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TUKUMS

Designated: 2023
Population: 18,000

Language: Latvian

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FAST FACTS

Tukums is a small town in Latvia, but of major importance in the development of national culture. Historically, Tukums is known as a town of roses, writers, artisans and painters which is nowadays celebrated by rich and versatile cultural events. The most anticipated is Tukums Rose festival happening every two years and fusing together all the aforementioned forms of art into creative workshops, markets and overall unforgettable program for the locals and city guests.

Tukums is the birthplace of Latvian original literature. The first original text in Latvian was written in Tukums by a local clergyman and poet named Kristofors Fīrekers in the 17th century. He also established a particular spelling for seven consonants in the Latvian alphabet, adding softening marks. It is the spelling people still use today. 

Tukums is a true literary city - it currently has the highest cumulative number of active writers in the country (per 1,000 inhabitants) and has been home to some of the most impressive writers in the history of Latvia. The great 19th century folklorist Krišjānis Barons was born here and his Cabinet of Folksongs is recognized in the UNESCO Memory of the World Program. Puškaitis, the father of Latvian fairy tales, lived and worked in Tukums all his life. The Jānis Baltvilks Award, named after a local author, honors achievements in children's literature every year. 

Literature is deeply integrated into all levels of education, making the schools of Tukums some of the best performing in reading literacy in the world. According to the PIRLS 2021 (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) data, Latvia ranked 23rd, but if only Tukums participated in this study, Latvia would be in 4th place. Tukums Rainis State Gymnasium in particular is set to become a world-class model for teaching literature. Regarding higher education, the University of Latvia Tukums branch allows future preschool and primary school teachers to receive their education closer to home, motivating them to work in local institutions after graduation.

In Tukums, literature extends beyond books. Fairy tales, myths, and legends have been merged with nature in our urban environment, parks, and forests. Notable sites include the ‘Werewolf Trail’ in the suburban forest and the developing ‘Ziedonis Garden in Mālkalns’ in the town. The ‘Werewolf Trail’ created in the shape of a wolf's head, was inspired by a short story book containing legends of werewolf sightings in the region and lets its visitors explore some of the mystical places described in the legends in real life.

Tukums Writers' Association is the oldest on-going literary association in Latvia. The association, running since 1963, consists of local writers and poets who play a major part of the city's cultural scene with their inclusive literary events and project initiatives. A notable annual event is Tukums Prose Fermentation - a short story competition happening since 2013 which has often been a starting point for aspiring local authors. Moreover, over the years the jury has spotted multiple new talents and offered them book deals in the leading publishing houses of Latvia. Tukums Writers' Association collaborates with most local institutions, museums and libraries and since 2024, it has been delegated to manage Tukums City of Literature Office.

 

FESTIVALS

Heart on Platform is an annual Poetry Day event connecting poetry lovers all over the world. The tradition began in 2011 at ‘Tukums 1’ railway station where a small group of young enthusiasts held informal poetry readings, and it has grown into an internationally anticipated event inviting anyone to read their favorite poems at train stations or other spots where people leave or return home. The essence of it is that the gatherings happen at the same time everywhere, always on the second Friday of September, and with the help of an internet broadcast, people can see the extent of the true power of poetry. Every year there is a new topic for the poems, based on current events in the world. Tukums is hopeful that other UNESCO Creative Cities will join in the future.

 

 

RESIDENCIES

 

In 2024, a writers' residency was established in the home of the famous children's literature author Jānis Baltvilks. The house is located in the countryside 10 km from Tukums, surrounded by a beautiful forest which was planted by the late author himself and provides a peaceful mood for writing. It is currently available to national writers, poets and playwrights for summer/fall season and it is planned to take in international guests starting from 2026.

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