The second edition of the Station Narva festival brought 3,093 participants from all around the world to the Estonian border city last week

The festival established itself as a promoter of modern city culture and a cohesive society

Station Narva festival that took place last week, from 19 to 21 September, filled the easternmost Estonian city Narva with music, art and endeavours merging different spheres. Over the three days, festival events were visited by 3,093 people.

The centre of the second edition of Station Narva was the new culture and business complex LINDA 2 in downtown Narva, which was fully open to the public for the first time as part of the festival. The premiere of the documentary performance “Chasm” (“Lõhe / Разлом”) as well as the two-day international music programme took place in the performing arts centre Vaba Lava, located in the complex. Newly opened creative incubator OBJEKT in the same complex hosted the Station Narva Business Day conference.

“Generating this kind of warm, open, optimistic and bold energy is exactly what we dreamed of when we established LINDA 2 centre,” Allan Kaldoja, the founder of LINDA 2, rejoices. “It is very cool that Station Narva turned into a fresh cocktail of theatre, music, city space, climate policy and the feeling of freedom where the meeting of very different people in a good-hearted spirit really took place. We are already looking forward to the next festival, we will develop the centre even further for that time.”

Festival’s music programme on 20 and 21 September brought a full house to Vaba Lava, with almost 800 visitors on both nights—more than the venue has ever experienced at once—, as well as to the underground music venue Art Club Ro-Ro. Among the 20 performers, the most popular turned out to be Estonian chart-topping mumble rapper nublu who made the full main venue of Vaba Lava to sing along with his Narva-themed hit “für Oksana”. Gripping performances filled with surprises were delivered by Icelandic techno-dystopian group Hatari that included announcements in Estonian and snapshots imitating the Estonian Public Broadcasting TV news, and by the British dub’n’punk squad Asian Dub Foundation with their instrumental set at Narva “Venice” city stage, which emphasised the controversial history of the border city and the ongoing climate strike. The Japanese noise rockers MOJA and Finnish italo disco act PEU at Art Club Ro-Ro made the audience self-forgetfully climb on stage, and Russian neo-classical star Kirill Richter responded to the warm welcome at his solo concert in Narva Castle with no less than five extra pieces.

Asian Dub Foundation performing at Vaba Lava Narva. Photo: Liis Reiman

The notable speakers at the Business Day conference in creative incubator OBJEKT on 20 September included British punk publicist John Robb who talked about the relationships between music consumers and developing technology, and Russian classic of contemporary cinematography Aleksandr Sokurov who gave an open press conference. There were around a hundred participants at Business Day with visitors from Ida-Viru county and other parts of Estonia, as well as Russia, the United States, Japan and all over Europe.

The festival programme included a public talk under the umbrella of the local BAZAR series titled “Who is responsible for Narva?”, rugby and photography workshops with NATO instructors on the territory of Ida-Virumaa Vocational Education Centre, Narva-style breakfast at VitaTiim Centre and free city stage performances at Astri Shopping Centre, Independent Creativity Centre and Narva “Venice”. Narva Art Residency hosted a programme of animated shorts, produced by the animation department of the Estonian Academy of Arts, a manifest book presentation of “Narva – The Emotive Masterplan” by former residents Riin-Kärt Ranne and Juliane Schwarz, and a kinaesthesia workshop by Finnish movement artist Laura Jantunen. On festival evenings, visitors were able to take part in a journey in the Kreenholm industrial complex where light installations made by Estonian Academy of Arts alumni Veera Gontšugova and Karl Johanson recreated memories of the historic industrial giant and let the island be discovered in a new magical light.

Concerts at Vaba Lava, Art Club Ro-Ro and Narva Castle were visited by almost 800 people on both days. The Business Day at OBJEKT gathered almost 100 people. In total, all the different events of Station Narva saw 3,093 visitors, with half of them locals and the other half from other parts of Estonia, Russia and all over Europe. Tickets to the festival were bought from 15 foreign countries.

The feedback from the festival performers, partners as well as the audience emphasises the diversity, creativity, the ability to adapt in time and space, and the openness to even more new endeavours of the festival and the city of Narva.  

Comments from the representatives of the city of Narva and from the performers and visitors of Station Narva

“I believe that this year’s Station Narva festival was very successful. I noticed several aspects which I wish to acknowledge the organising team for. First, this event brings very diverse audience from across Estonia to Narva which supports the development of the service sector in Narva and makes the city more recognisable. Second, the format of the festival is tight and diverse, and engages a wide audience, creating an environment for different groups of the society to meet; without the festival, they would have no reason to engage with each other. Third, based on discussions with the organisers of other events and people in the music field, I have to admit that Station Narva has been able to bring in artists who are well-known on the European stage, and without the festival, they probably would not have come by our city.”
- Aleksei Jevgrafov, mayor of Narva

“We are very happy that this proud city has gotten a wonderful, eventful, free and overall worthy festival that opens and evolves the city. Most importantly, it has woken the local community and given back its faith and dignity, and piqued the interest of people abroad. With a diverse programme and a completely different focus and goal, the festival has taken steps to create a more cohesive society. We are very thankful for the organisers and wish them luck, and hopefully this energy would not subside, creating a lot of inspiration and life in Narva even in the period between the festivals.”
- Piret Hartman, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture of Estonia

“We could see from peoples' energy and reactions that it meant something for us to be there, beyond entertainment. Playing so many festivals, I see mostly a jaded mentality and cynicism to the point I almost want to leave the music business entirely. I hope young people at those concerts we did feel the urge to create something themselves and get access to equipment and opportunities. That club at the afterparty was amazing as well and reminded me of places 30 years ago in the post-acid house parties where I learnt to perform live electronic music. I am hopefully returning to that vibe this week with my experimental music tour in Switzerland.“
- Dr Das a.k.a. Aniruddha Das, bassist and tabla player in Asian Dub Foundation (UK)

“Coming to Station Narva Festival for GusGus was a blast. It showed how few ambitious and energetic people can drive a small community to become a large and important place on an international level. The location is quite unique as it is positioned between Russia and the rest of Europe through the fast developing country of Estonia. The variety of cultural events and eclectic choice of artistic acts were a refreshing input into the international scene. The generosity of the hosts and how they cleverly put together an international and cultural festival was an honour for us to participate in. If Station Narva want us to partake again we will not hesitate as we are eager to be part in such an amazing and prestigious event.“
- GusGus, Icelandic techno-soul group

“Station Narva is proof of the power of music and culture to change the world one city at a time. Electrifying Estonia’s third largest city with a mixture of live music, art and ideas and talks the festival brings the noise to the town and celebrates the city itself reconnecting it to the national and international creative fire!“
- John Robb, British punk musician and journalist

“It was a great privilege to be a part of Station Narva, to see this fascinating city up close, and to meet incredible artists and entrepreneurs both from Narva and around the world. It is a rare thing to create something so beautiful, huge congratulations to the whole team!“
- Johanna Schwartz, award winning film-maker

“This was the year where there was a discernable transfer of creative power to the city. I felt last year was very much a chance meeting in an intriguing place, this year was a meeting of equals; creative confidence and quicksilver fun was flowing both ways. The ADF gig sealed that in one of the most heartwarming, goggle-eyed moments of pure happiness and abandon I've seen in 30 years.“
Richard Foster, British music journalist and Head of PR at WORM creative centre in Rotterdam

“I really loved Narva’s Soviet days when as a child I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, loved it as a student in the mid 00s coming every weekend and always knowing what to do, still love it now as my second hometown just as much and feel happy every time it evolves. I believe it’s important to make the town attractive not only for illegal  cheese resellers from Saint-Petersburg but also for my friends that should enjoy spending a weekend here. Last year’s Station Narva took a step forward to make this dream come true and opened prospects for using Krenholm’s space. This year’s festival discovered an incredible venue called Vaba Lava and its annex buildings where as I suppose New Narva is going to start. The second festival showed us how perfectly changes fit into the urban landscape and musicians like Hatari and Aisha Devi performing in Vaba Lava confirm it. These two days in Narva felt really comfortable, entertaining and educational.“
- Dima Zavyalov, video blogger and journalist from Saint Petersburg 

“Station Narva showcases both striking musical talents and the outstanding sights of the place, enriching everyone with its history and diversity. If ice was chosen as a metaphor for borders, cultural misunderstandings and stereotypes, this festival would be imagined as an icebreaker, clearing the space for prolific collaboration and exchange.“
- Irina Shtreis, Russian music journalist and musician

“Lately, there have been many positive surprises in Narva! OBJEKT has successfully started working. Narva is a forward-looking city, full of youthful energy and a lot of eagerness with a life-affirming sound in every step, especially when it comes to culture and new endeavours. It may seem that there’s a long way to go for the city to become a crossroad for different cultures, but you have to start somewhere. Personally, I was most impressed with the chance to meet Russian filmmaker Sokurov. I’m so glad that he has chosen Narva as the place to look around and ponder on things in this early fall.”
- Edith Sepp, CEO of the Estonian Film Institute

“Station Narva is the best festival! This is how I wish to see the city of Narva. Culture and art enrich life, give it meaning and erase borders. Thanks to this festival, we become a part of the world and the world comes to us, recognises us. I hope this festival will become a tradition. I truly believe that these kinds of events can change the history of the city.”
- Eduard Zentchik, Estonian artist

“Thank you for this super cool event! This kind of high-level party has not been seen in Narva for a long time. It was lovely not just to perform, but also to be a listener at the festival. Vaba Lava rules! It is really nice to see that another culture centre has appeared behind Narva College, and it marks another place where people can practice socialising in Estonian.”
- Aleksandr Tcherdakov, frontman of AveNova from Narva

“When on one night, there are people watching a documentary performance at Vaba Lava, and on the next night, the same environment transforms into an awesome concert venue, my heart fills with joy, and all the sleepless nights and problems do not feel that serious anymore, because, together with other lucky participants, we can experience a true culture life that has been needed in Narva for such a long time!”
- Anželika Shticalov, Executive Manager of Vaba Lava Narva theatre centre


Station Narva festival is organised by Shiftworks in cooperation with the Narva team. The organising team wants to thank all the performers, visitors, partners and volunteers. 

Partners: Vaba Lava Narva and Linda 2, Art Club Ro-Ro, Narva Art Residency, Narva Gate, creative incubator OBJEKT, Independent Creativity Centre, MTÜ Uus Sild, public discussion series BAZAR, Ida-Virumaa Vocational Education Centre, Astri Shopping Centre, Representation of Estonia to NATO, sport club Motus, Kokomo Coffee Rosters, Kohvik No2, Tänavakokad, Grilltastic and Muna Café & Catering

Supporters: Finnish Institute in Estonia, British Council, U.S. Embassy in Estonia, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Integration Foundation, USRF, Meresuu Spa & Hotel, Inger Hotel, Go Group, Levikom, Moe1886, city of Narva

Station Narva & OBJEKT Business Day was supported by the U.S. Embassy in Estonia, the city of Narva and Enterprise Estonia from the European Regional Development Fund.

Media partners: Raadio 2 and Põhjarannik

Contributions to the festival: Aigar Vals, Ann-Mirjam Vaikla, Anne Kallinen, Asko Astmäe, Boris Medvezhnikov, Erkin Antov, Erli Kasikov,  Helen Sildna, Ingrid Kohtla, Ivan Sergejev, Jana Pavlenkova, Johann Kabonen, Kadri Kont-Kontson, Laura Liisa Laasberg, Liina Tammepõld, Maria Kullamägi, Markko Reinberg, Mihhail Makošin, Natalie Mets, Olga Tapner, Ott Kangur, Roman Boiko, Roman Demchenko, Sven Paulus, Tanel Kõnd, Valeria Lavrova, Viktoria Martjanova, Violetta Lanman, Vladimir Naumov and enterprises Ares Security, BGMD OÜ, Levikom, SoundHouse, Videal.