Republic without presidents: Miera street
We meet with one of the activists of Miera street Diāna Popova on the eve of Whitsun on Miera street festival. Diāna says that there is no president or a single leader in their republic, everything is done collectively and all she does is just coordinates the process and – as she jokes about it – fills the vacuum of power. We try to count how many ‘republicans’ are active there at the moment and get to 15 adding ‘the friendly neighbors’ - the Center of Creative Learning ‘2 Annas’, the toy shop ‘Domiņa’ from Maiznīcas street and the popular club ‘Piens.’ Every one of them has contributed to Whitsun celebration on Saturday, May 18, to add it more color.
In a year, from enthusiasm driven single initiative to organize a street-length event ‘Whitsun on Miera street,’ a full-blown festival has developed: two stages, poetry, dance, music, theatre, activities for children, bicycle-shop, all found under roof, on the street and in courtyards.
‘It has all started as a warm-up for 2014,’ Diāna says. For the next year, when Riga will be European Capital of Culture, a two-day festival is planned. ‘But this whole enterprise will not end with 2014 and, hopefully, will be able to continue,’ Diāna makes case for Miera street.
‘Whitsun on Miera street’ is its event of the year gathering all the creative establishments of the quarter. Christmas market is also becoming a tradition, but it does not reach the scale of the Whitsun quite yet.
‘I think that Miera street will get even more activated for 2014. There is understanding that it is not only in the interests of republic itself, but – entire Riga. Perhaps even a unification with Tobacco factory quarter would be possible as we are such close neighbors after all,’ Diāna reveals their possible scenarios for future.
After Miera street was included in tourism materials at the length of the last year, its shops and cafes have been found by tourists more often, like a Japanese family with a map where all the spots to be seen have been marked, students with back-packs and people searching for places outside the well-trodden, classic paths of downtown and Old Town tourism. The republicans have noted as an interesting tendency that they are popular with foreigners staying in Riga for longer periods of time for business, studies or otherwise.
Still, the largest share of Miera street public is local artists and creatively tended people looking for their own republic of joy and relaxation outside the town-center.
‘I always send my foreign friends to Miera street, and they are surprised by its diversity. ‘I always send my foreign friends to Miera street, and they are surprised by its diversity. We have everything here, from the rental of authentic 20th century costume to beautifully designed cafes,’ Diāna tells us.
What are the must-sees on Miera street? – it is a bit difficult to tell. The choices can be an improvised tour of cafes in search of your best chance experience or meticulously routed journey of particular places to see.
Design aficionados are already a regular public of salon ‘20. gadsimts’ on Miera street 4, which is free of nostalgia for our socialist past and offers only best European design of the last century. Not far away6, on Miera street 10, the bottle recycling point ‘Buteljons’ will soon mark its second anniversary. Glasses, vases, clocks, goblets, pieces of crockery are all the result of practical make-over of bottles that have been emptied. The neighbors of ‘Buteljons’ are veterans of Miera street – café and cultural center ‘Taka’ and ‘awfully peaceful,’ femininely rosy and romantic café ‘Mierā’ across the street from it – on Miera 9, inviting you with its coffee and croissant aromas.
A little further ahead, on Miera 17, we have ‘DAD Café’ which is known for locals as ‘the café where Damien Rice played.’ Two-hour concert of the popular musician – one may say – happened to this café two days after the festival Positivus 2012. And everyday of ‘DAD Café’ is one of a small cultural center as well – it invites to live concerts practically every second week.
Tour of Miera street can further include vintage place ‘Ze Store’ on Miera 17, followed by revival of spirit in tea-room ‘Illuseum’, while crossing of Miera and Annas streets beacons with surfer equipment shop and café ‘Spinout Surf Café.’
You will be decked out wonderfully for your next party, helped by ‘Uzvalks un kleita,’ which is found in creatively busy building on Miera 39, neighboring with Ieva Grase’s ceramics studio and Marta Ģībiete’s gallery of glass art in the courtyard.
Interested in a new hair cut? There you are! The same building invites to hair-dressers and reading room ‘Melnais knābis’ (Black Beak), while a Latvian designer studio a little further on will offer to re-fresh your wardrobe; the place in view is on Miera 50, shared by seamstresses of joyful and stylish dressing-gowns ‘Yuta’ and shop ‘M50’ which claims to sell ‘what we like ourselves.’
For Diāna, answer to the traditional question of where the visitors of Riga could be taken is Pārdaugava, at the moment, which she rediscovered recently anew. Nometņu street, Kalnciema quarter are certainly places worth visiting, in her view. And she would not hesitate to take anyone to ‘Legionnaires’ in Ģertrūde Street Theater which is a performance of independent theatre designed to escape being lost in translation. But first of all, everyone is invited to ‘Whitsun on Miera street.’