Tallinn designated the European Capital of Culture

  • 2011-01-06
  • By Laurence Boyce

HAPPY NEW YEAR!: About 15,000 people met in Theater Square on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the start of Tallinn’s European Capital of Culture. The big event was greeted by the arrival of a UFO.

TALLINN - The road to Tallinn becoming the 2011 European Capital of Culture has not always been a smooth one. The resignation of Foundation Tallinn 2011 Director Mikko Fritze gave rise to worries about the project’s funding and concerns over politicians using the event as a pawn in their own gain. But, as the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, 2011, a spectacular light show over Tallinn city centre (involving, bizarrely, aliens and a flying saucer) saw the event kick off in unique style and – for the moment at least - put an end to any doubts about the viability and importance of the European Capital of Culture for 2011.

Not surprisingly, music features heavily in Tallinn’s cultural offering over the coming year. The Tallinn Music Week (March 24–26, www.tallinnmusicweek.ee) has become an important event for the promotion of all genres of Estonian music from across the world and this year – which will see musicians play in various venues across the city – will see its visibility increased. The Norwegian Punkt (April 20 - 21, www.jazzkaar.ee)  festival, which sees jazz concerts followed by freeform interpretations of the music, will visit Tallinn for the first time alongside shows from legendary American saxophonist and composer Dave Liebman and ten-time Grammy award winner Bobby McFerrin. Those who are fans of more traditional music will delight at the Estonian debut of Parsifal, the last opera written by Richard Wagner (Aug. 25–28, www.opera.ee) whilst the massive Song of Freedom event on Aug. 20  (www.tallinn2011.ee) will feature rock and pop musicians from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Sweden and Russia, as well as special guests from Iceland and celebrate the 20th anniversary of the restoration of independence of the Republic of Estonia.

Tuuker (Aug. – Sept. 2011, www.tallinn2011.ee) promises to be an intriguing event as it presents itself as a site-specific ‘horror show’ that utilizes animation, music, film and many other art-forms to examine the myths and legends of the Baltic Sea. Defying notions of genre, it very well may be one of the most interesting events of the entire program. The same can be said for Stalking Stalker, an event which will use “Stalker” - perhaps the most famous film from Russian director Andrei Tarkovski – as a creative springboard for artists working in music and visual mediums.  Exploring the themes of the film and the artist’s own personal connection to the work, this should provide much creative energy for the city. 

Dovlatov Days in Tallinn (Aug. 25–27, www.dovlatov.ee) is an international literary festival  dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the birth of Sergei Dovlatov, perhaps one of the best known Russian authors, who have resided in Tallinn. Examining his work, the event should prove a draw for fans of Estonian and Russian literature. HeadRead (May 26-27, www.headread.ee) will cast the net wider as it includes the  preliminary rounds of the Poetry Slam competition; a visit from renowned British fantasy author Angie Sage and the Estonian Writers Union’s autumn library tour.

And those worried that all this culture may make people a bit lazy should be glad that the SEB Tallinn Marathon (Sept. 11, www.tallinnmarathon.ee) will allow people to take in the many unique sights of the city whilst getting some exercise at the same time. And, as a breather, you can go on to enjoy the Tallinn Month of Photography in Oct. 2011 (opening events from Oct. 3–8, www.fotokuu.ee) which will see numerous exhibition spaces across the city focus upon local photographic history.
This is only a small snapshot of the varied events that will be taking place as part of Tallinn 2011 and, with the diversity of events on offer, should get the city much more visibility over the coming months. Events such as these sometimes seems easy to dismiss, especially in the light of some of the dramatic happenings behind the scenes, but former capitals of culture – such as Liverpool, UK – have seen conceptions about the city change dramatically thanks to the influx of visitors and the media spotlight. Fingers crossed that Tallinn can do the same over the coming months.

Keep checking The Baltic Times for information, news and reviews about Tallinn 2011. For the full program go to www.tallinn2011.ee.