Opinion Culture Festival’s program is complete!

AF_kava valmisThe Opinion Culture Festival’s website now features the full festival program – 36 discussion areas will host approximately 200 debates and the festival will also expand to Paide’s central square for a vivid entertainment program.

The festival will be held in Paide on August 14th and 15th to discuss topics ranging from self-driving technology to alcohol consumption culture. Issues as diverse as education, values, health, science, economy and refugees will be discussed among others. The program will mainly comprise of nearly 200 debates, relying on the input of 100 different organisations.

“This year’s program has been compiled by many organisations and people, holding discussions on topics that they believe are relevant in Estonia today and invite everyone to think and speak along. The festival of opinion culture 2015 is truly an exercise in cooperation,” said the festival’s discussion areas program leader Maiu Uus. “The program is diverse enough to excite everyone and hopefully will engage people in lively discussions.”

The festival area will expand from Paide’s Vallimägi Hill to the central square and Tallinn street, where an exciting entertainment program by the Estonian Academy of Arts and other organisations will be on offer.

The Opinion Culture Festival in Paide is not the only one of its kind, similar meetings between people interested in the future of their respective countries are happening all across Scandinavia. This year Latvia hosted its first opinion culture festival in Cesis, using best practices gained from the festival in Paide. The Estonian opinion culture festival was inspired by the Almedalen week, which has been regularly happening in Sweden for over half a century. The hosts of festivals in different countries liaise with each other to exchange ideas, knowledge and experience to achieve the best possible result.

It is possible to support the festival through a kickstarter crowdfunding campaign until August 1st to ensure an even cosier event. Every kickstarter donation shall contribute towards the construction of the festival area, the building of a reusable rain shelter or the well-being of the hundreds of volunteers during the festival.

Just as in Scandinavia, the festival in Estonia is organised jointly with the local municipality and residents – the festival’s biggest supporters include the city of Paide, Järva county municipalities and local businesses alongside local residents, many of whom participate as volunteers. Another major supporter is the Open Estonia Foundation. Other sponsors include the Civil Society Foundation, the European Commission’s Estonian representation, the European Parliament’s information bureau in Estonia and several corporations, including Eesti Energia, Eesti Telekom, Nortal, Swedbank and UP Invest.

The kickstarter campaign is hosted by Hooandja:

The first pre-festival was a success

Festivalimelu NarvasHundreds of people gathered today in Narva to discuss issues as diverse as the role of social criticism in music to Russian schools in Estonia and the relevance of civil activity – this was the first pre-festival that acts as a prequel to the real Festival of Opinion Culture to be held in Paide in August.

“We’re pleased that the pre-festival event was eventful and successful, as was evident in the local community’s serious interest to participate in discussions about the region’s future. We remain hopeful that the discussions that got started here will continue in Paide in August,” said the festival’s theme areas leader Maiu Uus.

The festival’s two areas hosted six different and inspirational discussions. There were talks of Russia’s current affairs, of expectations to ETV’s new Russian-language TV-channel, of social responsibility and of Russian schools in Estonia. The speakers included both prominent culture and opinion leaders but also local activists and townsfolk.

The closing session was titled “Searching for Estonia’s future story”, where people were contemplating about what they value in Estonia and what should Estonia of the future stand for.

“The atmosphere at all discussions was very cooperative and the participants were willing to listen to each other and be creative with solutions. It was quite clear that the people in Eastern Virumaa care about the future of Estonia,” said Marten Lauri, who is the initiator of the gathering of future stories.

The program of the pre-festival in Narva was collaborated between the people in Eastern Virumaa, the festival’s organisers and the Open Estonia Foundation. The Festival of Opinion Culture will be held in Paide on August 14th and 15th. This year’s brainstorming event produced 250 ideas that will be divided between 30 different areas at the festival. Topics related to security and values will be given their own areas. The festival is organised by a number of different organisations and people from across Estonia.

Photos of Narva:

Good practices give the guidelines for the participants

0000054_argumenteerimine-juhtimisesThe Festival of Opinion Culture aims to bring together people and organisations from across Estonia and to give them the opportunity to talk about issues, which are relevant to Estonia, but are usually confined to closed board rooms. The festival team has compiled some good practices guidelines and expects the audience to follow them in order to make the the festival a comfortable platform for exchanging ideas to everyone.

The festival’s content team leader Margo Loor, what are the festival’s good practices guidelines?

The initiators of the festival agreed to seven key principles in the first year and these form the foundation for the festival, or the guidelines of good practices. This section is comparable to the general preamble of the constitution, listing the great values and principles that the organisers follow when making operative decisions.
It’s important to us that the people respect both other participants and their time and are free of prejudice, by reacting to the other person’s thoughts and not the persona. We want the discussion participants to focus on solutions rather than just criticism. And all in all – we just want people to have the conversation, not bullet points. So we strongly advise to avoid using PowerPoint.

Why does the festival need such guidelines?

Because the organising team may change, preliminary verbal agreements may be forgotten. The team may face new unforeseen challenges when organising the next festival. The guidelines are there to help them get back on the right track without having to dismantle the festival and the meaning of life down to the bare atoms. One just needs to glance at the guidelines and remind themselves of the whole DNA of the event.

If I’m coming to the festival and wish to follow these guidelines, then what particularly should I be paying attention to? How should I behave?

The good practices guidelines will be up at the festival site, on the program and on the website. It only takes a minute to read them, but we could spend hours discussing each item separately. There’ll be no need for memorising the points exactly. It’s all common sense really – listening is just as important as talking. A great discussion is born out of mutual respect. The most valued of discussions is a well-argumented exchange of opinions, where parties present logical and factual evidence as proof. These are concepts that reasonable and civilised people follow in good discussions anyway.
One point in the guidelines is still a delicate one in Estonia, as people in the public eye often tend to violate this rule – that we should react to the thoughts presented to us and not attack the person delivering these thoughts. So if a festival participant wishes to follow these guidelines, then let’s leave out all personal remarks and verbal abuse at the festival. This will help us all to create a cultured and solution-seeking atmosphere, where everyone has the right to participate in discussions with their ideas and opinions.

Kickstart the festival!

The Festival of Opinion Culture kickstarted their crowd-funding campaign last week to encourage people to support arranging better conditions for the volunteers of the festival and also for a more comfortable environment to accommodate the discussions at the festival in August.

The crowd-funding campaign hopes to cover the lodging and catering costs of more than 150 volunteers during the festival. Some of the funds will be spent on making Vallimägi Hill cosier by offering more seating and covered areas. This should all contribute towards making the festival area accommodating for many inclusive discussion formats and also weatherproof.

“We shall commission as many works as possible from the locals – from the makers of quilts, festival area builders and others,” said the festival’s head of marketing Anu Melioranski. “We do have a dream – to build a weatherproof shelter that would fit in the picturesque natural surroundings of the Hill together with the students and professors and engineers of the Estonian Academy of Arts.”

The reusable shelter would be modern, easy to assemble and dismantle and would offer protection from the wind and the rain despite its airiness and open layout,” added Melioranski.

However, it is possible that the ambitious and labour-intensive shelter project may not be completed prior to the festival in 2016.

As is customary, the festival presents small tokens of appreciation to all kickstarters. The presents include the festival’s ear-rings, Stella Soomlais’ leather wristbands made exclusively for the festival, student enterprise Sikikikilips’ bow-ties and the festival’s T-shirts designed by Reet Aus.

The festival’s supporters include the Open Estonia Foundation, the city of Paide, the local municipalities of Järvamaa, the National Foundation of Civil Society, Swedbank and Eesti Energia. The Festival of Opinion Culture will be held on August 14th and 15th at the Vallimägi Hill in Paide. The Festival will provide ample opportunities for engaging in inspiring discussions and debates, for finding supporters for one’s ideas and projects and for seeking new and exciting connections.

“The festival is organised and supported by those who believe that the Festival of Opinion Culture is a possibility to do something themselves to make life in Estonia better,” said Melioranski. The crowd-funding campaign will remain active unti July 7th at the following link –

Festival of Opinion Culture to expand to the city centre

AF_talgud-9408This year’s Festival of Opinion Culture shall not remain only within the perimeter of the Vallimäe Hill in Paide, but will expand even further to the town’s central square and Tallinn street in partnership with the Estonian Academy of Arts.

Katrin Koov and her students of architecture and urban planning from the Estonian Academy of Arts have suggested a preliminary vision of new locations within Paide to where the festival could extend its activities. After an active brainstorming session in Paide last Saturday, the festival’s organising team came up with some ideas on new locations for discussion groups and which activities would be best suited for Paide’s main street and the central square.
The new discussion group areas were also given appropriate names – expect to hear thought-provoking debates at places such as Kooliorg (School Valley), Hekiaed (Hedge Garden), Keldrimägi (Cellar Hill) and Konvendimüür (Convent Wall).

Latvians to host their own festival of opinion culture

6177597017_2dcf585382_bLatvia will be hosting their own festival of opinion culture in Cesis on the 3rd and 4th of July – the organisers of the Sarunu festivals “LAMPA” or conversation festival LAMP have undoubtedly picked up some inspiration for their event from their Estonian colleagues.

The festival will be organised by Latvian foundation Dots (formerly the Soros Foundation), which sent its delegation of scouts to attend the Open Estonia Foundation’s XIX open society forum in September last year. OEF’s leader Mall Hellam took the opportunity to introduce the concept of a festival of opinion culture to the Latvians during the forum. “We’re pleased to see our inspiration bear fruit already this summer,” said Hellam. “It’ll be very interesting to see how they will develop their programme, what will be their main focus, whether we will be discussing the same problems, how much overlap will there be and what are the main differences between Estonia and Latvia. The first problems that spring to mind revolve around the capital city centric approach to governance, problems in the periphery, the development of border regions and integration issues.

Ieva Morica from the Dots Foundation explained that their vision is to create a meeting point for discussions, where anyone can exchange ideas and ordinary citizens get to converse with the politicians and the decision-makers about the future of Latvia.
The Swedish Almedalen and the Danish Folkemodet festivals have also served as inspiration to the Latvians, besides the Festival of Opinion Culture in Paide. A number of the organisers of the Estonian Festival of Opinion Culture have already marked the LAMP event in Latvia in their calendars.

The next opinion culture festival to be held in Paide on August 14-15 in 2015

14906034576_1a2dcf6ce2_zWe are pleased to announce that the opinion culture festival team has commenced the preparations for the third opinion culture festival – this year’s event will be held on August 14th and 15th, still in Paide.

We will soon be updating our website with more information, but keep thinking about is in the meantime and read more postings from last year or check out the photo feed on Flickr. The photos are available here and the blog posts here.

Be seeing you!