(last updated: 27.02.2015)
The United Kingdom has always been a strong supporter of Estonia’s independence and development. This relationship had its beginning during Estonia's War of Independence, when the UK sent a Royal Navy detachment led by Admiral E.A. Sinclair to defend Estonia’s shores. The British seamen who gave their lives defending Estonia's freedom during the conflict were laid to rest in the Tallinn Military Cemetery.
In the 1920s and 1930s, political and trade relations between Estonia and the United Kingdom flourished. More than 30% of Estonia’s exports went to the UK, an important trade partner for Estonia at the time.
The United Kingdom never recognised Estonia’s annexation in 1940. The UK reaffirmed its recognition of Estonia's independence on 27 August 1991 after de facto independence had been restored. Diplomatic relations were re-established on 5 September 1991, following which the embassies were re-opened in Tallinn and London. Since then, relations between Estonia and the UK have been exemplified by their consistency and vigour. In July 1992, the UK restored visa-free travel with Estonia, being thereby the first EU member state to restore the validity of agreements concluded with the Republic of Estonia in the 1920s and 30s.
Current Estonian ambassador in London is Lauri Bambus. The current Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Estonia is Christopher Bruce Holtby (since 21 February 2012).
Estonia’s interests are also represented in the United Kingdom by six honorary consuls: John Beevor in Cheltenham since 1998, Iain Lawson in Paisley, Scotland since November 2003, Sir Roger Jones in Wales since October 2005, Kai Hughes in Liverpool since November 2012, Simpson Buglass in Aberdeen, Scotland since February 2013 and Mark J. Ewings in Belfast (where the honorary consulate was opened on 23 May 2014).
The relations between Great Britain and Estonia are active and good – communication takes place on the level of ministries and offices as well as on a higher political level. Allied relations in NATO and the mission in Afghanistan are common components in the defence relations of Estonia and the United Kingdom and pillars of their bilateral relations. Great Britain is one of the biggest contributors to NATO and to the Common Security and Defence Policy of the European Union. That determines the character of the security policy dialogue between the two countries. Great Britain has provided assistance to Estonia in the implementation of defence reforms. Just like the UK, within the EU Estonia also feels that the development of the single market, including the digital single market, as well as innovation and facilitating the creation of new companies to be important. The main priorities in these activities are creating jobs and economic growth. In 2012 concrete opportunities for co-operation in the cyber realm were outlined and co-operation in the area of e-state intensified. The UK, like Estonia, is a supporter of the principles of EU enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy.
An integral part of the relations between the two countries is co-operation between the parliaments. In the UK House of Commons there is an Estonia friendship group led by Gordon Marsden and in the Riigikogu there is a UK friendship group led by Mailis Reps. Many Estonian and British political parties also have close ties. In 2012 members of the Riigikogu Defence Committee and the Special Committee for State Budget Control visited London, and chairman of the Estonia friendship group in the UK House of Commons Gordon Marsden visited Estonia.
The lively contacts between Estonia and the United Kingdom lead to a busy visit schedule. Estonia has been visited by several members of the British royal family and state officials of Great Britain.
||Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Urve Palo (at the Digital 5 launching event)
||Minister of Foreign Trade and Entrepreneurship Anne Sulling
||Speaker of Riigikogu Eiki Nestor
||Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Defence Minister Sven Mikser took part in the NATO summit in Wales
||Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces Major General Riho Terras
||Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas
||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
||President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
||President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
||Prime Minister Andrus Ansip
||Foreign Minister Phiilip Hammond
||HRH Prince Harry visited the annual Spring Storm military exercises
||Brief visit of Defence Minister Philip Hammond
||Minister of State for Europe David Lidington
||Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow
||Defence Minister Philip Hammond
Chief of the Defence Staff of the British Armed Forces Nicholas Houghton
||Minister of State for Trade and Investment Lord Green
||Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude
||Minister for Europe David Lidington
||Defence Minister Liam Fox
The following agreements have been concluded between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland:
- Agreement Concerning Air Services (came into force 3 Mar 93);
- International Traffic Insurance Agreement between the Estonian Traffic Insurance Fund and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (came into force 1 July 1993);
- Memorandum of Understanding of Defence Contacts and Cooperation (came into force 3 Oct 1994);
- Agreement for the Promotion and Protection of Investments (came into force 16 Dec 1994);
- Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital Gain (came into force 19 Dec 1994);
- Agreement on Cooperation in Education, Science and Culture (came into force 18 July 1996);
- Agreement on International Road Transport (came into force 21 Aug 1998);
- Memorandum of Mutual Understanding on Co-operation in Combating the Circulation of Illegal Drug, Organised Crime, Illegal Immigration, International Terrorism, and Other Major Crimes (came into force 29 January 2003);
- Agreement Between the Republic of Estonia and Guernsay on Taxing Interest on Deposits (came into force 1 January 2005);
- Memorandum of Mutual Understanding on Protecting Confidential Defence-Related Information (4 February 2004) and the agreement to amend the memorandum (came into force 11 July 2011);
- Memorandum on Mutual Understanding on the Assignment of a Military Counsellor (came into force 4 Feb 2004).
The UK’s economic environment continues to be influenced by the global economic downturn. As a result of the weakness of the EU and the UK’s other main economic partners, recovery has been slower than was hoped. The slight reduction in unemployment and the decrease in inflation in 2012 compared to the previous year can be regarded as good signs.
Economic co-operation between Estonia and the UK is of a practical nature. On the Estonian side one sees active work aimed towards the UK in the furniture and timber sector, as well as in the services sector. The UK’s interest is mainly focused on the textile and food production industries, as well as services and the energy sector. At the same time, an increase in production costs in Asia has led the UK to look for new co-operation partners in Estonia. Of companies started in Estonia, the ones that have earned the most attention in the UK are start-ups and companies that offer new IT solutions. Considering the importance of London as an international hub, Estonian companies gaining notoriety there is a remarkable achievement. Every success story benefits business diplomacy by helping to promote Estonia and its investment environment. The SmartEst 2012 seminar organised by the British-Estonian Chamber of Commerce (BECC) gave a good opportunity for introducing Estonia’s investment opportunities and successful e-solutions. This year the BECC has organised another business trip to Great Britain.
In 2009 the Estonian Guild in London (Eesti Gild Londonis), which brings together entrepreneurs and enterprising people in London, was established. An Enterprise Estonia tourism representative has also worked in London since 2009.
The UK is in 9th place among Estonia’s trade partners, making up 3% of Estonia’s total trade turnover. Among export partners the UK is ranked in 11th place (2.1% of exports) and among import partners in 8th place (3.8%). The total trade turnover in 2012 was 790 million euros, or which export made up 264 million euros and import 526 million. The trade balance was negative by 245 million euros. Since 2006, Estonia has had a deficit in trade with Great Britain. In exports the three most important groups were wood and wood products (20%), machinery and equipment (19%), and other manufactured goods (17%). Among imports machinery and equipment made up 57% of the total volume, followed by food products and beverages at 16% and transportation vehicles at 7%. The import of all these items grew by 25% during the year.
Estonia-Great Britain trade 2005-2012
Source: Statistical Office of Estonia
Main export articles to Great Britain in 2012:
- Wood and wood products, wood coal (lumber, prefab articles, wood granules) - 20%
- Machinery and equipment (wiring for automobiles, mobile equipment, parts for loaders, signalling installations, and generators) - 19%
- Other manufactured goods (pillows, blankets, furniture) - 17%
- Mineral products (fuel oil, peat) - 14%
- Precious metals - 5%
Main import articles from Great Britain in 2012:
- Machinery and equipment - 57%
- Food products, drinks, tobacco - 16%
- Transport vehicles - 7%
- Mineral products - 4%
As a foreign investor, the UK’s interest in Estonia has been fairly great – it is the source of 2% of all foreign direct investments made in Estonia with a sum of 273 million euros, which placed it in 12th place among all investors in Estonia. Investments have primarily been made (in declining order) in headquarters’ activities, real estate, financial intermediation, wholesale and retail trade, and the manufacturing industry. Investments have also been made in agriculture, information and communications, transport and inventory, construction, and water supply. Estonia’s direct investments in the UK during the same time period totalled 4.4 million euros, making up only 0.1% of Estonia’s total investments in foreign countries. Investments have been made in wholesale and retail trade, transport and inventory, financial intermediation, real estate, and businesses dealing with professional and research activity. According to the Commercial Register, as of 1 January 2013 there were 456 enterprises with UK involvement registered in Estonia (277 of them with 100% UK capital), which is 4% of all enterprises with foreign participation (7th place). There were 225 actually active businesses that presented their economic statements to the Commercial Register in 2012. The enterprises with the greatest UK capital are MCB GlaxoSmithKline Eesti OÜ, Eesti Aviokütuse Teenuste AS, Diapol Granite OÜ, Transportir Forwarding OÜ, OÜ History & Heraldry Europe, and Baltic Fibres OÜ.
Tallinn and Estonia’s reputation as a tourist destination has grown in Great Britain over the past few years. Great Britain is classified as a developing market (high potential) in Estonia’s tourism development plan. Estonia’s accession to the EU in 2004 gave a significant boost to reciprocal travel – that year 30% and the following year (2005) 60% more (62.3 thousand) British tourists were accommodated in Estonia than in previous years. Although over the next few years the number of UK tourists using lodging in Estonia steadily decreased from the boom period, in 2011, when Tallinn was a European Capital of Culture, growth was seen once again – the number of accommodated tourists reached 70 thousand. In 2012 nearly 55 thousand British tourists used Estonian accommodation establishments. Tallinn has also become one of the most popular destinations among Baltic cruise ports. In 2012 over 75 000 British cruise tourists visited Estonia. Many articles introducing Estonia as an exciting tourism destination have been published in the British media.
Estonian interest in Great Britain has also grown year by year. In 2004, an exceptional year, nearly 16 thousand Estonian tourists visited the UK with the help of travel agencies. In the following years the numbers decreased slightly, but one must keep in mind that very many Estonians now visit London or other parts of Great Britain independently. According to data from the Bank of Estonia’s mobile positioning system, in 2011 the total number of multi-day visits by Estonians residents to Great Britain was 66.7 thousand and in the first 9 months of 2012 55.1 thousand.
In co-operation with the Enterprise Estonia tourism representative in London, the Estonian Embassy arranged for Estonia to participate for the first time in the Nordic tourism fair Scandinavian Show.
There are now two airlines with direct flights: Easyjet and Ryanair.
Estonia’s visibility on the global cultural map can be attributed to many great artists. The works of Arvo Pärt, the Järvi family, Age Oks and Toomas Edur, and Priit Pärn are a visible cultural phenomenon in the world’s artistic metropolises – they are introduced to the world by professional agencies, choice networks, and prominent and powerful institutions. In addition to them, however, there are scores more artists creating work on a very high level whose creations have not yet made the rounds in professional circles. The path to such an opportunity is supported by artists’ professional and personal connections.
In 1996 Estonia and the UK signed an intergovernmental agreement on co-operation in education, science, and culture. Within the past dozen years we have developed a systematic and carefully planned strategy for introducing Estonian culture in the United Kingdom.
The most notable major events have been: The Estonian cultural festival in Oxford and the Estonian Cultural Days in Scotland (2005), the premiere of Arvo Pärt’s “Passio” in Westminster Abbey (2006), the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia and the presentation of a musical gift in London (2008). The Estonian Embassy is the proud founder of the Walestonia Festival (2008) and the co-organiser of the second Walestonia Festival in fall of 2010. The first Eesti Fest took place in February 2011 in London and included a look at both Estonia’s culture and its information technology sector. Estonian animated films have been in the spotlight for the past five years at the London International Animation Festival. Estonian architects have made it to the banks of the Thames with their exhibits and installations for the first time; the translated works of Estonian literature number in the dozens; our young composers have received orders for works from the UK. Estonian cultural events have also inspired meetings among our political figures. The events dedicated to the 90th anniversary of Estonia during the Walestonia Festival were visited by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Mrs. Evelin Ilves. In accordance with a decision by the board of the Programme for the Study of Estonian Language and Culture, in 2006 an Estonian language and culture programme was established at the University of Glasgow. In the University College of London’s School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies (SSEES), Estonian language courses are offered on a facultative basis. In the year 2005 a cultural counsellor position was established at the Estonian Embassy in London with the support of the Ministry of Culture. Planning large-scale co-operation projects together has led to trustworthy ties between many cultural institutions in Estonia and the United Kingdom.
Estonia is also visible in the UK thanks to the Estonian Guild, the Estonian Society and the Estonian School in London, and the British Estonian Association.
Below is a fairly comprehensive categorized list of the cultural relations between Estonia and Britain.
In 2010 Estonian architects participated in the London Festival of Architecture for the first time. The exhibit “Boom.Room”, which included work by the architectural firms Rakett and Salto as well as the Estonian Centre of Architecture, was displayed in the London Architecture Building Centre. Vilen Künnapu’s installation “The River Bell” was put up on the bank of the Thames by the Southwark Cathedral and was seen by thousands of passersby each day for nearly three months. Vilen Künnapu’s installation on the bank of the Thames was among the most attention-grabbing projects of the festival and one of the most important displays of Estonian art in London.
The embassy was able to help realize a Reet Aus exhibit at the Scott Brown Gallery that was part of a four-city series (London, Tallinn, Athens, Milan) on environmentally sustainable urban planning. In addition to the exhibit the series also included a panel discussion which involved the participation of Ülar Mark, who added to the discussion with a view of the future of urban planning in Tallinn.
The success of Estonian animated films in the UK (during the past five years Estonia has been one focus of the international animation festival LIAF) has recently been echoed by the reception of feature films and documentaries.
In 2010 one of the main events where Estonian films were introduced was the London festival “Land in Focus: Estonia in Focus”. A Veiko Õunpuu film evening was held with screenings of “Empty” and “Autumn Ball”; about a dozen short and animated films were shown as well. The festival was a good introduction to Estonia and the 100th anniversary of Estonian film. Commentary by Rain Tolk complemented the images seen on screen. In co-operation with the London School of Economics an Estonian film festival was held at the LSE (2010); it was entitled “Disco and Atomic war” because the film of the same name by Kiur Aarma has been shown with great success at the Sheffield and Leeds documentary film festivals, the East End Festival in London, and the New Europe Festival in Edinburgh. The film set the record for the most-screened Estonian film in the UK ever, and the embassy was happy to support each and every screening. The film’s success led to a screening organized by the platform Counterpoint, which was followed by a discussion at the Curzon in London’s Soho with the participation of Jaak Kilmi, Ivo Gormley, and Jonny Mundey. The three-day LSE festival’s packed schedule included commentary by Kiur Aarma, Liisa Smith, Regina Palandi, Kersti Uibo, and Neal Taylor. The schedule of feature films included “December Heat”, and “Mindless”, documentary films included Aarma’s “Disco and Atomic War” and Uibo’s “Narrow is the Gate”, and Margus Paju’s short films.
The programmes of animation festivals have always included the newest works by Priit and Olga Pärn as well as works by Mari-Liis Bassovskaja, Jelena Girlin, Rao Heidmets, Urmas Jõemees, Ülo Pikkov, and Riho Unt. Kaspar Jancis, Mait Laas, Priit Pärn, and Priit Tender have gone to England to introduce their films themselves. Priit Pärn has given film classes in London and Newport, Wales. In 2008 and 2009 the feature films that earned the most attention were Ilmar Raag’s “Class”, Veiko Õunpuu’s “Autumn Ball”, and Rene Vilbre’s “I Was Here,” which have been showed at many festivals including in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and London. The films “The Art of Selling” and “Revolution of Pigs” have been shown at the University of Glasgow cinema house; the films were commentated by Jaak Kilmi and Tristan Priimägi. Films that have been shown at documentary film festivals in London are Ivar Heinmaa’s “Scars of Afghanistan” (2007) and Kersti Uibo’s “Still Life With Wife” (2008), for which the director herself came to introduce the film and provide commentary. Jim Tusty’s documentary film “The Singing Revolution” was shown during the Estonia Day at the Swaledale Festival in 2006. The Estonian film days in Bradford brought Jaak Lõhmus in to commentate; the programme included several documentary films – “We Live in Estonia’s Forests”, “Coal Enrichment Experience”, “My Estonia”, and “Smiling Women” – plus the animated films “Lotte” and “Lotte of Gadgetville” and the feature film “Names in Marble”.
Earlier films that have been screened in the UK include “Crossroads” (2002), “Good Hands” (2003), and “Names in Marble” (2004). In 2009 René Vilbre attended the London East End film festival to commentate his film “I Was Here” and answer questions. “I Was Here” was also screened at the Edinburgh Filmhouse and London Barbican during the New Europe film festival (2009). The directors of both the New Europe and East End festivals visited Estonia’s Black Nights Film Festival last November, which could pave the way for ongoing co-operation.
In 2009 an exhibit of Estonia, Latvian and Lithuanian documentary films called “Baltic Way” was shown in the 12 Star gallery in the European Commission’s UK representation. Estonia was represented by Peeter Simm’s “Baltic Way”.
Three Estonian films were also on the schedule of the Psychoanalytical Film festival at BAFTA in London (2009). The festival as organised by the Institute of Psychoanalysis. The Estonian films shown were Sulev Keedus’s “Somnambulism”, Mati Kütt’s “Institute of Dreams”, and Girlin and Bassovskaya’s “Dress”. Karlo Funk participated in a panel discussion.
Rao Heidmets was on hand to talk about his film “Life Stories” at the Ciné Lumiére in London (2009). It was part of a documentary film festival that was organised for the second time under the auspices of EUNIC London.
The Estonian Film Days in Bradford were geared towards Estonian audiences and included commentary by Jaak Lõhmus.
Although previously the only Estonian novels that had been released by British publishers were Jaan Kross’s “The Czar’s Madman” (“Keisri hull”) (1992), “Professor Martens’ Departure” (“Professor Martensi ärasõit”) (1994), “The Conspiracy” (“Vandenõu”)(1995), and “Treading Air” (“Paigallend”) (2003)—released by Harvill Press—as well as Tõnu Õnnepalu’s “Border State” (“Piiririik”)(2000, Northwestern University Press), by the year 2011 works by many other authors had also been published - Kristiina Ehin, Doris Kareva, Imbi Paju, Ly Seppel, A.-H. Tammsaare, Mati Unt, and Livia Viitol - by the publishers Norvik Press, Oleander Press, Lapwing Publications, Coiscéim, and others. In 2005, Andres Ehin’s “Poems” (“Luuletused”)(Southword Editions) was published, in 2007 Viivi Luik’s novel “The Beauty of History” (“Ajaloo ilu”)(Norvik Press), in 2009 Tammsaare’s “The New Devil of Põrgupõhja”. In 2009 Kristiina Ehin’s poetry compilation in Welsh was published by Barddas Publications and the same collection was published in Belfast, Ireland in Estonian, English and Irish (under the name “Põletades Pimedust/ Burning the Darkness /An Dorchades Á Dhó”). In 2010 the publisher Arc Publications published two books of Estonian poetry: Kristiina Ehin’s “The Scent of Your Shadow” and Doris Kareva’s “A Shape of Time”. In recent years Kristiina Ehin, Doris Kareva, Jürgen Rooste, Asko Künnap and Karl Martin Sinijärv have participated in the well-known Cheltenham and Ledbury festivals. In 2007 in London Ilmar Lehtpere was presented with the Corneliu M Popescu Prize for European Poetry in Translation for translating Kristiina Ehin’s poetry collection “The Drums of Silence” (Oleander Press).
Estonian publishers have been present at the London Book Fair for several years, where they have also concluded many international co-operation projects. At the initiative of the embassy a project involving Estonian children’s books for iPhone has also been launched. As of 2009 there have been close ties with creative writing professor at the University of Glamorgan and winner of the T.S. Eliot prize Philip Gross (who has Estonian roots), which has led to interesting co-operation projects with Tallinn University and Estonian musicians.
In 2010 Leelo Tungal visited the Estonian School in London within the framework of the Year of Reading. Her children’s production “Bear’s School Holidays” was staged at the London Estonian House. The instructor of Estonian language and culture at the University of Glasgow, Lea Kreinin, is compiling an Estonian library; the London Estonian Society is also creating its own library.
Estonian culture is often represented in Great Britain through music. Over the past few years Arvo Pärt has been the guest of honour at many music festivals; his 75th birthday was celebrated by the BBC at Proms and the South Bank Centre and at the latter location a conference was also held. Pärt was the guest of honour at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival in 2010 and at the Canterbury festival “Sounds New” in 2011.
After a long break from media attention, Neeme as well as Paavo and Kristjan Järvi are again in the media spotlight directing orchestras in London. In spring of 2009 Anu Tali made her debut in London; Olari Elts has been the first guest conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra since 2007. In 2010 Tõnu Kaljuste conducted the Wales National Symphony Orchestra at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival. Vox Clamantis has also made its successful British debut, with some of its more notable performances being at The Sage in Gateshead (2005), a tour together with Dhafer Youssef (2007), singing in the Linbury Hall of the Royal Opera (2008) and at St. Paul’s Cathedral and Banqueting Hall together with Weekend Guitar Trio (2008), as well as at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival (2008). Veljo Tormis has also been in the centre of attention: a concert of his works in London, being guest of honour at the Swaledale Music Festival and in York, recordings (Holst Singers and Hyperion), a lecture at the London Royal Academy of Music. Toccata Press has made a CD of Tormis’s men’s choir pieces and Ester Mägi’s orchestra pieces.
Urmas Sisask has had two pieces commissioned to premiere in Great Britain, the latter of which – “Veni Creator Spiritus” – was Estonia’s musical gift to the UK in honour of the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia. In addition to premieres of Erkki-Sven Tüür and Arvo Pärt’s works, in 2010 and 2011 the works of Heino Eller, Artur Lemba, Artur Kapp, Eduard Oja, Peeter Süda, Jaan Rääts, Ülo Krigul, Peeter Vähi, Urmas Sisask, Toivo Tulev, Helena Tulve, Märt-Matis Lill, Galina Grigorjeva, Tõnis Kaumann, Malle Maltis, Tatjana Kozlova, and Timo Steiner also had UK debuts. The Estonian Philharmonic Orchestra has twice been the special guest of BBC Proms (2005 and 2008) and was invited to the Edinburgh Festival for the first time in 2008. The Estonian National Men’s Choir concert together with the BBC Wales National Symphony Orchestra at the Walestonia Festival was broadcast by BBC Radio 3. In 2010 Hortus Musicus had an extremely successful performance at the LIFEM festival in London; they were invited back the next year. The new music group Resonabilis performed at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival in 2010 and the group U: was a guest of the Sounds New Festival in 2011. The Piano Orchestra was a main performer at Eesti Fest, which took place at King’s Place in 2011. Svjata Vatra was invited to the LIFEM festival in London in 2010. In 2009 the Free Tallinn Trio made its London debut in one of the city’s best-known jazz clubs Vortex. The first Estonian band to participate in the London Jazz Festival was UMA, whose recording appeared on a “European Jazz Trail” CD. The saxophone quartet SaxEst performed in London in 2010.
For many years in a row the folk music group Ro:toro has done tours in the United Kingdom; they have also performed together with the Estonian-Welsh folk music duo Sild. Suurõ Pilvõ led a workshop and gave a concert during Eesti Fest. During the same festival the Weekend Guitar Trio gave a concert together with Norwegian musician Jan Bang and British star Toyah Wilcox (2011). Estonian choir music has been brought to the British isles by Eesti Raadio Laulustuudio, the ETV Girls’ Choir, Estonia National Opera Boys’ Choir, Orthodox Singers, and Heinavanker. The Heiki Mätlik Trio, Anto Pett and Anne-Liis Poll, and the New Tallinn Trio have all gone on concert tours there. Also notable is the success of young mezzo soprano Monika-Evelin Liivi in important roles on the Royal Opera Stage in Covent Garden, as she was chosen to participate in Jette Parker’s young singers programme. Since 2009 Kai Rüütel has been participating in the Jette Parker programme. Juhan Tralla gave an impressive performance in the Singers of the World competition in Cardiff.Mikk Murdvee made his conducting debut in London before the Southbank Symphony in 2008.
Kärt Johanson and Tõnis Mägi have performed in London, and the duo of Raivo Tafenau and Meelis Vind gave concerts in London as well as Kent. The jazz quartet made up of Raivo Tafenau, Kristjan Randalu, Tanel Ruben and Taavo Remmel gave many concerts during the WALESTONIA Festival; pianist Kristjan Randalu has played with many international collectives in the renowned jazz club Ronnie Scott. Bullfrog Brown, who was recognised for the best European blues album of 2008, did two tours of the United Kingdom in 2009. The indie music group Pia Fraus has given concerts in London. In 2009 and 2010 the heavy metal band Metsotöll did tours in England. In 2008, Hannah did her album release tour together with Jason Donovan. Pop singer Kerli, whose music videos have been seen on MTV, has also performed in London. Other regular faces on the music scene are Silver Ainomäe, Anna-Liisa Bezrodnõi and Sten Lassmann, who study in London music schools.
BBC Radio 3 and BBC World have recorded many interviews and concerts of Estonian musicians. The curator of the Eesti Fest event was BBC Radio 3 anchor Fiona Talkington.
Estonian ballet is known in Great Britain thanks to Age Oks and Toomas Edur (stage names Agnes Oaks and Thomas Edur). As the leading couple of the English National Ballet they are arguably the Estonian artists that have received the most global attention, having performed in the memorial concert for Princess Diana at Wembley Stadium that was broadcast by TV channels in 140 nations (2007). In 2009 a gala event was held in honour of Age Oks and Toomas Edur at Sadler’s Wells, London’s main dance theatre, to celebrate the nearly 20-year career of the couple with the English National Ballet. In 2010 they returned to the Estonia National Opera. Queen Elizabeth II presented Oks and Edur with orders of the CBE class for developing British-Estonian cultural ties and serving the art of dance (2010).
The Estonia National Opera made its first Great Britain appearance with the contemporary ballet performance “Hamlet” at the Taliesin Centre in Wales. Oksana Titova, Taavet Jansen, and Päär Pärenson gave successful performances at the London dance theatre The Place in the piece “The Last Hairy” (2006). Anne Juren (French-Austrian) and Krõõt Juurak performed their modern dance piece “Look Look” at the same theatre (2007). Performances of the VAT Theatre’s “Kalevipoeg” took place in the notable new London art centre ICA. Jaan Tätte’s “The Highway Crossing” (“Ristumine peateega”) was very successful in London; it was even shown on two stages, the Blue Elephant Theatre and the Arcola Theatre (2006). The director was Liisa Smith. Her production of “Happy Everyday!” was seen at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in London (2010). Staged readings of Urmas Vad’s show “The Real Elvis” took place in the Unicorn Theatre in London. Ilmar Taska was invited to The Courtyard theatre in London, where he directed “The Power of Love”.
Triin Reemann and Silver Elvest took the stage in the Purcell Room at the South Bank Centre during the DancEUnion Festival with their performance “Good Knews” (2008). Alexis Steeves and Rain Saukas performed at the same festival in 2011.
Estonian ballet dancer Tiit Helimets is a lead dancer at the Birmingham Royal Ballet Theatre. Estonian ballerina Eve Mutso can be seen on Scottish stages as of 2003. For many years now, young actors, directors and dramaturges from the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre have studied at Rose Bruford College in London as exchange students through the Socrates programme.
Estonian art has been introduced in Great Britain through exhibits by many artists. In addition to internationally known names like Kadri Mälk, Marko Mäetamm, Mark Raidpere and Jaan Toomik, many other graphic, video, textile and industrial artists have had their first shows in Great Britain: Kadri Alesmaa, Peeter Allik, Liisu Arro, Inga Heamägi, Minna Hint, Monika Järg, Kai Kaljo, Raul Keller, Mare Kelpman, Andrei Kormašov, Eeva Käsper, Krista Leesi, Kristiina Norman, Katrin Pere, Kaie Pungas, Mari Sobolev, Maksim Šurin, Aune Taamal, Aili Vahtrapuu, Veronika Valk, Tanel Veenre, Urmas Viik, Kadri Viires, and Jaak Visnap. Annika Haas, Age Peterson, Birgit Püve and Krista Mölder have all displayed photo exhibits, and Hanno Soans, Andres Kurg and Juta Kivimäe have given lectures on Estonian art. Jüri Kask’s author exhibition took place in Oxford, Vilen Künnapu and August Künnapu had a joint exhibit at the Walestonia Festival, and the artist residency programme begun by Tiiu Kirsipuu was continued at the same festival.
In 2007 the first-ever Estonian work of art was sold at Christie’s auction in London – Alice Kask’s “Fragment of a Hand”. In 2010 Maarit Murka participated in the Sovereign Art Foundation exhibit with her work “Who the F..k Celebrates on 14th June?”. Murka was invited to participate in the show by the Finnish curator. It was a European award and 30 works were selected. KUMU and the Kingston Museum near Dorch House co-operate in studying the works of sculptor Dora Gordine, who is connected to Estonia but whose works are known internationally. Within the framework of the Bristol conference IMPACT 6, the works of 24 Estonian graphic artists were displayed in the exhibit “Manu propria”. The project was a continuation of IMPACT 5, which took place in Tallinn in 2007. Estonian artists were represented at the London Design Festival in Soho for the first time in 2010 with their exhibit “ÖÖ – Was It a Dream?”. The curator was Merilyn Keskküla, who worked the Estonian designers into the same space and concept as the Nordic designers’ works. In 2009 Reet Aus made it into the aesthetics programme at London Fashion Week, where it was possible to see 28 fashion designers from around the world. In 2011 Kristian Steinberg made his debut – a catwalk show of his men’s collection “Scars” during London Fashion Week.
In October of 1998 the first larger series of events introducing British culture, British Week, was held in Tallinn. In November 1999 the same event took place, this time with the name British Fashion and Design Week.
In September 2003 Wales Day took place in Tartu. The First Minister of Wales Rhodri Morgan participated in a public exchange of ideas with writer Jaan Kaplinski on the theme “Wales and Estonia: Remaining Yourself in Europe”. The moderator of the debate was the rector of the University of Tartu Jaak Aaviksoo. A series of events introducing the culture of Wales also took place in Tartu.
A good example of co-operation between British and Estonian experts was the Gene Forum that took place in September 2003, part of a series in which three international conferences had already taken place. Research conference are organised regularly through co-operation between the University of Tartu and many British universities. To welcome Estonia into the European Union, the British Council and British Embassy in Estonia organised various events from March to July 2004 under the name “Crossroads of Ideas”. These events included concerts by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in various Estonian cities, a club weekend, a young goalies’ day, and more.
In July 2004 a Scottish week took place in Tallinn that included a diverse programme with various business (53 Scottish entrepreneurs took part in a business seminar with 60 stands on display) and cultural events (the Perth Youth Orchestra, Dumbarton and District Pipe Band, North Sea Gas, and others participated). From 1-9 November 2005 Estonian business and cultural days took place in Scotland. Three business seminars attended by nearly 40 Estonian entrepreneurs took place, plus there were visits by the foreign minister and minister of culture.
British art has been introduced in Estonia through many exhibits. In October 2003 a historical survey exhibit of British pop art called “AS IS WHEN”, graphics from 1961-1972, was on display in the Estonain Museum of Art space in the Rotermann Salt Storage. In April 2004 an exhibit of the graphics of British pop art classic Bridget Riley from 1962-2003 was opened in the Salt Storage.
For the 10th anniversary of the British Council in the Baltics, an exhibit was opened in the Tallinn Kunstihoone in April 2003 entitled “POSH”.
On 17 October 2006 two exhibits were opened in Tallinn to celebrate the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Estonia. In the Draakon Gallery there was a joint exhibit of Estonian artist Jüri Arrak and British artist P.J. Crook organised by the Estonian Embassy in London; at KUMU there was a photo exhibit organised by the British Embassy and British Council entitled “Loodusfoto 2005” compiled of works from the world’s biggest nature photo contest organised by the British Natural History Museum and BBC’s Wildlife magazine. In 2010 KUMU exhibited the exhibit of John Constable’s works from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Estonian History Museum has also initiated co-operation with the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Estonians in the UK
In examining the relations between Estonia and the United Kingdom, one cannot overlook the fact that more and more Estonians are finding a home, work opportunities, and study opportunities in Great Britain. An estimated 10 000-15 000 Estonian citizens live in the UK, about 3 000-5 000 of them in London. It is difficult to get an exact count because people working in creative fields travel back and forth between London and Estonia. The most active communities are in London, Bradford and Leicester. There is a total of 13 Estonian societies in the UK, the oldest being the London Estonian Society established in 1921. There is an Estonian School, Estonian Guild, Estonian Houses in London, Bradford and Leicester, the Association of Estonians in Great Britain, and the British-Estonian Association (BEST), which brings together those interested in Estonia. Once a month the newspaper “Eesti Hääl” is published. BEST unites members of the British community who take an interest in Estonia and who want to contribute to enhancing Estonia’s reputation in the United Kingdom. BEST has organised events to present various sides of Estonian public life, where guests from Estonia have as a rule participated. The magazine Lennuk is published twice a year for members and other interested parties.
The most common occurrence has been performances by British musicians in Estonia, the most notable being: concerts by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu (2004), London Sinfonietta (2005), London Symphony Orchestra (2009), composer Marc-Anthony Turnage as the guest of honour at the NYYD festival (2007).
Many British rock and pop groups have performed in Tallinn over the past few years such as Blur, Big Country, Prodigy, the Rolling Stones, and many others.
In 2010 Age Oks and Toomas Edur returned to Estonia after having been the leading couple in the British National Ballet for nearly 20 years. Queen Elizabeth II presented Oks and Edur with orders of the CBE class for developing British-Estonian cultural ties and serving the art of dance (2010).
It is possible to study Estonian as an elective through the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies (SSES) at University College London.
Both Great Britain and Estonia have striven to record and to publicise historical events important to both countries. The Laidoner Museum has conducted research on the operations of the British Navy in the Gulf of Finland after the end of World War I, where the Navy blocked the further advance of the Bolsheviks. In 1936 the Republic of Estonia purchased two identical submarines from England – Lembit and Kalev. Lembit is now an exhibit in Estonia’s Maritime Museum – in 2011 drawings for the construction of the submarine were found in an archive in England, which allowed the museum to recreate the submarine’s original interior. On the isles of Naissaar and Vaindloo, the tombs of British soldiers have been marked. On 28 May 1998, a plaque in memory of the British seaman who served and gave their lives during the Estonian War of Independence from 1918-1920 was unveiled on the wall of the Maritime Museum by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. In the summer of 2003, a memorial tablet for all the British soldiers who perished in 1918-1920 during the Estonian War of Independence was unveiled in Tallinn's Holy Spirit Church. In Great Britain, an equivalent memorial plaque was opened on 16 December 2005 in Portsmouth Cathedral by Prince Andrew and Chief of Estonian Defence Forces Admiral Kõuts.
In 2008 the creator of rate.ee, Andrei Korobeinik, brought home a win for Estonia from the first international competition for young entrepreneurs working in multimedia.
Within the framework of the Walestonia festival, the international elite school Atlantic College gave a scholarship to one Estonian student for studying at the college from 2009-2011.
With the support and help of the Embassy, the Estonian School in London started up in 2009, which offers supplementary Estonian-language education to children. The children’s summer camp held in Central England celebrated its 60th anniversary this year.
The top goalkeeper of Estonia’s national football team Mart Poom has played for the English clubs FC Portsmouth, FC Derby County, FC Sunderland, and from 2005-2007 for London Arsenal. In March 2009 Mart Poom was chosen as the second best goalkeeper in the 125-year history of Derby.