The LES was founded as a cultural and social organisation on 7th July 1921 with 21 Estonians attending the first meeting. After the Second World War, other Estonian organisations were formed in Great Britain under the umbrella of The Association of Estonians in Great Britain (Inglismaa Eestlaste Ühing) in 1947.
One of the main aims of the Society is to bring together Estonians and to organise events, thus maintaining the culture and language as well as bringing this to the attention of British people and other nationalities. Naturally, in the post war era, another main aim was to assist with the regaining of Estonian Independence, which was achieved in 1991.
A former chairman of the society from 1952 to 1963, Priest Nigul Hindo, wrote “The desire of the Society over the years has been to create an atmosphere in London which would facilitate interaction between Estonians and also provide events including singing, music, dancing, etc”.
In the early days of the Society, activities included amateur dramatics, singing and dancing, coffee evenings, games, lectures and the provision of a library. The main events were the celebration of Estonian Independence Day (24th February), Mothers’ Day (second Sunday in May), Christmas and a designated day in November around the world for the Estonian diaspora.
The first three events still take place as well as Mid-Summer’s Day, which includes a large bonfire. In addition to these, smaller events such as film nights and choir recitals take place from time to time. The national folk dance group and the choir are currently very active.
Over the years the membership has varied, with a marked increase in the post-war period, followed by a steady decline as the older members passed away, but with a revival after the regaining of independence. In appreciation of the older generation who helped keep the Society alive in difficult times there are 5 honorary life members.
The London Estonian Society (LES) National folk dancing group comprises not only of Estonians but also dancers from other nationalities and their friends, all of whom value and maintain Estonian folk dance culture in London. The organisation includes both a women’s and a mixed group.
Performances take place at the main annual events organised by the LES, namely Independence Day, Mid-Summer’s Day and the annual Christmas party. The group has also participated in larger events in both Estonia and England – at the quinquennial song and dance festival in Tallinn in 2014, at the women’s dance festival in Jõgeva in June 2016 and at the two day “Dance around the World” festival in London.
We welcome you to come and join our group and take part in folk dancing in a friendly atmosphere. Dance practices takes place twice a month, sometimes more frequently, from September to June, with the open-air events taking place in the spring and summer.
For more details contact Marje Viilu – email@example.com
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KEEP CALM and DANCE FOLK!
The London Estonian Society (LES) has, since its inception in 1921, promoted choral singing which has always had an important role in Estonian culture.
Under the direction of ambassador August Torma, a women’s choir was established after the war but as the years passed and with an ageing membership, the women’s choir ceased in the 1990’s. In 2010 a mixed choir was re-established. The LES Mixed Choir's repertoire includes music byten by Estonian composers such as Veljo Tormis and Cyrillus Kreek among many others. This, however, does not preclude the singing of everything from swing to bossa nova, from folk songs to contemporary choir music. Currently the choir comprises 12-14 singers. New members of any nationality and from every corner of Great Britain are always welcome.
The Choir performs some 5 to 6 times a year mainly at festive national events. Other performance opportunities and collaboration with professional musicians are also welcomed. For example, the choir is proud to have joined the Baltic Music Society in London which aims to promote the works of Baltic composers.
Choir rehearsals take place twice a month usually on Saturdays at venues in Notting Hill.
Since January 2015 the choir has been directed by Kristi Jagodin, who has conducted a variety of choirs for 16 years. Her CV includes an MA in Choral Conducting from the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, and she has studied Choir Pedagogy at Gothenburg University. At present, she sings with London Philharmonic Choir and the London Symphony Chorus.
We look forward to meeting you and hope that you will join us on our musical journey!
08.- 12. June 2016
It was Wednesday, the 8th June, when bunch of women from London landed in Tallinn, Estonia. With them were 8 blue headdresses, 8 Kirivoo ties and 8 dashing smiles, but 8 rakes were already waiting for them in Jõgeva. All these items were necessary to take part in a Second Estonian Women’s Dance festival in Jõgeva on 12th June.
Next to the Kuremaa lake was situated a beautiful Udu recreation centre that greeted women with its full glory. Without any further ado the rehearsal of all dances was executed. Thankfully, next morning was the examination of all foreign dance groups, where elephants turned into ballerinas.
The afternoon was dedicated to the magnificent landscape of Jõgevemaa where the foreign groups were taken. The tour included Kuremaa Windmill, historic treasure - Palamuse primary school and Punsli eli. The last mentioned item is a medicinal alcoholic drink, used primarily for anointing wounds, but also to increase appetite and relieve autumn depression.
Nevertheless, the brightest moment of the tour was the Kassinurme sacred grove, which is one of the most historic sacred forests in Estonia. Here, thanks to Airi Rütter (head of the organising committee of Estonian Women’s Dance festival), the old folk customs of these woods were brought back to life.
Friday saw the arrival of 394 dance groups from all around Estonia. Together with the foreign groups, they started going through the festival programme. Unfortunately, on Saturday the weather wasn’t on their side. In pouring rain the dance continued, regardless of muddy shoes and black plastic bags that replaced raincoats. The fastest participants were able to purchase rubber boots, but by 2 PM they were sold out, leaving the counters empty of any waterproof items, but offering a perfect opportunity to try out the remedy that is Punsli eli.
The day of the concert was considered a great success and an amazing experience. Even the sun came out to give its blessing. With a warm hug and a joyful cheer, our women from London expressed gratitude to their dance instructor Marje Viilu, who managed to encourage the team to dodge obstacles, tears and pain.
Marje described proudly their performance with words such as ‘powerful’, ‘ravishing’ and ‘outstanding’. And outstanding it was indeed. Thanks to their strong debut, our Estonian girls in London were invited to take part in other great dance festivals in Estonia and London.
Written by Sirje Viilu