According to Estonian Statistics’ research, the total number in 2018 of amateurs participating in permanent hobby groups (choirs, folk dance ensembles, hobby theatres and -orchestras etc.) was 83 205 people. These amateurs are members of approximately 2 800 organisations and these organisations have about 4 790 conductors and coaches.
Table 6: Participation in hobby groups, number of people
|TOTAL||83 790||83 487||84 810||87 476||89 968||88 729||88 728||88 342||83 205|
|Hobby theatres||5 697||6 250||6 244||6 343||6 507||6 496||6 286||6 161||5 442|
|Choirs||41 619||40 045||40 132||42 349||42 938||40 412||40 437||40 171||37 829|
|Other vocal music||3 394||3 727||3 863||3 859||4 157||4 354||4 235||4 222||3 962|
|Wind orchestras||3 057||2 926||2 929||2 941||2 909||2 850||2 836||2 853||2 868|
|Folks bands||1 916||2 003||2 031||2 013||2 041||2 062||1 971||1 846||1 906|
|Folk dance||19 867||20 135||20 746||20 828||21 472||22 052||22 890||22 997||21 598|
|Other folk groups||2 063||1 866||1 871||1 998||2 066||2 168||2 031||1 978||1 899|
|Handicraft||3 974||3 961||4 078||4 128||4 318||4 453||4 234||4 228||4 064|
|Other||2 203||2 574||2 916||3 017||3 560||3 882||3 808||3 886||3 637|
Estonian Statistics, 2019
In Estonia, as well as in Latvia and Lithuania, the main cultural event uniting the society is the Song and Dance Celebration. The first Estonian National Song Celebration took place already in 1869 in Tartu, and the history of Dance Celebrations goes back to 1934, when the dance and gymnastics festival of the First Estonian Games took place. The tradition of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian song and dance celebrations has been entered into the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Song and dance festivals are organised by the Estonian Song and Dance Celebration Foundation (Eesti Laulu- ja Tantsupeo SA), which was founded by the Ministry of Culture. The General Song and Dance Celebration and the Youth Song and Dance Celebrations take place in turns, both once in every five years. Before each festival, the number of aspiring participants reaches new records.
In 2013, the sociological study “My Song and Dance Festival”, commissioned by the Song and Dance Celebration Foundation, indicated that 96% of the more than thousand people who responded to the poll consider song and dance festivals an important event and 63% considered it a very important event. The study showed that 49% of the Estonian population has performed at one of the festivals at least once in their life and 91% has been indirectly linked to the festivals as the audience. Song and Dance Celebrations are one of the most important manifestations of the Estonian identity. The study indicated the importance of Estonian choir singing and folk-dance traditions for the national value orientation and preservation of the Estonian identity.
At the same time, the results show that the continuation of this tradition is not self-evident. The biggest issue is the salaries for choir conductors and folk-dance teachers. There is no song celebration legislation in Estonia, as it is in Latvia, therefore there is no state salary system yet and no social guarantees for carriers of the Song and Dance Celebration tradition. The ruling Minister of Culture has taken a clear political direction to start with state wage subsidies from the year 2020, with a budget of EUR 1.2 million. Governmental support will be increased until half of the wage comes from the state budget and until the salary of these conductors and dance coaches is at the minimum level for cultural workers (see also chapter 2.3).
The Estonian Folk Culture Centre is a national organisation under the Ministry of Culture, whose mission is to support the survival and evolution of Estonian folk culture and to participate in the process of developing and carrying out cultural policy for communities. Thus, the centre is a state competence centre that gathers specialised information, organises training courses, and supports and advises people and organisations that deal with national culture. Each county has a folk culture specialist who works in the Estonian Folk Culture Centre and handles the field of folk culture, for example curates national folk culture events (e.g. local song and dance celebrations, and folklore festivals).
The main tasks of the Folk Culture Centre are:
- to maintain the specialised database of folk culture;
- to maintain the list of Estonian intangible cultural heritage on the basis of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which Estonia joined In 2006;
- to organise the application processes of folk culture support programmes, which are financed by the Ministry of Culture;
- to organise trainings and courses on folk culture.
The main creative hobby activities in Estonia have their own non-profit umbrella organisations (central folk culture associations): Estonian Choral Association, Estonian Folk Dance and Folk Music Association, Estonian National Folklore Council, Estonian Folk Art and Craft Union, Estonian Amateur Theatre Association and Estonian Association of Cultural Societies.
The central folk culture associations mainly develop creative hobby activities in the area. They often commission new projects, organise courses, national and international events for different age groups — e.g. festivals, dance- and theatre-days. Through the Estonian Folk Culture Centre, the Ministry of Culture allocates support for these associations yearly and main grants for activities come from the Cultural Endowment.
In 2013, there were 453 community centres in Estonia.
Important organisations from the viewpoint of local societies are also the foundation Kihnu Kultuuriruum (Culture Space of Kihnu Island), the NGO Mulgi Kultuuri Instituut (Institute of Mulgimaa Culture) and the state institution Võru Institute.