Station Narva festival fills Estonian border town with music and art

ONUKA perform at Station Narva
ONUKA perform at Station Narva Source: Anastassia Volkova

The fifth edition of the annual music and city festival Station Narva took place on September 8-11. The festival, which attracted a total of 2,222 visitors, filled the border town with music, art and communal gatherings. It also showed Narva from lesser-explored angles, including through the examination of local identities and opportunities for co-creation.

The festival opened on Thursday, September 8 at the Narva Art Residency (NART) with a BAZAR public discussion entitled "Narva - what and who?" during which, locals had the opportunity to speak up about the issues that most affect them.

Joining the discussion, primarily as a listener, was Estonian President Alar Karis. "First you have to listen and then you can talk. It is important to know how the people of Narva themselves, see Narva and the identity of their hometown," Karis said to the participants.

BAZAR Founder Valeria Lavrova, highlighted the value of such discussions in facilitating mutual understanding during challenging times. "In difficult times, many perspectives, values and meanings change. We must be resilient and wise to preserve what we have, while understanding and embracing the new reality and learning to live in it. Station Narva is like a cross-section of a certain time and space, allowing us to learn more about ourselves and others," Lavrova said.

President Alar Karis speaks at the BAZAR discussion during Station Narva Source: Anastassia Volkova

On Friday, September 9, as part of the festival's Business Day, the OBJEKT multimedia center hosted a panel discussion on the possibilities of collaboration in the creative industry.

Minister of Public Administration Riina Solman (Isamaa) opened the event by handing out letters of thanks to cultural and business promoters of Ida-Viru County, with Station Narva and several of the festival's partners among the recipients.

Solman said, that it is in the free and pleasant atmosphere of Narva in the fall, and during festivals like Station Narva, that new ideas and friendships are born.

Also speaking at the Business Day event, as well as DJ-ing during the festival was MP Heidy Purga (Reform). "There is huge potential hidden in Narva, especially in the cultural field, which needs immediate and quick action, not another long-read article on the subject," Purga said.

"Investing in culture is one of the keys to the region, which would solve many problems (related to) the shared info space, the formation of new habits, reducing the unemployment bottlenecks and preserving the region's uniqueness," she added.

The music program of this year's Station Narva took place on September 9-10, with performers appearing on stage at the Narva Art Residency (NART), in the former Kreenholm management building as well as outdoors, in the Kreenholm quarter.

Among the performers were Ukrainian electro-folk group ONUKA, British acid jazz collective Red Snapper and Finnish accordion virtuoso Kimmo Pohjonen. There were also several Estonian artists, including legendary hip-hop crew A-Rühm and the chamber ensemble of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra as well as Narva's own rising stars PTF1987 and IVI.

"We had a great pleasure to perform at Station Narva," said ONUKA's singer and songwriter Nata Zhyzhchenko. "The audience and atmosphere were overwhelming, all the performers were just awesome! Thank you so much for your warm acceptance and special thanks for the support of the Ukrainian people in this difficult time," said Zhyzhchenko.

"Estonia is a small, but very brave, beautiful and cozy country with wonderful people, I hope to perform at your festival with a victory performance very soon!" she said.

According to Helen Sildna, founder and director of Station Narva, the festival underlined the importance of music and culture in uniting people during difficult times. "Station Narva highlighted that music and culture are crucial in times of crises in bringing people together," said Sildna.

"It was heartwarming to feel the support of the Narva audience to ONUKA, as the band thanked Estonia for our support to Ukraine. Station Narva will stand strong to support the Narva community and highlight that no matter what language is spoken, Narva is Estonia and Europe," Sildna added.

The festival also included free concerts and community gatherings in the boat garages of Kulgu, which is known locally as 'Narva Venice,' as well as in Gerasimov Park.

Perhaps most unique was a series of intimate acoustic 'kvartirnik' performances by troubadour Jaan Pehk at the bohemian apartment of local journalist Mihhail Komashko.

Komashko emphasized, that such innovations demonstrate that stereotypes about cultural life in Narva as somehow inferior are wide of the mark.

"I adore events that feature "It" in new and different ways," said Komashko. "At Station Narva we can eliminate the impostor syndrome and prejudice that we are boring and provincial. No, we are contemporary artists, residents of bohemian apartments, professionals and smart. The festival shows that Narvinians (Citizens of Narva, also 'Narvians' – ed.) can speak, create and be no worse than people from well-known centers of culture," explained Komashko.

On Saturday, members of the Estonian government and heads of state institutions paid a visit to Narva, to discuss the future of the city and Ida-Viru County more generally. The visitors were introduced to development plans for the Ida-Viru Creative Cluster, Narva Vaba Lava Cultural Center, OBJEKT, the Kreenholm cultural quarter and the Narva Art Residency (NART).

Boat tour at 'Narva Venice' Source: Juri Vsivtsev

The discussions led to the conclusions that, to ensure a greater sense of security and stability for the regional changemakers, a switch from project-based activities to program-based actions is needed.

Head of the Narva Art Residency (NART) Johanna Rannula said, that Station Narva's charm lies in its mix of high quality showcase acts, alongside the best that Narva itself has to offer.

"Narvinians 'set the table' with a local menu that includes exhibitions, boat tours, ukha (fish soup – ed.) a 'kvartirnik,' and whatnot. The city also shows its more vulnerable side – as was seen at the BAZAR discussion. This bold festival brings new currents to the border town, which are needed now more than ever," Rannula said.

According to Vladimir Zhavoronkov, chair of the Narva City Council, the opportunities for cultural exchange and high-level program provided by the festival are extremely important for the city's predominantly Russian-speaking population.

"New event formats and venues, as well as cultural phenomena from all over Estonia and Europe, bring fresh air to the city. This festival had it all – from cosy home concerts to big international performers and visits of national importance. It is significant that Station Narva has the ability to attract such high-level visitors – both performers and social leaders. Together we have to think about how to get even closer to the hearts of Narva people in the broadest sense," Zhavoronkov said.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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