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.