The Night of Ancient Bonfires

The Night of Ancient Bonfires
Mārtiņš Otto, Riga 2014
Saturday, the 30th of August, will be the Night of Ancient Bonfires, when everyone is invited to light a bonfire on the shores of the Baltic Sea during the sunset at around 9:30 p.m. to symbolise their resolve to care for the Baltic Sea and to bid farewell to the summer. The Night of Ancient Bonfires will take place in all the countries at Baltic Sea simultaneously. In Latvia, the campaign is co-ordinated by the “Riga 2014” foundation, the organiser of the 2014 European Capital of Culture events.

Everyone is invited to participate in the campaign by lighting a bonfire in a suitable place where making a fire is allowed, urging friends and neighbours to join in, and have a great time at the coast of the Baltic Sea. People at the bonfires are urged to make promises to the sea, read poetry, sing songs, play games, or simply watch the fire and the sea.

In Riga, the Night of Ancient Bonfires will be taking place at the Vakarbuļļi Beach. 

Everyone is welcome to attend creative workshops that will open at 5 p.m., where musical instruments and wind chimes will be created of natural materials, a city will be built of peat blocks, and pictures will be painted with natural materials. Students at the workshop will be offered to take home everything they create.

Conversations and discussions about the sea and preservation of the nature, moderated by film director Sandijs Semjonovs, will start at 7 p.m. Acoustic concerts at the Vakarbuļļi Beach will begin at 9 p.m., featuring singer-songwriter Haralds Sīmanis, romantic compositions by the Kuldīga youth ensemble “Stūrī zēvele”, and classical music performed by Valters Pūce and Arturs Cingujevs. The “Riga 2014” official insurer ERGO provides event cancellation insurance for the Night of Ancient Bonfires in Vakarbuļļi.

The event is free of charge. Any person is welcome to celebrate the Night of Ancient Bonfires, demonstrate the unity of the coastal nations, and broaden our understanding of our history and cultural heritage.

The Night of Ancient Bonfires will take place along the entire shoreline of Latvia. At the Majori Beach in Jūrmala, the Night of Environmental Films, organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature, will start at 7 p.m. with the screening of a recording of the concert “Requiem – A Prayer for the Baltic Sea”. The performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Requiem” on the 11th of August at the “Dzintari” concert hall featured the world-famous soprano Inese Galante, bass-baritone Egils Siliņš, tenor Andreas Schager from Austria, mezzo-soprano Ann Hallenber from Sweden, and the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra conducted by the Italian conductor Evelino Pidò. There will also be a free concert by five pianists and five soloists at the Majori car park.

A bonfire will be lit at the “Kūriņš” café at the Kauguri Beach at 9:30 p.m., opening a concert by the folklore band “Skance”.

At the Liepāja Beach, the Night of Ancient Bonfires will take place at the monument to the sailors and fishermen lost at sea. The event will start at 9 p.m. with a concert by “Mirage Octet” next to a major bonfire. Programme – traditional Latvian and Scandinavian music arranged by Gunārs Rozenbergs.

In Engure, the traditional bonfires will be set alight at the Southern Pier at 9 p.m., the event will also include poetry readings, fire sculptures, and a performance by the ensemble “Tandēms trijatā”, as well as hot tea for all to enjoy.

In Ventspils, the Night of Ancient Bonfires will include performances by the Ventspils folklore ensemble “Laipa” (Artistic Director Ligita Vaļuka) and singer-songwriter Uldis Kākulis. Participants in the event will light bonfires, make their vows to the sea, participate in games and sing along popular songs.

The event in Saulkrasti will start at 12 noon at the Saulkrasti Beach (the end of Bīriņu iela) with creative workshops on charcoal drawing and making pyrotechnic sculptures of hay. Three impressive fire sculptures will be aflame at the beach after dark, and folklore ensembles from the “Pa saulei” festival will perform.

Games, song singing and dancing in Salacgrīva, at the mouth of the Salaca River (left bank), will start at 9 p.m., featuring the folklore band “Cielava”. In Skulte, the Night of Ancient Bonfires will take place at “Vārzas”.

The concert at the Roja Beach will begin at 8 p.m. This year, Ingus Ulmanis, Aigars Voitišķis and Roberts Rasa will perform. Fire sculpture “Four Winds”, created by artists Agris Dzilna and Uldis Balga, will be lit at sunset.

There will also be bonfires and a dance show at the Pāvilosta Beach, which will continue with a night-long party at Upesmuiža Park.

The tradition of the Night of Ancient Bonfires was revived in the Finnish city of Turku in 1992 and soon spread to the other Baltic Sea countries – Estonia, Sweden, Germany, Poland and others. Continuing the initiative of Turku and Tallinn – the 2011 European Capitals of Culture – the “Riga 2014” foundation also invites every resident of Latvia to participate in the Night of Ancient Bonfires. In Latvia, the Night of Ancient Bonfires has been observed for over a decade in the towns of Roja and Pāvilosta.

To make every bonfire visible among the various municipalities along the shores of the Baltic Sea, every person who plans to light a fire at the beach on the 30th of August is welcome to put his or her fire on the virtual map at the website of the Night of Ancient Bonfires.

The European Capital of Culture Programme of Riga is prepared and run by the foundation “Riga 2014” in collaboration with state, municipal and non-governmental cultural organisations and creative associations. The Programme is financed by the Riga City Council, Ministry of Culture and the European Commission, and offered to the public in partnership with “Lattelecom”, which also provides technical support for the Programme.

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