Helen Sildna: I value cooperation partners who put their minds to solving social problems
Helen Sildna, the chief organizer of the Tallinn Music Week festival, highly values ideas that are unique and guide people to think outside the box. When Viru Keskus approached her with the idea of participating in the “We Wear Culture” initiative as a campaign ambassador, she was immediately drawn to the offer: “I knew that Viru Keskus has also had to do a lot of replanning in these difficult times, but they want to rise above the everyday troubles and do something that is inspiring for the creators as well as for the audience and guests,” says Helen.
She also liked the idea that she would not be a model in the campaign, instead, she could just be herself. “I did not think of it like us being models, but rather that we would be working with a professional team, while still being Anne, Piret, Helen and Eha,” she adds. “It is an honour to come out with a joint cultural statement together with such great ladies! There is power in culture!”
She is happy that Viru Keskus, in addition to being a cooperation partner for cultural organizations, also offers an opportunity to really bring culture into focus. “For us, Viru Keskus has always been a carrier of a strong vision, quality and identity. It is not just a shopping centre, but a creator of new ideas, quality experiences and a habitat,” she says.
Together, greater value can be offered
The cooperation with Viru Keskus has lasted for almost 10 years and its pillar is the fact that both parties think about the problems the society faces more broadly. “All our conversations start with what we want to say to the society and what value we offer to people. We can see that there is a reason to make an effort if it creates new value,” explains Helen.
For example, together they are trying to create an urban space with a focus on people but which also has a space for culture. “In 2018, we held an action at the Viru roundabout, defending the Main Street project, where we talked about a people-centered urban space, about the perspective of pedestrians and light traffic.” Together we are looking for ideas that would provide relief for the mental health problems of young people: “This year, Viru Keskus joined the “Youth Creative Hackathon”, which focused on the mental health of young people. Together, we brainstormed how to create an inclusive and inspiring space for young people in Viru Keskus. One where shopping is not a priority, where you can just visit and have a good time,” she speaks about recent cooperation projects.
“Difficult times have led to a deeper analysis of the value we create. The more difficult the obstacles, and the more energy is spent, the stronger the inner knowledge has to be that your effort is justified,” says Helen. The questions – for whom and why – are more acute than ever. “Knowing that you are creating value for the industry, the audience but also for the society in general gives you confidence and motivation. Honesty, clarity and optimism are great values in a crisis, because hopelessness, mistrust, confusion and letting go are as contagious as the virus itself,” Helen explains the values she upholds.
Unforeseeable circumstances are part of the work of a cultural organizer
When the state of emergency and restrictions were enforced, Tallinn Music Week had to reorganize its work, but operating in the wind of constant change is characteristic of this industry. “I guess festival organizers are usually solution-seekers and problem-solvers. In a sense, it is usual for us to have to rethink and solve something all the time,” explains Helen. However, working in such a situation for almost two years is exhausting and the rhythm of working in a constant crisis cannot be maintained for long. “I hope that the pace of vaccination will increase and that we will come up with a smoother and longer-term plan that will save us from hectic decisions and the constant closures and openings,” she adds.
For Helen, the key word during the difficult times is cooperation. “Without cooperation partners, we would not have been able to go through it. The more superficial cooperation relations disappeared and real, faithful cooperation relations remained.” For example, last summer, Tallinn Music Week and Viru Keskus found a solution together, where the festival area and information centre were erected on the terrace of Viru Keskus to make sure that the events could take place as safely as possible.
The past year has been a time of true self-analysis for the culture sector. “We have clearly understood that culture is not an “expenditure”, culture is a catalyst and a trigger – both for the social processes and for the economy,” says Helen. She also adds a fact that is good to know – according to the World Tourism Organization data, 40% of tourism is motivated by culture. “I believe that we, as a field, will emerge more confident and professional than ever from this situation. I believe that good times lie ahead for Estonian creative work. The good news is that controlled cultural events can take place again. We live, we learn, we are creative – courage, clarity and quality are in fashion,” Helen concludes.
Photos: Riina Varol
Styling and concept: Liisi Eesmaa