Pitched as a "verbal rock festival," Arvamusfestival gets under way in Paide this weekend.
The August 16-17 event (the English-language website is here) has thus far drawn over 500 registered participants, and uudised.err.ee reported one of the organizers, Maiko Kesküla, saying that the population of the small city an hour from Tallinn could swell by several thousand.
On modern-day Estonia's busy spectrum of civic events, Arvamusfestival (an arvamus is an opinion) occupies a place somewhere between this spring's "citizen's parliament" and the community brainstorming event of May 2009.
"It's not an event where pressure is necessarily going to be applied on decision-makers," said Kesküla, "but it's a place to exchange ideas and opinions. We want opinion culture and people's capacity for expressing their opinion to grow with this festival."
It's also an exercise in civility as well as civics.
"We'll talk about good debating skills, hold workshops on balanced debating," said Kesküla. "The festival is dedicated to a good practice – taking others into consideration, how not to label or be disparaging."
There is a balance between opinion leaders and the general public.
"We have an open microphone and all of our venues and stages are built so that they are participatory," Kesküla said.
An English-language forum will reportedly take place on Saturday. Kristi Grišakov, an architectural consultant, posted on the event's website: "As surprisingly Arvamusfestival […] had no such event, we decided to organize our own! It is titled 'How accessible is Estonian information space in reality? Foreigners viewpoints.' And we are looking for all Estonian 'semi-locals' who are willing to join us in Paide and discuss your experiences and suggestions." For additional information, visit the social media page www.facebook.com/arvamusfestival.
The Opinion Festival's organizers are nearly 150 volunteers and the town of Paide, and support came from the Open Estonia Foundation, the Estonian Debating Society, the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations (NENO), the Estonian Cooperation Association, Järva County, the town of Türi, several businesses and citizens through the Hooandja organization.