Latvian Youth Festival (JDs) in Adelaide – interview with Anita Butcher

First, for those who don’t know much about “Jaunatnes dienas” – what’s this festival all about and what can one expect to experience at this Festival?

The 34th Jaunatnes Dienas festival (JD’s), is a youth festival taking place in Adelaide, South Australia this month. The festival promotes Latvian culture and is all about Latvian youth from around Australia coming together and sharing their heritage. It is a celebration of all things Latvian, including singing, dancing, performances, food, drinks and good company.

How often does the Festival take place?

The festival takes place every two years.

Is it only a youth festival – or will the “oldies” be able to enjoy the events as well?

Although it is labelled a youth festival, the Jaunatnes Dienas are for everyone! A lot of the performances will be featuring youth and are a great opportunity for the older generations to come and see the next wave of Australian Latvians continue their culture. We also have a variety of events to suit all ages.

What is this year’s theme?

This year’s theme is the horse. References to the horse, it’s strength, courage and power are quite common in Latvian folk culture, and so that is why we have gone with it as our theme.

Will there be any guests from Latvia this year?

We are fortunate enough to have the Latvian singing group, ‘Latvian Voices’ joining us as special guests at JD’s this year. They will be serenading us throughout the festival.

What events do you have planned for the Festival? Please share some of the highlights.

There is a full program planned for the festival this year! Just a few highlights include the folk dancing concert at Scott Theatre, which will showcase the Latvian folk dancing groups from around Australia; the Latvian Voices concert; and the Youth Choir performance.

Will there be any new events that have not been part ofthe festival before? Or possibly a different approach to an event?

The jauniešu koris is a new concept that will bring together Latvian youth choirs from around Australia, to perform as one. Under the direction of Anita Laurs, we have all been rehearsing the same songs in our respective cities, so that we can combine for the performance. Another new event, ‘Zem zvaigžņu segas’ will be run this year, which will be a great chance for the Latvian youth from around Australia to meet up and socialise. If you want to find out more, you’ll just have to come and see for yourself!

You are on the Festival Commitee. What is your role? Why did you decide to become one of the organisers?

I am responsible for organising the New Year’s Eve ball to celebrate the end of the festival. I was also the key organiser for our fundraiser which was ‘Euroquiz’, a quiz night based around Eurovision, in May. I decided to become part of the organising committee as soon as I heard the festival would be taking place in Adelaide. I think it is a great opportunity for the Latvian youth to show that we can continue to share our Latvian culture, for many generations to come. I also decided to join the committee because the Latvian youth of Adelaide have a great sense of community. We all do lots of different things to contribute all year round, and I definitely didn’t want to miss out on being part of such a great festival!

What draws you to Latvian activities and what meaning do they have for you personally?

I continue to involve myself in Latvian activities because for me, they are a way of representing my identity, who I am. Being born in Latvia to a Latvian mother and Australian father, I often find myself trying to find the best possible balance of both cultures. However, as the Latvian culture is so rich and unique, with so many opportunities to get involved, I find myself doing lots of activities so that I can be a part of the Latvian community. This includes folk dancing, singing in the youth choir, and teaching at our Latvian school, among many other things. I love the way Latvians bond, and have become my great big family, both in the local Adelaide Latvian community, and the wider international community that we are all a part of as Latvians.

What are you looking forward to the most?

This is a tough question! I am really looking forward to all of the different events that JDs has to offer this year, but most of all I am looking forward to catching up with my Latvian friends from all around Australia and hearing their thoughts about our 34th Latvian Youth Festival.

See the Jaunatnes dienas (Latvian Youth Festival) website for more details.

Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a migration researcher at the University of Latvia, PhD from the University of Sussex, formerly a member of the board of the World Federation of Free Latvians, author and translator/ editor/ proofreader from Latvian into English of an eclectic mix of publications of different genres.

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