Approximately 200 debates in 36 discussion areas will take place over two days in Paide, the center of Estonia.
Since August 2013, when the first Festival of Opinion Culture took place in Paide, a small city located about 100 kilometers from Tallinn, the event has become one of the most significant civil society projects in Estonia and must-attend meeting place for most of the local opinion leaders.
While the first festival featured 50 discussions and 2,000 participants, in 2014 these numbers doubled, and the third festival, held from August 14-15, will present more than 200 different discussions and the list of contributors comprises an unprecedentedly high number of organizations and individuals: 200 and 600, respectively.
The Festival of Opinion Culture has become a venue for discussions and debates on topics that are of significant value to Estonia and the Estonian people. The goal is to gather together different ideas and points of view and acquire new knowledge that would give momentum to the creation of new civil society organizations and contribute to the development of Estonia.
The topics vary and are diverse: self-driving technology, Estonian start-ups, sustainable business culture, Estonian food in the world, gender roles, integrating ethnic Russians, national security and defense issues, and others. This year, spotlight is also on refugee and immigration question and how to deal with hate speech in the society.
“We won’t be discussing about education, the environment or economy in general, but aim to identify more specific themes and problems that every discussion area could dissect, highlight and seek solutions to,” explained the program leader Maiu Uus.
Just like in previous years, the festival will rely on people who dare and want to engage in discussions on topics that have an impact on Estonia. “Previous experience has shown that the festival in Paide tends to attract people who care about this country and wish to be heard. It’s almost like a song festival of thoughts and debates, bringing together a variety of people from different backgrounds,” said Mall Hellam, head of Open Estonia Foundation, which is one of the main supporters of the festival.
The idea of an Estonian own festival of opinion culture was originally inspired by Almedalen Week, a Swedish societal-political festival that takes place on the island of Gotland, as well as SuomiAreena, a similar event organized by Finns. Just like in Scandinavia, the festival in Estonia is organized jointly with the local municipality and residents, many of whom participate as volunteers