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 [email protected], 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.

dancefestivalintheUK celebrateEstonia’scentennial
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
I recommend
No recommendations yet


Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Chairman of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and one of the owners of construction group Nordecon, Toomas Luman, finds that a prime ministerial candidate should first and foremost be able to answer the question of what will become of the demographic crisis in Estonia. The businessman sees controlled introduction of foreign labor as the solution. A digital construction cluster was created in Estonia a few years back to bring innovation to the s...
Last year saw 27,125 registered offenses, up 0.5 percent from the year before. Violent crime was up by 12 percent to 8,249 offenses. PHOTO: Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire / Press Association Images / Scanpix Growth was biggest for domestic violence – the police launched criminal proceedings in 3,607 cases that constitutes an increase of more than one-third – annual growth of 37 percent from 2,632 cases in 2017. At the same time, reports of domestic violence we...
TALLINN - Ahead of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, tens of thousands of British citizens have chosen the citizenship of some other country, but only one Brit has recently chosen an Estonian citizenship. Spokespeople for the Ministry of the Interior told BNS that only one British citizen submitted an application for Estonian citizenship last year and the applicant was also granted the citizenship. Before that, no Brits had soug...
TALLINN - Experts from Finland, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands highlighted the importance of decentralization and granting local governments greater decision-making powers at a conference titled "Strong local government -- strong state?" in Tallinn on Wednesday.  All Nordic countries have chosen a model granting local governments significant decision-making powers, thus the central government does not prescribe how local governments are to fulfill the...
The language learning application Drops by game developer Planb Labs, established in Estonia by Hungarian founders, was named Google Play's best app of 2018. With the number of downloads surpassing 10 million, Drops was named Google's app of the year as the revenue of Planb Labs, a company registered in Estonia, increased fivefold, CNBC said. The developer's revenue grew from €335,000 in 2017 to €1.7 million in 2018. The company's shareholders include Hung...
TALLINN - The Estonian Health Board has banned the distribution of chlorine dioxide, also marketed as the Miracle Mineral Supplement (MMS), the A-component of an unused product, meaning the sodium chlorite solution, must be taken to a hazardous waste collection facility. Ester Opik, head of the Health Board's North regional department, said that the banning of the distribution of the product was caused by the fact that MMS, distributed as a cosmetics produ...
Nature cannot abide a vacancy, as the saying goes. If just one year ago, Estonia was battling the sale of MMS and the practice of giving it to children, a new “miracle cure” called Advanced TRS has appeared on the market now. Even though the make-up of the substance is different, the promise to cure autism and cleanse the body of heavy metals, which kind of extreme detox is accompanied by severe side-effects, sounds all too familiar. TRS is recommended to...
Allied NATO battalions will soon mark two years serving in the Baltics. They have worked better than expected but would need prepositioned heavy weaponry and a functional contingency plan in case of a crisis, a report by the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) finds. “We do not know how Russia would have acted had we not welcomed allies in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in 2017. I’m afraid they would have tested our resolve,” one of...
The time of filing income tax returns is nearly upon us. The new income tax system, in effect since last year, will obligate many women who went on maternity leave toward the end of the year to make additional income tax payments, while those who give birth in the middle or at the beginning of the year have no such obligation. What this means is that some women will owe the state simply for giving birth “at the wrong time”. Laura Roop, who went on maternit...