Renovation of Song Festival Grounds to start after 2019
The Riigikogu’s Cultural Affairs Committee on Monday supported a plan to renovate the stage of the Song Festival Grounds in Tallinn as well as the surrounding buildings. According to MP Laine Randjärv (Reform), who chairs the committee, construction could begin after the next Song Festival in 2019.
One of the centerpieces of Estonian tradition, the Song Festival is held every five years. With more than 33,000 participants performing in 2014 and some 100,000 spectators on the Song Festival Grounds during the festival, its stage in the shape of a large seashell is perhaps Estonia’s most important open air convert venue.
The current stage was designed by architect Alar Kotli and built in 1959-60. Since then, numerous festivals, concerts, and other events have been held there.
According to a series of assessments, the territory of the Song Festival Grounds as well as the stage and its side buildings won’t be able to accommodate the crowds expected to attend the festivals to come. The number of participating groups (1,046 in 2014) has grown steadily, and the event has become a major tourist attraction as well.
According to chairman of the Estonian Choral Association Raul Talmar, the current state of the Song Festival Grounds is worrying. Among other things, a park of 100 oak trees on the territory is in bad condition, and a potential expansion will include difficult negotiations with real estate owners as well.
The planning for the renovation is currently suspended, and several creative unions had submitted a proposal to give up its current direction, as it didn’t consider the needs of the Song Festival to a sufficient extent, Talmar said speaking to the Cultural Affairs Committee.
In its meeting on Monday, the committee familiarized with the different aspects and the program of the festival grounds’ development. According to Laine Randjärv, the committee hopes to settle potential conflicts with real estate owners quickly, so that the official competition for a final design and plan could begin as soon as possible. In 2019 the different submissions could then be reviewed.
Suggestions for the development of the Song Festival Grounds include opening it towards the sea, and potentially adding a quay, as well as extending the sides and the hill facing the stage to improve the view, and create more space for spectators. In the opinion of Kalle Komissarov of the Estonian Association of Architects, the Song Festival Grounds could be turned into a national park to increase their protection.