Viesturs Tīle, Board Chairman of the BT 1 International Exhibition Company: “I’m a Happy Person!”

“I’m a happy person because my job is also my hobby. It doesn’t get better than that. Don’t assume that my job is easy; I am faced with very difficult challenges, but I like it!” says Viesturs Tīle, board chairman of the BT 1 international exhibition company.

For 21 years, he has been at the head of the BT 1 international exhibition company, which has become the most significant exhibition organiser in the Baltic states with entrepreneurs around the world relying on it; however, within the dance community Viesturs Tīle is known as the founding father of the Teiksma FDE, which he led and choreographed from 1978 until 1998.

This summer marks the 70th anniversary of Teiksma FDE, which it will celebrate with two concerts at the exhibition hall in Ķīpsala: the premi?re of The Moment Before dance performance, which will take the audience into the mysterious world of backstage for a taste of the atmosphere at a dress rehearsal, on 17 June at 20:00, and the 70th anniversary concert of Teiksma FDE with the participation of the entire, nearly 350 dancers large, family of Teiksma on 18 June at 17:00.

Don’t Worry, Viesturs!
“My road to folk dancing was very strange,” Viesturs Tīle says and tells of his birth and childhood near Ventspils, in the forests of Pope. He was more interested in maths, and the one time he “had to dance something” in fourth grade, it didn’t come easy to him. To study maths in-depth, he moved to the capital, where he studied at the former Riga 2nd Boarding School. After that, he continued studies at the Electromechanics Faculty of the RTU, where he became an engineer-electromechanic. As life would have it, up until 1989 Viesturs Tīle was a maths teacher at Riga Secondary School No. 3. “During my boarding school years, I was literally forced to dance. Even though I was a slim guy, at first it seemed that I had no sense of rhythm whatsoever. Over the course of a year and a half, however, I opened up; but to think that I would once lead a dance collective... Yes, there have been quite some coincidences,” Viesturs Tīle gets lost in thought and remembers that at the end of 1978, while he was working as a maths teacher, he returned to dancing. “My class needed a New Year’s performance, so I thought, “What can I do?” There was a good rhythmic gymnastics base, so I figured I would go with Imants Magone’s In the Hour of Winds (Vēju stundā). Everyone was delighted. The girls approached me afterwards and said: “Teacher, the Student Song and Dance Festival is next year!” There were only six months until the festival, but no collective. The school holidays were approaching, so I said to them jokingly: “If you can find at least ten guys and 18 girls, let’s meet at the sports hall on 3 January.” I didn’t think that that many would come, and that I would just have a friendly chat with those who did. 20 guys and 12 girls showed up! I was shocked. But it was time to get to work! I found dance descriptions, and we worked all holidays, learning Latvian, Moldavian, Russian and even Ukrainian dances. When I realised that we had no costumes, I went to the headmaster, and he said: “Don’t worry, Viesturs, we will get the money.” And so, we had everything we needed!” Viesturs Tīle remembers nearly 40 years back.

Still Winners
Upon an invitation from the Riga Carriage Works’ Club to create a dance group, Viesturs Tīle created Teiksma, from the original members of which only one pair remains. It consisted of the dancers from Riga Secondary School No. 3. “I worked with Teiksma for nearly 20 years and in 1989 I entrusted it to Jānis Ērglis, the former artistic director and ballet master of the Daile national dance ensemble. I was talked into heading the Culture and Sports Department of the Riga City Vidzeme District’s Executive Committee. I made it through the competition and began working; it was impossible to combine both occupations,” Viesturs Tīle remembers. While working in the Executive Committee, he was offered to organise the Balttour travel trade fair in 1994. “I did it and felt the taste of it!” he says excitedly, adding that right after that he created his company SIA BT 1, the first independent project of which was the House. Apartment fair. “That’s how it began and still continues today,” he says with satisfaction. However, it is not business we’re talking about. As we have met before the anniversary concerts of Teiksma, I ask the entrepreneur when he got the desire and interest to organise, support and produce culture-related projects. It has to be reminded that for 13 years now Viesturs Tīle has been organising the Riga Christmas Concerts in Ķīpsala, which have become traditions, as well as has produced world-famous musicals such as The Sound of Music (2005), West Side Story (2006, 2007) and Les Misérables (2009). BT 1 Music also organises the annual Pearls of Folk Dance in Jūrmala concerts and has produced the large-scale Riga Magic Dance performance in Ķīpsala, Celebration of Dance grand concert, anniversary concert of choreographer Jānis Ērglis, Riga Dancers’ Festival, Keep Your Back Straight! Grand dance concert, and the concerts of the Swedish pianist and show business star Robert Wells.

“Music, song, dance, movement – they are all within me, and I have devoted many years of my life to them,” he says, also revealing that a large portion of the BT 1 employees are former and current dancers of Teiksma. “They are also invested in song and dance events here in Ķīpsala. Although these cultural projects are not for business and reduce our financial wellbeing for a while, we are still winners, because we contribute to the development of Latvian culture,” Viesturs Tīle says.

Fall for Newcomers

“The most expensive project has been the Les Misérables musical, which cost a million euros. I shouldn’t say this, of course, because 300 000 euros of it was a long-term investment, but it sure was expensive. At the beginning of 2008, we heard the first alarm bells of the impending economic crisis, but I was so swept away by the project that there was no turning back. When people ask me if we earned anything with Les Misérables, I can tell them that, excluding the cost for the hall, I was 280 000 lats short. How did I get by? I watched all ten shows and paid 28 000 for each. Everything was A-OK!” he says with a smile and explains that back then the profit from exhibitions was quick, so they could afford the risk.

Viesturs Tīle reveals that he has also thought about taking up Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, as well as The Phantom of the Opera and Cats. “I’m itching for it, but I am well aware how much it costs to professionally stage a world class musical. It would require co-sponsors,” the producer of musicals concludes. “But whether our viewers need it...” he trails off and doesn’t hide the fact that after the immense work that has gone into staging musicals and promoting the development of this genre in Latvia, he holds some resentment towards our audiences.“[Raimonds] Pauls’ song White Fluff (Balta pūka) has the following lyrics: “All girls fall for the newcomers / As if they have something different...” When in 2008 Americans staged The Phantom of the Opera at Skonto Hall (the company wanted me to produce it but, after seeing it on video, I declined because it was amateurish) people bought tickets for 100 lats and still walked out, while here, in Ķīpsala, 15 lats for a unique, professional performance was too much. That gets me down.”

When asked about his real plans for the nearest future, Viesturs Tīle admits that he might revive West Side Story; however…“In that case I need to earn much more or start playing Viking Lotto,” he jokes and then adds seriously: “I can’t think about myself only – an average of 200 families depend on this business. The land tax here in Ķīpsala is also growing at an alarming rate. The amperage with the new electricity pricing is a nightmare because we have inconsistent load, so we have to maintain huge loads throughout the year for one exhibition. We will pay very much for it but that is a whole other conversation.”

A Little Too Big
To see what happens elsewhere, Viesturs Tīle has purchased the Latvian National Theatre pass and gladly attends plays at Daile Theatre; only the tickets for the New Riga Theatre plays are hard to get hold of.
When asked about the most memorable moments at the National Theatre, the entrepreneur says that he liked the Sentimental Tectonics, the risqué Confessions of Felix Krull and The Man Who Laughs, while the Rat’s Ex Libris was great entertainment. “I saw Frankenstein at Daile Theatre – an unusual play, I liked how it was made,” he praises the play’s creative team.

What else can he be found doing on his free evenings? Viesturs Tīle confesses: “I am a peculiar type, a true owl. I like it when everyone has left, then I can work with numbers. I can’t do it during the day when I have different operational matters to attend to.” A workaholic? “You might say so, but I like my job. I couldn’t just fool around all day,” he says and adds that, when he moved to Riga, he struggled with finding a place of residence for several years, which led to the mess in his private life. “Nearly eight years ago I built myself a house, but it turned out a little too big,” he says. “But it’s all good – there are roes grazing outside my windows, some wild boar pass by, frogs are croaking in my neighbour’s pond, and last year two hares ended up in my yard.”

Viesturs TĪLE
- Board chairman and owner of BT 1 international exhibition company (since 1994), producer of musicals and concerts at the musical project group BT 1 Music (since 2000).
- Founding father of Teiksma FDE (leading it from 1978 until 1998).
- Born on 5 January 1953.
- Education: Riga Polytechnical Institute (electrical engineer).
- Work Experience: Riga Secondary School No. 3 (electrical engineering and maths teacher, deputy headmaster, 1974–1989), Head of the Culture and Sports Department of the Riga City Vidzeme District’s Executive Committee (1989–1995), board chairman of SIA RTU-BT 1 (International Exhibition Centre in Ķīpsala) (since 1997).
- Awards: the Commemorative Medal for Participants of the Barricades of 1991 (2010); White Sparrow annual award of Riga City Council for organising musical projects in Ķīpsala (2006); Riga Award in the Development Project 2008 nomination; the Cross of Recognition for great achievements in political, public, cultural, scientific, athletic or educational processes (2013).

Published on: 07.06.2016
Santa Raita, NRA