Not just an evening for beautiful memories. Ancient Bonfire Night.

Not just an evening for beautiful memories. Ancient Bonfire Night.
Mārtiņš Otto, Rīga 2014 . Aiva Rozenberga, programme manager of „Rīga 2014” Foundation
26-08-2013 A+ A-
It’s no secret that on 31 August, Ancient Bonfire Night will be organized next to the sea at Vakarbuļļi beach and elsewhere in Latvia. Aiva Rozenberga, programme manager of „Rīga 2014” Foundation, tells that Bonfire Night will be a symbolic farewell to summer: it is an ancient tradition in Northern countries and is now taken over in Latvia, as well.

Idea has to go along

„It's the same with traditional folk songs when every generation adds something new to it,” says Aiva Rozenberga also saying that she found out about Ancien Bonfire Night tradition from her Finnish colleagues, but now, „Rīga 2014” Foundation slowly prepares for this event. „In 2011, when Tallinn and Turku were The European Capitals of Culture, Finnish and Estonian colleagues realized that they wish to add new perspective and meaning from The Baltic States side, as well. By that time, they actively invited all seaside inhabitants from The Baltic States to promote the idea of the sea as an object worth to improve, to help it make more lively. So, Bonfire Night is not just a great evening sitting next to the fire.”

In 2011, Finnish colleagues presented this tradition during the Baltic States president's meeting in Finland. „Then we realized that Riga as The European Capital of Culture can take this idea, as well. We feel close to it and understand it. That is why it's worth to bring it further. Basically, we inherited this idea and organized our first Ancient Bonfire Night in 2011 in cooperation with Turku and Tallinn,” tells Rozenberga.


Light signal for thinking

Ancient Bonfire Night will be held for the third time, still, the main idea is to allow people to think what is really happening into the sea, not just to lounge in the sun. When asked if this idea might be something similar to „Lūgšana par jūru” („Prayer for the sea”) organized on times of Latvian National Awakening, when people got together by the sea on 3 September, Rozenberga says that, basically, the idea stays the same. „Only now we need not only to join hands, but to do something, as well. Then comes the hardest thing when politics, entrepreneurship, tourism, environmental questions become issues..” It's a logical question how an artist can involve. For now, DJ Monsta, Brigita Ozoliņa and several poets agreed to join Ancient Bonfire Night.

It's simply: when an artist speaks in his or her own language, a concrete issue is explored. We know from the past that it's the most effective way when everything else does not work.

Rozenberga also adds that bonfires are lighted as a symbolic signal to our thoughts and actions. „It's not just a story with beautiful songs. We can also get together in one nice evening, it's like a signal. Fire is a powerful element that gives signals about things that need to be resolved. Sadly, we have come to a point where The Baltic Sea is practically dead. If you look through statistics data, you see how many years are left for this civilization if we keep taking and not giving back. We have to set up our main priority. If you live your life or if you remember your children and their need to live somewhere.”

Call should be louder

This is the leading motive for Ancient Bonfire Night on 31 August at Vakarbuļļi beach.  Every Riga inhabitant is invited. „All coastal local governments organize this event, but everyone can involve. Of course, there are nature protection rules that need to be observed. We shouldn't pollute nature even more by lighting fires,” reminds Rozenberga.

One large bonfire will be organized at Vakarbuļļi this time. From our last experience, people feel homy that way. "We will start everything in a meditative and calm mood with poetry and music. New authors Kārlis Vērdiņš, Sergejs Timofejevs, Artūrs Punte and Inga Gaile will read, but DJ Monsta and Biruta Ozoliņa will perform electronic/folk music at 21.00.

The contemporary language Biruta Ozoliņa and DJ Monsta use in their work is very suitable for younger people."


Though, it won't be a sentimental memory evening, more like a conversation about how we, the old and the young, can involve. „We did not get tons of thousands of people last year, but, still, several hundreds came, and there is more people every year. Even if you don't fancy a walk by the sea you can still think for a moment about your lifestyle. What we might do to nature, what we pour in our kitchen sinks. In the end, everything goes into the sea..”

Does this call gets to those who should really hear it?

„The louder the call gets, the sooner people will hear it.”

„It's always been like that,” certainly says Rozenberga who also notes that, if artists' activities were sometimes considered to be some freeky things, in the end, people got it if only it comes closely with rational thinking and „nature-friendly” living. „To live environmentally friendly, that is the main thing. Otherwise we might as well shoot in our leg and would not be able to support a normal living for next generations. I am sure that this attitude makes impact to entrepreneurs. Besides, we may deny the support for those companies who damage the sea.”

Though, this campaign is not really a call for revolution as someone might think.

"Firstly, we need to catch up revolution in our minds, I think. To change our attitude towards our daily lifestyle, what we leave behind us. It all comes back to you sooner or later, it's just nature. Basically, Ancient Bonfire Night will be like a light signal to our thinking."

Ancient Bonfire Night will be held next year, as well, when Riga becomes The European Capital of Culture. "We try to add things up all the time in order to create this event even richer and brighter. Though, it should come naturally, so, it's good that we organize Bonfire Night every year, so that things change in people's minds gradually. Our main goal is to reach the point that something really changes in people's attitude and thinking," sums up Rozenberga.



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