Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Guest Blogger - Innes Carmichael

Innes Carmichael shares a recent cultural exchange experience with us, showing how another brick built warehouse has been converted for community use in a way that combines heritage, art and live music...

Estonia's Traditional Music Center
Recently, I visited Estonia through a cultural exchange with ArchNetwork Scotland funded through the Leonardo programme.

I was part of the exchange through my work as a trainer of textile techniques (spinning and natural dyes) and through my membership of Sgioba Luaidh Inbhircluaidh and the connection to Gaelic culture and song, our work at Auchindrain especially. (read more about the work of Sgioba Luaidh Inbhircluaidh – Inverclyde Waulking Group – here)

It was a fabulous experience and I learned a lot, saw amazing things-but the visit to the Estonian Traditional Music Center in Viljandi just fit so well with the sugar sheds I thought it only right to let you all know about it.

What really impressed me was the echoes with the situation in Greenock-and the speed, elegance and “can do” attitude with which the Estonians got this project off the drawing board and into reality- in 2 years!

There seems to be far less of the “100 reasons why we cannae dae this” attitude in Estonia, we could really learn from that. They are a wee country of just one and a half million people and have been independent for 25 years after singing the Soviets out of their country. They make full use of European funding resources – a lot of funding through LEADER for instance, which usually focuses on rural funding. Best of all, they used almost exclusively Estonian architects, acoustic engineers and craftspeople. The old vodka warehouse is a listed building but they worked around this with elegant simplicity.

Here is an extract from my report for Arch Network on my return.

“Housed in an imaginatively restored former vodka storehouse the Centre has transformed what was a seedy part of town into a vibrant hub of music and performance art. Using mainly Estonian architects and technicians it serves as a beacon to other countries in the speed and efficiency of the restoration and the elegant simplicity of the design and function.

All the fittings and textiles are made by local blacksmiths, woodworkers and students from the Culture academy.

Our guide and Events Manager at the Centre, Silja Soo told us of the Famous Viljandi Folk Festival hosted by the Centre, an event in the last weekend of July that pulls around 20,000 visitors into Viljandi. We also visited the Library of International Folk Music in the basement and I left two cd’s of Scottish folk music to add to the collection.”

Here is an extract from the report a fellow exchange member did charting the development of the project.

“This 18th century storehouse belonging originally to a mansion had been used to store potatoes, wheat and vodka but was in a dilapidated state in the 1980s.

A four day music festival was started by Ando Kiviberg and some other students of the folk music course at the Cultural Academy in 1993. This grew to a major folk festival from 1995 onwards. They began to develop the idea of restoring the old storehouse to make a folk music centre. They gathered funding from various sources, including the EU and the local council with donations and a loan to finance a superb folk music centre with a small (80 seat) performing space and a large (400 seat) concert hall at a total cost of over 5M Euros. The building opened in 2008. The acoustics have been particularly well developed. Decoration of much of the dressing rooms etc has been done with traditionally inspired patterns by students of the Cultural Academy.

A library and archive of CDs and sheet music has been begun in the basement . We were all very impressed by this project, by the vision, and the way it has come to fruition.”

You can view more photos from the exchange here and here.

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