8.4.1 Amateur arts and folk culture
Estonia has a long tradition of association activities. Some of the most important cultural institutions (notably the Estonia Theatre) were originally launched as private initiatives. During Soviet rule, cultural associations and amateur arts groups played an important role in the preservation of cultural traditions and as an opposition against foreign rule. The Act on Non-Profit Organisations and Foundations (1996) provides associations with a clear legislative framework. They have the right to apply for a public benefit status with the corresponding tax benefits (see also chapter 5.1.5). The adoption in 2002 by the Parliament of a document called the Conception for the Development of Civil Society in Estonia (see also chapter 7.3) is expected to have the effect of making the project-funding and grant-making practices of the central and local governments more transparent and, thus, reducing the possibility of arbitrary decisions.
It is difficult to calculate the number of arts and cultural associations in Estonia. Research evidence suggests that the NGO sector is less focused on cultural activities than before. By late 2007, a total of 3 798 NGOs dealing with culture, sports, and recreation were registered in Estonia. However, experiences from organisational surveys indicate that the real number of organisations active is much lower. The Cultural Endowment has a separate department to support folk culture. In general, direct state financing for folk culture activities is channelled through 7 umbrella organisations. While the funds are easier to administer via these umbrella organisations, there are questions being raised about the possibility of those "non-member" associations to receive project grants. A possibility that has been recently discussed between NGO representatives and the government is the establishment of an arm's length body, possibly a state-owned foundation, with the task of administering financial support for NGOs.
One of the largest cultural events of 2009 was the National Song and Dance Festival held in Tallinn, with the participation of 864 choirs and orchestras, with more than 26 000 singers and musicians, 7 460 dancers, and with an audience of around 154 000 people. The next National Song and Dance Festival is planned to take place in 2014. A Youth Song and Dance Festival was organised in 2011 as a part of the events in connection with Tallinn's year as European Capital of Culture. A grant programme for the support of music groups planning to participate in the next Song Festival has been launched.