New Year Bells Hail Tallinn as Capital of Culture

04. January 2011

On January 1, the capital of Estonia picks up the baton from Ruhr, Istanbul and Pécs, to become one of the two focal points - together with Turku, Finland - of European culture for the coming year.

Quite unlike the pan-European currency which has been welcomed with mixed feelings by many, and outright protests by some, the European Capital of Culture project has the public filled with benevolent expectations.

Not that the two can seriously be set apart. Culture is an industry, at least to some extent. And ideally, most other industries contain traces of the inspiration, creativity, fun and intellectual relevance of culture.

On the first days of the new year, the inevitable marriage of culture and currency finds its consummation in downtown Tallinn as part of the Plektrum audiovisual arts festival, where kroon coins can be inserted into the mouth of a robotic Holy Euro Cow that drops out euros from its other end. The Holy Euro Cow exchange rate is 1:1, instead of the banks' 15.6466:1. The project is a collaborative effort by the Tallinn University of Technology’s Centre for Biorobotics and the Estonian Media Artists Union. 

In a more serious vein, Tallinn will host a world of art shows, concerts, fairs and other creative events during 2011.

The David Oistrakh festival will kick things off with an international opera gala (January 4 to 8), and the month will continue with the First Fire Sculpture World Championships (January 13 to February 21), and the 12th Annual Baroque Music Festival (January 28 to February 5). And the tempo never slows down.

The summer's highlights will include many open-air events, like the NO99 Straw Theatre, a venue built on one of the old bastions next to the famed medieval Old Town. From May to September, the Straw Theatre will host renowned contemporary artists, plays and creative projects.

Tallinn Maritime Days (July 15 to 17) have received kudos as the largest free family event in Estonia, and will launch this year with a water carnival. A new exhibition will open at the renovated hangars of the Estonian Maritime Museum's seaplane port, originally built just before WWI. People are invited to stroll along the newly opened seaside promenade and the 'Culture Kilometer'.

In August, the film project, "60 Seconds of Solitude in the Year Zero," will climax with an hour-long reel on the topic of solitude. Composed by movie directors from around the world just for the occasion, the film will screen just once on a mega-screen mounted in the sea to be burned afterwards.

The Youth Song and Dance Festival (July 1 to 3) will combine tradition with future and local with international, comprising several sub-festivals.

A massive free rock and pop concert at Tallinn’s Song Festival Grounds, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the restoration of Estonia's independence, will feature musicians from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Sweden, Russia and Iceland.

Wagner's "Parsifal" will be performed (August 25 to 28) by an outstanding international cast  in the newly converted Foundry of Noblessner Shipyard, accommodating an audience of 1,000 and extraordinarily grand scenic design by stage director Nicola Raab (Germany) and designer Robert Innes Hopkins (UK).

The program of the events can be found at the European Culture Capital 2011 official website

ERR News will strive to keep our readers informed of the Culture Capital highlights. But even better, see you all in Tallinn in 2011.