Estonian summer packed with festivals as organizational costs rise

With a number of major events postponed over the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, this summer has been a very busy one for festivals in Estonia. However, with organizational costs on the rise, many Estonian festivals have been run on a smaller scale this year than before the pandemic.

According to Peep Veedla, creative director of the 15th annual Viru Folk festival, which took place this weekend in Käsmu on Estonia's northern coast, the organizational team has already got used to catering for fewer people at the festival due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Veedla, this year it was also necessary to make changes to the Viru Folk's tagline and the lineup of performers, due to Russia's full-scale military invasion of Ukraine.

"(Viru Folk) was billed as the 'Year of Neighbors', but this had to be changed at the end of February to the 'Year of Friendly Neighbors'," said Veedla. "One of the neighbors had to be cancelled, and so now we have Finnish, Swedish and Latvian performers in addition to our own," said Veedla. 

According to Veedla, the cost of organizing the festival is about 30 percent higher than before, with some of the stages used in previous years not built for the 2022 festival in order to save on costs.

Price rises have also affected other events, including the Saaremaa Opera Festival organized by Eesti Kontsert, which takes plays in the historical surroundings of Kuresaare Castle. Despite running at full capacity, with almost 9,000 spectators attending in each of the past two years, technical costs in particular mean the festival has been unable to make a profit.

"The technical costs have gone up by about 43 per cent compared to 2020, with the biggest jump being last year," said Kertu Orro, head of Eesti Kontsert. "What will happen next year, I don't know. We still expect some increase in costs due to very high inflation," Orro added.

Orro also said that this year will be exceptionally festival-heavy, with a number of new events added to the Estonian festival calendar, increasing competition amongst organizers.

"I can't remember a festival summer with so many cultural events on offer. We were aware of the competition ourselves, and as a result all the organizers have had to work even harder to make sure spectators came to their events," said Orro.

Among this year's new festivals is the Hennessy Urban Festival, a 'lifestyle festival' held at Tallinn's Põhjala factory.

"There is a very strong focus on art-culture in general and music, specifically alternative music," said organizer Hanna Laasmägi. According to Laasmägi, Hennessy Urban Festival features "Estonian artists who have not been at other festivals during the summer, who have gone a bit into hiding."


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Editor: Michael Cole

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