Seashore stories to bring city back to the sea

  • 2010-11-11
  • By Ella Karapetyan

LET’S CELEBRATE: Culture capital organizers decided to let the people choose the program, in the process over 600 ideas were sent in, said Jaanus Mutli.

TALLINN - The European Capital of Culture is a city designated by the European Union for a period of one calendar year during which it organizes a series of cultural events with a strong European dimension. Preparing a European Capital of Culture can be an opportunity for the city to generate considerable cultural, social and economic benefits and it can help foster urban regeneration, change the city’s image and raise its visibility and profile on an international scale.

The idea of launching the European Capital of Culture project came to life in 1985, when the ministers responsible for Cultural Affairs in the European Union decided that each year a European city would demonstrate its colorful cultural scene. The movement was proposed by Melina Mercouri, minister of culture in Greece. Back then, the project was called ‘European cities of culture.’

As the enterprise was a great success from the beginning, its scope was extended, and since 1999, the selected cities are called European Capitals of Culture. Since 2005, two cities are named the Capitals of Culture at the same time, like Stavanger and Liverpool for this year. All cities located in the European Union can apply for the title of European Capital of Culture.

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, will become the capital of culture for all of Europe in 2011. This will be the biggest cultural event in the history of Estonia. Throughout 2011, Estonia will be hosting daily art, music, literature and cultural exhibitions, festivals and performances as the city takes on the role of European Capital of Culture, 2011.

“The city is going to be buzzing every day as visitors, performers and venues make the most of Tallinn’s role as Capital of Culture. This is a fantastic time to be in the city,” says Estonia Tourist Board director, Tarmo Mutso.
  Tallinn has chosen for its Capital of Culture the theme ‘Stories of the Seashore,’ to tell the story of Tallinn and Estonia’s spiritual and cultural associations with the seashore, as the city continues to re-open the city to the sea in this, its 20th anniversary since independence from Soviet rule in 1991.

“The status of the event and the attention it attracts give the city a good chance to transform the existing cultural scene – carrying their daring ideas, creating new cooperation projects, reinforcing the existing organizations and structures, and including more people in the cultural life, be as organizers or as participants,” says Laine Janes, the minister of culture in Estonia.

In 2011, Tallinn will begin the largest storytelling event in its history. As part of the seashore development the new Estonia Maritime Museum will open in July 2011 in the re-developed vast concrete sea-plane hangars, located on the coast to the west of Tallinn’s center. The route to the museum will be along a specially marked walkway, enabling visitors to walk the one kilometer route from the city to the museum.

“Since the very start of the European Capital of Culture movement, each city bestowed the title has had two options in putting together its program for the year: choose a curator or a group of curators who know what’s good for the city and give them carte blanche; or ask the residents themselves what they want to see and do and change in their city. We chose to take the latter, frequently more challenging, route, organizing a campaign entitled “You are the face of the Capital of Culture!” and asking the people of Tallinn what kind of Cultural Capital they wanted. We received more than 600 ideas, and those we chose formed the basis for the development of the official program for 2011,” says Jaanus Mutli, member of the board of Tallinn 2011.

“The way in which we chose to make something of this running idea was by telling stories. Our seaside stories are subdivided into ‘Stories of the living Old Town,’ ‘Stories of singing together’ and ‘Stories of dreams and surprises.’ We can’t situate all of our events by the sea, and we can’t renovate every inch of the seaside in the space of a single year. But we can use our stories to work the idea into exhibitions, theaters, cinemas, concert halls and the city as a whole, as well as into people’s consciousness, to foster an enthusiasm in everyone to get involved. That’s the only way Tallinn will once again become a seaside city which is not only a great place to visit, but also a fantastic place to live,” says Mutli.

“With the majority of the program now in place for Tallinn’s year as Cultural Capital in 2011, I would like to thank all of the people in the field of culture, both here in Estonia and abroad, who have taken part in the competitions organized by the Tallinn 2011 Foundation over the last couple of years. The twelve months of the year of culture will see more than 250 projects, events and festivals taking place in the Estonian capital.”

The main theme of Tallinn 2011, ‘Stories of the Seashore,’ encapsulates Estonian history and Tallinn’s physical location next to the sea, which explains Estonia’s rich cultural diversity, contacts and conflicts.
According to one of the organizers of Tallinn 2011, ‘Stories of singing together’ describes how we are all changing the world – through democracy, citizenship, community, freedom and traditions.”

According to the organizers, the tradition of the European Capital of Culture has given more than 40 cities an opportunity to present their distinct and diverse culture to millions of people from all over the world during one year.
“We will have a lot of national and traditional events, some old traditions which we have had for ages and which have become cultural symbols of our country. At the same time we decided to include in our program list some new and innovative projects, different modern activities and some events which are totally new to the public. I think one of the most important highlights of this historic event will be the world-known Estonian Song Festival (Laulupidu), which is one of the largest amateur choral events in the world. It is held every five years in July on the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds (Lauluvaljak)”, Janes added.

“However, this time there is going to be a youth festival, in order to best show the world our culture, its history and traditions. The youth festival is going to be launched in Tallinn. We are expecting to receive a vast number of guests, even more than usual. We are planning to have about 25,000 participants from all over Estonia, including different choirs, bands and national dance ensembles. All these events will be carried out by the Tallinn 2011 Foundation. Many of them will be held in towns and villages and cities all over the country. We decided to combine the song and dance festival in one area, called Song Festival Grounds, which is going to take place in the peak of summer, in July 2011,” says the minister.

He added that the stories of the seashore will help to discover and preserve the image of a young Estonia as part of Europe. “Stories give rise to Estonian history as they relate to Europe and the modern world, as well as the face and achievements of the Estonian people. More significantly, however, is the fact that Tallinn’s position as the culture capital will allow these stories to be shared with visitors and those observing the year of cultural celebration from all around the world. The visitors will also see many interesting exhibitions, a variety of expositions of sea plane hangars, so-called float planes and so on, too many to mention here.”