Nänsi Männik

The Festival of Opinion Culture brought together over 4000 people

14906034576_1a2dcf6ce2_zThe last discussion of the festival has already started, on the stage are speaking up the heads of the parliamentary parties. During the two days of the festival there were over 4000 visitors, the discussions were passionate and the topics of the discussions were wall-to-wall. The next Festival of Opinion Culture will take place in August 2015. Many organisations have already booked a thematic stage for themselves.

“The Festival of Opinion Culture showed this year that the discussions, taking place in a free aura, are necessary for our society,” said Kristi Liiva, the point person of The Festival of Opinion Culture.
“Estonian people care about the idea of the festival. In the festival there were visitors from all over Estonia who seemed to feel themselves very comfortably on the area of the discussions. People came along with their friends or family and nobody wasn’t disturbed by the rain.”

The Festival of Opinion Culture was organised by 160 volunteers and over 80 organisations that brought their stages and discussions to the event. Many of the organisations have already said that next year they will take part as well.

Besides volunteers and the organizers of the thematic stages the festival was also supported by the town of Paide and Järvamaa self-government with its people and enterprises. The second biggest supporter was Open Estonia Foundation. We also got finances from National Foundation of Civil Society, The Foundation Estonian Cooperation Assembly, good people in Hooandja and other several enterprises such as Eesti Energia, Baltika, Baltic News Service, Cramo, Viking Windows and lots of others.

The Festival of Opinion Culture is finished by Kinoteater with a skit called Manifest 4 at 9 pm on a Lowland Stage.

Thank you for everyone and see you next year!

Festival with a tractable atmosphere

AEF_logo“Open Estonia Foundation (AEF) supports The Festival of Opinion Culture because this festival is important for evolving opinion culture. The rock of words is a enjoyable familial event with a friendly and tractable atmosphere. Its aura is like a folk festival – at its best meaning,” believes the head of Open Estonia Foundation Mall Hellam.

“We wish that the discussions and debates among people could be copius and thoroguh. In our society there should be more direct and immediate debating and exchange of opinions not anonymous and non-constructive discussions. Good disputation is where everything is discussed with a open heart relying on facts and knowledge and people are being broad-mined in reference to different approaches, postures, and ideas,” said Hellam.

“This year I’m participating in the panel of one discussion. Also I’m the moderator of one discussion. I’m looking forward to the same kind of good spiritual and intellectual charge that I got last year. I’m sure that every person felt the same way as I did. Although the opinions were radically different.”

Hellam’s recommendation for the visitors of the festival is kind of practical: “All of the discussions that has been analysed by the organizers before are certainly interesting, but I still advise for people to delve into everything that is on the table. Choose the topics that are near to your heart and don’t only listen but try to speak up as well.”

The Festival of Opinion Culture – Summer days of Estonia

“The Festival of Opinion Culture is just like the summer days of Estonia where the burden is diversity of opinions and merry vacationers are people who want to have copious exchange of views,” says the mayor of Paide Priit Värk.10463636_583934958383894_7481274081932669446_o

“Second year in a row hundreds of Estonians are discussing about our past, present and future on the hillside of Vallimägi Hill. Among these people are writers, entrepreneurs, civil-activists, opinion leaders, and regular citizens who are above-average agile.”

Priit Värk is convinced of the importance of The Festival of Opinion Culture: “I remember that in yester-year when The Festival of Opinion Culture was about to end I had this bizarre feeling inside of me. It was a mixture of hope anticipation that perhaps civil-community has stepped big step forward becoming more mature. As if there had been very Estonian-like “silent revolution”. This year this chosen path needs to be continued so that these summer days could be our tradition.”

Värk wishes that by-and-by The Festival of Opinion Culture will achieve the same kind of role and the multiplicity of the participants that Finland, Sweden and Denmark already has. There are dozens of thousands of visitors in Scandinavia where the similar events are held. “Yet the impact of the festival cannot be measured only by tourists and consumers because that effect is notably deeper. With a support of The Festival of Opinion Culture the hope in Paide has reawaken: we could become an attraction centre, not only for habitants of Järvamaa but for the rest of Estonia as well,” said Värk enthusiastically.

Mall Hellam: We support initiatives that will make society more open

Mall HellamOne of the major sponsors of the Festival of Opinion Culture, the Open Estonia Foundation (OEF), gave us an unexpected gift this year: we applied for 13,000 euros financing and received 15,000 euros instead. Of course, this made the organising team overjoyed and we were deeply moved.

Mall Hellam, the head of the OEF, told us this week that we would have had great difficulties without the foundation’s support last year. She is absolutely right! We are very glad that the Festival of Opinion Culture was held for the first time last year, mainly with the support of the OEF, and it is with their continued assistance that we can return to Vallimägi Hill in Paide on 15–16 August. There would be no Festival of Opinion Culture without our sponsors, so we asked Mall Hellam why the OEF supports the festival and what their plans are this year.

Mall Hellam, why has the OEF decided to finance the festival and why by such a large sum?

One of the objectives of the Open Estonia Foundation is to strengthen a society that values a diversity of opinion and open discussion between people, associations and authorities. For almost 25 years we have supported initiatives that we believe our society has been lacking, and that would make us wiser and more open. The communication gap between the authorities and the population has become dangerously wide. This is exactly why we supported both the discussion day of the People’s Assembly ‘Rahvakogu’ last spring, which evaluated the political behaviour patterns of our parties and appealed to people to think about legislation, and Festival of Opinion Culture first implemented last summer. We believe it will become the largest and most comprehensive discussion forum held in the public space for Estonian people.

The festival would have found it almost impossible to organise on such a large scale without our assistance. So we thought it natural to support both the People’s Assembly and Festival of Opinion Culture.

Why is it important for Estonia to have such an event and to make sure it endures?

Continuous public discussion, expressing one’s opinions and supporting them with arguments, finding a common truth and looking for consensus are the pillars of a democratic society. Festival of Opinion Culture, with its inclusion of non-government organisations, parties, entrepreneurs, cultural figures, media and the general public, is a small-scale model of society. We discuss, listen, argue, and do it of our own free will in the company of warm summer days, good entertainment and friends – but also with people who think differently.

How important is it for the OEF that the festival is organised as a volunteer project?

Organising an event on a volunteer basis, especially such a large-scale event, is always a milestone of a kind. It shows that a great number of people care about the type of society we live in and what the values of our country are, and that they are ready to contribute with time and energy. Volunteering is naturally accompanied by civil activity; it unites very different people and generations and brings us closer together.

Are you going to attend and what are the foundation’s plans for Festival of Opinion Culture? What do you expect from the festival this year?

Of course we are coming to the festival this year, and we would like to make sure that the discussions that are related to our society and influence take place and come to something.

We would also like to attract attention to the topic that we raised last year, together with top media managers, about anonymous hate speeches and the way that the most popular media is going to protect its readers and the people they talk about from insults, hatred and abusive language.

We also care about the future of Europe and of Estonia within it. Although concerns that the European Union can collapse are subsiding, there will undoubtedly be discussions about how we can join forces to cope with future financial, economic, political and social problems. In addition, we care about the future of Ukraine as well as understanding the nature of present-day Russia and Russia’s potential choices for peaceful coexistence with the west.

This year’s budget of Festival of Opinion Culture is around 40,000 euros, of which 15,000 come from the Open Estonia Foundation.

Over 150 comprehensive discussions on the programme of the second Festival of Opinion Culture

The Festival of Opinion Culture will offer participants more than 150 different discussions about the present and future of Estonia, as well as radio shows, cultural events, workshops and festival clubs. Political movements and parties will set up their own ‘world view cafés’, and the media will be there with their stages and on-air studios.

“We are holding this festival in order to see it gradually become a valuable, free and inspiring discussion environment for active residents of Estonia,” said one of the organisers, Urmo Kübar. He is the head of the team that prepared the schedule for the Hilltop Stage and Lowland Stage. These are the only two stages where the programme has been established by the festival organisation team. All other discussions will be held in cooperation with various organisations and associations.

The Hilltop Stage and the Lowland Stage will see almost 20 discussions on the topics most important to Estonia. Participants will consider whether it is sensible to try to stop emigration and what to do with our mineral resources, investigate where the joy of school days has gone and discuss the role of the state in entrepreneurship. The discussion topics also include security, life in the countryside, the health of Estonian residents and the wise and soft authorities of the state. The question of what the future holds for the century-old Republic of Estonia is also on the agenda. The festival will start with a discussion by former prime ministers “What would we have done differently today?” The heads of political parties will meet in the last discussion. The titles and timeframe of the discussions have already been put on our web page, and the names of the speakers will be gradually published over the summer.

“Our team of volunteers has been busy with preparations for the whole spring, and dozens of people worked to compile the programme that has appeared on our web page today. Many ideas occurred to us in February during the brain-storm that yielded over a hundred suggestions,” said Kübar, admitting that, unfortunately, not all of the ideas would fit on the official festival programme. “Still, there will be an open microphone for those who can’t find their topic on the Hilltop Stage, the Lowland Stage or any thematic stage, or one can occupy a spot on the lawn and start a discussion.”

This year, Festival of Opinion Culture will be held on 15–16 August on Vallimägi Hill in Paide. This will be a meeting place for alert and active people to discuss the topics important to Estonian society and its people. The festival aims to bring together various points of view and ideas so that new knowledge can be born through discussion, new initiatives beneficial for society can be started and the discussion culture in Estonia can develop. The Festival of Opinion Culture was first held last year, when around 50 discussions and workshops took place over two days, involving 200 active speakers and 2,000 visitors.

The preliminary schedule of this year’s Festival of Opinion Culture is available here.