Next weekend will mark two months already since Estonian Public Broadcasting's Narva studio relocated from its longtime location on the arterial Puškini Street to a new space on the smaller Linda Street, in what can be described at Narva's own up-and-coming Telliskivi Creative City (Tallinn) or Widget Factory (Tartu). Earlier this week, ERR's Russian-language radio news editor Jüri Nikolajev took some time to show his English-language colleagues around.
The new rooms still smell faintly of fresh paint, and several rooms are only just sparsely filled with a couch, a table, or similar odds and ends. A spacious break room shared with the few other tenants of the building all but echoes as we sit down for a cup of coffee and tea — or кофе and чай in Russian. The hope is that it will get a little cozier after being lived in for some time. Some rugs wouldn't be amiss.
Conversation between Nikolajev, myself and ERR News' new intern flows fluidly back and forth between Estonian, English and Russian, as Nikolajev does not speak English, and I, on the other hand, do not speak more than a few shaky phrases in Russian. At least not yet, just two months after moving to the border city with my husband.
Nonetheless, we are told there is a spare office room in the studio, and that we are welcome to come in and work here occasionally if we'd like. I would; why not? It's a great opportunity to build relations and improve cooperation between different parts of the bigger, trilingual ERR.
ERR's Narva studio is actually still in the middle of transitioning from its previous space just down the street from Peter's Square and the city's main border crossing. Radio has already shifted to the new studio located at Linda 2, however television will only follow once the current season wraps up late this spring.
Thankfully, the second floor TV studio space is not going to waste, as it is actually a mixed-use space by design, and can play host to conferences, seminars and the like in the meantime. As we pop in during our tour, Startup Estonia is setting up for an event that same evening.
Sound booths and similar supporting spaces adjacent to the TV studio have yet to be built out, but the idea is that everything in the studio itself can be stored away and so it can continue serving various organizations as needed. This sort of cooperation and coexistence makes up the core of the new complex's identity.
The proposal for the establishment of the Vaba Lava Theatre Centre in Narva was approved by the Estonian government in January 2016. The theater center moved into the completely rehauled old Baltijets military-industrial factory building and officially opened its doors in December 2018, less than three years later.
By now, other tenants are following suit, including ERR, a small café, and the Russian-language amateur Narva Theatre "Ilmarine." ERR's official first day of work at the new-old building was on March 18.
Nikolajev noted that being under one roof with Vaba Lava (Open Space) itself will surely lend itself to increased cooperation with the theater, whether that involves coverage of theatrical debuts in Narva or space for ERR to conduct guest interviews in the theater itself for a change. The café, meanwhile, serves homemade ice cream with flavors including rhubarb, peppermint chocolate, and sea buckthorn, and is not open to the general public — at least not yet.
Still not done
Work continues in the ERR studio proper as well, where one of the first rooms one sees upon arriving is as of yet still largely very empty. It was explained to us that once this room is finished, it will serve as a space for the studio's makeup team, as well as for arriving guests to relax before their appearance upstairs, for example.
As is typical ahead of moves, decades of materials, some of it more valuable than others, was sorted and pared down, with at least some purged items ending up donated to the local Uuskasutuskeskus (Re-use Centre, a popular nationwide chain). But some key favorites stayed, including an enlarged photo of Nikolajev with President Lennart Meri in the 1990s, which had been on display in his old office on Puškini Street as well.
Among items not to make the cut, meanwhile, were things including old vinyls, although curiously enough, a large rack of CDs that did make it was located along one wall of the radio studio.
Alongside Tartu and the Estonian capital of Tallinn, Narva is one of three cities in Estonia where ERR maintains its own studio and offices. While the new space at the complex at Linda 2 is only rented from Vaba Lava, not owned, the hope remains that the old Baltijets building will be called home by Estonia's public broadcaster for many years to come.
Editor: Aili Vahtla