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Tallinn and Turku - 2011 European capitals of culture - 11/01/2011

Festivities begin as the two historic harbour cities celebrate their cultural heritage with the world.

Taking over from Essen (Germany), Pécs (Hungary) and Istanbul (Turkey), as European Capitals of Culture, the Estonian capital Tallinn and Finland’s Turku both have a packed schedule of cultural events throughout the year that should attract millions of visitors.

Now in its 26th year, the culture capital programme has become one of the EU’s most important cultural initiatives. Cities compete for the title by planning cultural events during the year showcasing their European identity and directly involving citizens. The plans must also include large-scale public investments. The winning cities each receive €1.5m in EU funds.

Tallinn’s aim is to create a more creative and culture-oriented city while accentuating its medieval heritage and maritime past. Building projects, such as the redevelopment of cultural centres, will be launched during the year. Events include the ‘Tallinn Maritime Days’, the largest free family event in Estonia, and a huge free rock concert celebrating Estonia’s independence.

Turku’s programme focuses on the importance of culture for wellbeing and the environment. The city, on the southwest coast of Finland, will launch projects such as creating cultural-related programmes for wellbeing in schools and homes for the elderly. Other themes introduce the maritime nature of the city and explore questions related to the mind, self and different identities.

The two cities will also team up on a number of projects during the year, highlighting their geographical closeness and ethnic affinity. In particular, joint projects aim to draw attention to the pollution problems facing the Baltic Sea area.

Tallinn kicked off the year-long cultural festivities with a lavish opening ceremony featuring an evening concert and fireworks. Turku opens with three days of events and activities starting on 15 January, including a major open-air show on the local Aura River.

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