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Night of Ancient Bonfires, 27 August 2011

To Mayors of UBC Member Cities

Night of Ancient Bonfires, August 27th, 2011

Dear Mayor, dear colleague!

We are all engaged in many forms of activities to save our Baltic Sea. As the Mayor of the European Capital of Culture 2011, I am writing to you with a proposal to celebrate the Baltic Sea through a joint initiative, the Night of Ancient Bonfires on August 27th.

The “Solutions local, together - Nordic Conference on Sustainable Development in the Baltic Sea Region” in Turku on 31.1 to 2.2.2011 was an inspiring and fruitful event. many of you participated in this meeting, where many sustainable practical solutions were introduced.

Networking between participants inspired to use local solutions together with other stakeholders. We thank you all for your active participation in the event and its on-going follow-up ( www.ubc-environment.net ).

Turku has already for years been active in the protection of the Baltic Sea and in regional cooperation in the BSR. As you know, the cities of Turku and Helsinki in June 2007 made a commitment to improve the state of the Baltic Sea. The objective is to improve the state of the local waters as well as of the entire Baltic Sea. The UBC and member cities have endorsed this initiative.

By their own commitment, the cities want to show initiative and reduce their own loading to waters. In addition to these concrete measures for water protection, the cities are also committed to investing in international environmental collaboration, water protection research and providing general information and raising consciousness of the state of the Baltic Sea and how to improve it (The commitment www.centrumbalticum.org ).

Our wish is that there should be practically no threshold for individuals, families, neighbourhoods and villages and towns to make an impact in saving the Baltic Sea.

We, as a City, therefore strongly support the commitment made by the Foundation Turku 2011, at the Baltic Sea Action Summit in February 10th, 2010, to develop the traditional celebration of the Night of Ancient Bonfires in the end of August into an event for saving the Baltic Sea.

The Turku 2011 Foundation is mandated by the City of Turku to organise the European Capital of Culture Year in Turku 2011.

In ancient times bonfires along the Baltic coast were lit to warn of dangers. Since 1992, a Night of Ancient Bonfires has been celebrated during the last Saturday of August along the South-western coast of Finland. Songs are sung; poems recited and there is dancing around the fires, usually lit as a community event, in a village or on an island. In the late 1990s, the actions spread also to other parts of the Baltic Sea Coast. It has continued as a tradition in Estonia, where the Rannarahva Museeum (Museum of Coastal Folk; www.rannarahvamuuseum.ee ) actively has promoted the event.

In 2011, when the cities of Turku and Tallinn are European Culture Capitals, our hope is that bonfires will be lit to save the Baltic Sea on August 27th, at 9.30 PM Finnish time, around the Baltic Sea coastline and along waterways leading to it.

We will on our websites ( www.turku2011.fi , www.turku.fi ) submit a message for the Baltic Sea that we hope will be spread, read and performed at the bonfires in the languages of the Baltic countries. The planned action makes saving the Baltic Sea into a uniting substance of the Night; broadens the action to other countries´ coasts; generates individual and group commitments and their follow-up.

In Estonia, on the initiative of the Rannarahva Muuseum, the cooperation has enlarged to other actors and an Ancient Lights Night Call Team has been formed, with a web site www.ancientlights.eu . On this web site, constructed on Google Maps, anyone lighting a bonfire on August 27th, may add his/hers fire coordinates and the fire will show on the map. Other web sites may link this English language map web site to their own sites and thereby facilitate that the whole chain of fires along the Baltic Coast will show.

Dear Colleague,

We hope that you will take up this idea and open up your web pages for information on this initiative, and perhaps link them to the Estonian web site of the Team.

The Turku 2011 Foundation has committed itself to inform, on its web site, on the condition of the Baltic Sea, the message of the Night, and tell about how lighting a bonfire makes one part of chain of fire to save the Baltic Sea. Those gathered around the bonfires may give their personal commitments to protect and save the Baltic Sea. The publishing of the commitments on websites will make a community of those who have committed themselves.

The celebration of the Night of Ancient Bonfires should be a continuing process, as it is already in Finland and some parts of Estonia. Thus it can be part of engaging and uniting broad sectors of the population around the Baltic in the future of the Sea.

We hope that these thoughts will meet with your interest and perhaps with your approval. If so, we are happy to forward your interest to the Turku 2011 Foundation, who will see that your contact person gets needed practical information.

I would appreciate to hear about your response and possible actions to my e-mail (kaupunginjohtaja@turku.fi). Please get in touch!

Turku, 9.5.2011


Aleksi Randell
City of Turku

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