Tallinn designated as UNESCO City of Music


Tallinn named UNESCO City of Music

49 new cities have joined the Creative Cities Network

Tallinn will bear the title of UNESCO City of Music from 2022. The Estonian capital is among 49 new cities designated as members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay announced the new designees at the 41st session of the General Conference of the organization taking place in Paris (9-24 November).

Apart from Tallinn, the new Cities of Music include Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), Batumi (Georgia), Belfast (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), Huancayo (Peru), Ibagué (Colombia), Kharkiv (Ukraine), London (Canada), Port Louis (Mauritius), Recife (Brazil), Santiago de Cuba (Cuba) and Xalapa (Mexico).

Among Estonia’s neighbours, the Lithuanian capital Vilnius was named City of Literature. The membership title in all 7 categories of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network is permanent. 

Rich musical heritage 

The Mayor of Tallinn, Mihhail Kõlvart, noted that Tallinn’s achievement is remarkable given that this is the first time it has applied for membership in the network but is also not accidental in view of the city’s rich cultural heritage and lively music scene.

“A strong musical tradition has been closely embedded in our cultural heritage through centuries, and therefore the title of UNESCO Music City is extremely gratifying. The title was preceded by thorough work in cooperation with Tallinn’s music professionals and cultural institutions, with whom further activities will also be carried through. Involving all shareholders in the field of music, we intend to prepare a detailed action plan based on the created Tallinn Music Strategy.

Admission to such an honourable community of creative cities is an extraordinary recognition for a candidate running for first time, which shows the weight of our contribution and the strong musical tradition here,” said the Mayor as quoted by the city website. 

According to the Artistic Director of the Tallinn Philharmonic Society, Tõnu Kaljuste, the title is not only a recognition for Estonian musicians, but is of great importance for the entire city. “Ever so often, colleagues from around the world ask me how we have managed to create such a lively and high-level music life in Tallinn,” recalls the conductor. 

Smart concert solutions during the pandemic 

Madli-Liis Parts, the Foreign Relations Adviser of the Ministry of Culture, agrees that the designation will further increase Estonia’s international reputation in the field of culture. Says Parts: “Tallinn’s reputation as a city that values culture is internationally very high. Our capital is home to many groups, festivals and concert organizers, and a great breeding ground for newcomers. Uniqueness, high artistic level and professionalism, as well as openness to new and emerging ideas are the directions that international partners are definitely looking for in cooperation. Tallinn has it all.

During the COVID pandemic, the organizers of Estonian music life have set an example to the whole world with fast and smart solutions. This confirms that we are also seen as active partners in shaping international music life and making music policy decisions.” 

Tallinn’s music strategy

The city began preparing the application of the City of Music in December 2019. The process was coordinated by Ragnar Siil (Creativity Lab) alongside a steering group. The latter comprised representatives of the City of Tallinn and the Ministry of Culture, and key partners in the music sector: the Estonian Music Council and the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, Music Estonia and the Estonian Choir Association. Also, 80 organizations from all music genres formed a working group for the application.  

Tallinn’s application was accompanied by the creation of Tallinn Music Strategy 2022-2025. The plan aims at offering additional opportunities to residents for making and enjoying music with a focus on supporting the city’s burgeoning music industry. 

Creative Cities Network 

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network was launched in 2004 to promote the role of culture and creativity in maintaining sustainable urban development. A designated city can fall into just one of the network’s seven categories: crafts and folk art, design, film, gastronomy, literature, media arts, and music. Apart from Tallinn, two other Estonian cities – Tartu (Literature) and Viljandi (Crafts and Folk Art) have been designated as UNESCO Creative Cities.



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