Song and dance celebrations. A repository of living traditions.

Nov 24, 2021

Saaremaa island, Estonia.

Participatory governance of cultural heritage



Song and dance celebrations are a tradition of Saaremaa, and more widely of Estonia and the Baltic states. The Baltic Song and Dance Celebrations have been listed UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2008. These gatherings have been key for Saaremaa’s community and cultural participation for over a century, preserving and transmitting the local heritage. The question is how to organise high quality yet accessible festivals that preserve and revitalise local heritage?

In 2019, the Saaremaa Municipal Government kicked-off the preparations for the 52nd Song and the 47th Dance Celebrations. To ensure civil engagement and community support, public competitions were launched to select the themes and overall vision of these two major events and the artistic committee to implement them. The community submitted proposals and expressed their needs and interests. The community participates in making key decisions around the festivals, such as choosing their themes and names. To stay relevant to the community, some traditions have been reinterpreted or blended with modern expressions.


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