John Robb interviews the Estonian founder of both Tallinn Music Week and now, Narva Festival, and finds a woman whose vision is based on her belief in the power of good to bring about change
Helen Sildna is a unique, charismatic and inspiring individual who is making a genuine change with her vision and energy.
In a world of turmoil, fake news, dark fear and grinding political arrogance, it’s great to hear a clear voice of genuine reason and a charismatic energy and drive that makes positive things happen and provides a new 21st Century vision that is so opposite to the strutting man babies who are wrecking the planet with their lardy arrogance.
Helen is the driving force behind the Tallinn Music Week, an annual event in her home city, (Tallinn is the capital of Estonia), which has become one of Europe’s key music and showcase events. It’s an event with a breathtaking bill of great bands from across the world and is key in breaking new music and cultural ideas. It’s also a major cultural event with social and political issues discussed on panels with ideas forged and futures sketched out.
Far more than a music biz jolly Tallinn Music Week is a genuine game changer, which is quite something for an event based in a small country in the top corner of Europe with Russia on its borders and a small population of just over one million. The event has inspired a fevered local scene of highly original bands, giving her country a high profile and, for Helen, a platform for her idealism.
Driven by this idealism and ideas, Helen is also part of the team behind a new Estonian Festival, Station Narva, which is about unity, diversity, and collaboration between the Tallinn Music Week creative / programming team and various individuals and organisations from the city of Narva. It is a weekend held in a former industrial city which was once known as the ‘Manchester of Estonia’ due to its huge red brick factory that was based on the world’s first industrial city’s influential Victorian mills.
Like Manchester, Narva fell to hard times and the post industrial malaise but, unlike Manchester, it didn’t rise from its own ashes. In stepped Helen and her team and created an empowering and key event in the old factory space where the festival is held and where the band’s play. An event that has become a symbol of unity between the Estonian majority of the country with the large Russian minority who live within the borders and make up the whole population of Narva - a town that is separated from Russia by an old bridge and rushing river.
In this interview, Helen’s inspiring vision is spelled out with her considered and focused voice and her optimistic and beautiful belief in the power of good to still make a difference in this sometimes spiralling out of control world.
Listen to the full interview, here.
John Robb films In Conversations for Lush, fronts his acclaimed post-punk band The Membranes and is also a music writer who wrote many groundbreaking features in the late Sounds music paper.
'The John Robb Tapes' is a podcast series which unearths the incredible archive of old interviews that music journalist John Robb has amassed over the years.