A night to gaze at the sky

  • 2012-10-31
  • By Laura Kenins

STARRY NIGHT: This festival of lights will include displays, music, theater and art installations.

RIGA - Now that daylight savings time has ended and the amount of daylight has dwindled to nearly nothing, Riga residents will be happy to find some more light in their lives as the Staro Riga festival arrives this month. Staro Riga (“Radiant Riga”), a festival of lights that will include over 100 light displays and artist installations, is in its fifth year now.
Taking place from Nov. 15 -18, this year’s festival theme is a search for light – an invitation to everyone to go in search of what is valuable in their own lives. All events are free, beginning at 18:00; last year’s festival had over 100,000 attendees.
Among the lit-up buildings are landmarks like the opera house, Riga Castle, the new national library building, and the parliament building, the site of a special project entitled “People Living for Latvia.” The cabinet ministry has been taking online votes for 25 people to be included in the display who have made exceptional contributions to Latvia, including winners of the highest government award, the Cabinet of Minister’s Prize.

Displays aren’t all static – music and theater performances and interactive displays are included as well. Both local and international curators have been brought in for the festival. Staro Riga artists and promoters also enjoyed guidance in a recent lecture from Italy-based designer Franz Fischnaller, who spoke about 3D projection mapping and creating the illusion of multi-dimensional movement. The festival also has a student and youth program for the third year in a row, where smaller-scale and budget projects are developed by students, especially those studying in artistic disciplines. University students will also participate in a workshop, RIGA2014 Light Think Tank, where students will look at creative ideas to light up dark spaces in the city, with funding provided to develop the most successful ideas after the festival.
And, if you’re feeling hungry or have kids in tow, you can follow the festival’s “Light Cafe Route” for a while – a route of 19 cafes with interiors or exteriors decorated for the festival, where visitors can take some respite from the cold.

November also brings another important holiday – Latvia’s national holiday, which coincides with the last day of Staro Riga, Nov. 18. Latvia’s birthday will be celebrated with concerts, events and religious services across the country, with plenty of events in Riga. Celebrations in the capital start on Nov. 17 with a “Kokle Music Day” at Riga’s Great Guild, featuring concerts and an exhibition of Latvian folk instruments, and other concerts including the “Muza” choir’s 65th anniversary at the Small Guild.

On Nov. 18, events include a flower-laying ceremony at the Freedom Monument at 10:45 and a larger ceremony with President Andris Berzins at 19:20 and choir performances, a military parade at 14:00 on 11.novembra Krastmala Street along the Daugava, and many other concerts and performances. Public transportation in Riga is free of charge on the national holiday.

If it all seems a bit much to take in, consider just getting a bird’s-eye view of everything from the tower of St. Peter’s Church in Riga’s Old Town, open extended hours until 23:00 during Staro Riga, and also presenting its own light and sound installation, Slavinajums.

Full list of Nov. 18 events online (in Latvian) can be found at: www.kultura.riga.lv
Staro Riga festival: www.staroriga.lv