of Tallinn on our site.

http://estonianworld.com
dancefestivalintheUK celebrateEstonia’scentennial
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
6 views in november
I recommend
No recommendations yet

Comments

Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Society
Coalition partner the Social Democratic party (SDE) has announced its top riders for the March 2019 elections in Estonia's 12 electoral districts, though its full list will be confirmed in December, the party says. There are no real surprises on a well-stocked list which includes the recently-attracted Indrek Tarad, currently still an independent MEP. Mr Tarand, whilst standing for SDE, has not as yet become a party member. Since the system in Estonia is a...
Society
According to Statistics Estonia, the change of the consumer price index in October 2018 was 0.5% compared to September and 4.4% compared to October of the previous year. Goods were 3.7% and services 5.7% more expensive compared to October 2017, while regulated prices of goods and services increased by 9.1%, and non-regulated prices by 3.1%. Compared to October 2017, the consumer price index was affected the most by transport, which contributed nearly a thi...
Society
The Ministry of Culture has rejected the request of English-language web magazine Estonian World (EW) for support from the state to to the tune of €5,000 for the remainder of 2018. The ministry has, however, promised to seek opportunities for supporting the portal in 2019. "Unfortunately, the support to this extent of English-language Estonian media outlets is not provided for in the agenda and budget of the government-approved Compatriots Programme for th...
Society
Last Wednesday, Theatre NO99 abruptly announced that it would be closing its doors, with its final performances scheduled for November and December. The theatre will be vacating a large building at the Central Tallinn address of Sakala 3, interest in which has been expressed by Sakala Skene, a new open centre for the performing arts and theatre education. Sakala Skene is a new brand uniting Polygon Theatre and Polygon Threatre School, Old Baskin's Theatre,...
Sports
The European Athletics Council has decided to award the right to host the European Athletics Under 20 Championships in 2021 to the Estonian Athletic Association, which will stage the event at Tallinn's Kadriorg Stadium. The same format was previously successfully hosted by the Estonian Athletic Association in 2011, in collaboration with the City of Tallinn. At the European Athletics Council meeting in Budapest, the Estonian bid to host the event was presen...
Society
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reopened the Estonian embassy in Budapest. The ministry announced the step on social media on Monday, saying that starting 5 November the embassy is offering consular services again. The embassy is providing consular services and assistance starting 5 November. Anyone who would like their documents issued there can indicate so on the application form, the ministry said. Consular services are available by advance appointm...
Society
Every day, some 30 people in Estonia call the Health Board complaining that a family doctor in Tallinn won't take them as a patient even though they technically have room on their patient rosters to accept new patients. Family doctors, however, find that working with too large a patient list could jeopardise the quality and accessibility of their care. Estonian Society of Family Doctors chairperson Le Vallikivi explained to daily Postimees that they are fa...
Society
Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) Riigikogu group chair Martin Helme has paid to boost his social media presence and used Riigikogu expenses benefits to pay for highlighting posts, a recent Riigikogu Chancellery document reveals. Postimees wrote earlier in the week about EKRE’s social media success and how their messages seem to reach more voters. Facebook’s company pages can be highlighted to reach more people. But the practice costs money. Bought posts...
Society
40% of employers in Estonia intend to increase their employees' wage levels, while 39% are planning on creating new positions and 70% intend to hire new employees to replace outgoing workers and fill temporary or new positions, it appears from a survey conducted by recruitment portal CVKeskus.ee and the Salary Information Agency. "40% of employers are planning to raise their employees' basic salaries, which is indicative of the wage pressures resulting fro...