Ukraine Day by the International Book Arsenal Festival co-curated with the Cheltenham Literature Festival took place on October 11 as a part of the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture supported by the British Council and the Ukrainian Institute. This year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival took place from 7 to 16 October and presented a diverse 10-day program of activities and events with leading figures of the world’s literary scene.
Photo: www.stillmovingmedia.com, Cheltenham Literature Festival
5 events that strengthened the voice of the Ukrainian cultural scene
Among the Ukraine Day program Ukrainian writers, musicians, poets and illustrators had a series of events that conveyed the atmosphere of the Book Arsenal and told about modern Ukraine in the language of poetry, music and illustration. With all the events being sold out, the participants of Ukraine Day were met with ovations. This once again confirms that it is important for the voices of Ukrainian intellectuals to be heard on all possible platforms, to talk about Ukraine and open it to the world.
The Kyiv Book Arsenal curated a dazzling programme for a special Ukraine Day on 11 October at the Cheltenham Literature Festival which presented many different facets of Ukraine’s vibrant literary scene. The audiences at this, the UK’s oldest literature festival, found new insights into contemporary Ukrainian literature – and children’s book illustration! – but also compelling testimony from writers living and deeply implicated in these times of trial and defiance for their country. This collaboration between Kyiv Book Arsenal and the Festival took place within the framework of the UK/Ukraine Season, a celebration of cultural exchange which had been planned in partnership by the Ukrainian Institute and the British Council long before the February 2022 invasion but whose theme ‘Future Reimagined’ has taken on renewed and urgent relevance since then
— said David Codling, UK/Ukraine Season Director and Volodymyr Sheiko, Director General, Ukrainian Institute.
Literature, music, cinema, discussions, and a family workshop
Ukraine Day started with a conversation with Oksana Zabuzhko, Ukrainian writer, ambassador of Ukrainian literature in the West. In the conversation with Rosie Goldsmith, she offered unprecedented insights into a moment which may define the future of Europe.
Photo: Jon Spaull
During the discussion When War Comes to Your Home, the poet Lyuba Yakimchuk and the director of the Ukrainian Institute in London Olesya Khromeychuk talked about literature and poetry during the war, creative practices and changing the language of creativity, as well as how culture can stand against aggression.
The participation of Ukrainian authors at the Cheltenham Literary Festival and the festival’s cooperation with the Ukrainian Book Arsenal demonstrate that the interest in Ukraine that appeared around the world because of the Russian war is now turning into a lasting relationship
— said Olesya Khromeychuk, the writer, historian, director of the Ukrainian Institute in London.
Photo: Jon Spaull
At the art workshop by Andrii Lesiv and Romana Romanyshyn (Agrafka studio), children together with their parents under the supervision of illustrators created a canvas inspired by Agrafka’s book How War Changed Rondo.
Photo: Jon Spaull
Beats that bite, rhymes that kill, poetry and music united as a weapon
Among the events of Ukraine Day, a musical and poetic performance took place, during which musician and producer Yuriy Gurzhy together with poets Grigory Semenchuk and Lyuba Yakimchuk, as well as singer and writer Irena Karpa presented the most brutal soundtrack of this year — the album Ukrainian Songs Of Love And Hate.
Presenting Ukrainian Songs Of Love And Hate at the Cheltenham Literature Festival was an honor, but also a challenge for everyone involved in the project. While creating these songs, our goal was not only to find a language to talk about what Ukrainians had been going through lately but also make sure that this language is understood by those who are not necessarily following the events in Ukraine. Singing about flying missiles, people who lost their homes, describing what those sitting in a bomb shelter dream of – pop songs inspired by…a war? Looking into the faces of people in the audience during our performance, hearing them singing along, seeing their reaction on October 11th made me believe we did a good job
— said Yuriy Gurzhy, the music producer, arranger and composer.
Photo: Jon Spaull
Pop music has always been an international language. So much of what can not be expressed in a conversation could be said with a song. From gospel to protest songs, music has always been there — soothing, healing or inspiring. The language of pop music has been constantly changing and now it’s changing yet again. Russia’s war in Ukraine transformed every Ukrainian. Musicians and poets are no exception. Ukrainian Songs Of Love And Hate — poetry and music, words and sounds that scream about what’s been happening in Ukraine.
At the same time as the performance taking place in Cheltenham, Mystetsky Arsenal posted the entire album in video format (songs with visual accompaniment by artists by Grycja Rd and Eugene Arlov) on its YouTube channel.
It seems like these songs are going viral. And the fact that mothers put Bavovna to their children as a lullaby is the best assessment of our work
— says singer and writer Irena Karpa.
You can listen to the album on the YouTube channel of Mystetskyi Arsenal or on all available platforms by this link.
You can read more about the project on the website of Mystetskyi Arsenal.
Project of Mystetskyi Arsenal. Curated by Oksana Shchur.
Photo: Jon Spaull
The final event of Ukraine Day was a conversation with the visual culture researcher Kateryna Yakovenko and the first UK screening of the producer’s cut of film Bad Roads (2020) by Natalia Vorozhbit.
Cheltenham Literature Festival is the world’s first literature Festival, leading the way in celebrating the written and spoken word, presenting the best new voices in fiction and poetry alongside literary greats and high-profile speakers.
The International Book Arsenal Festival is an annual project of Mystetskyi Arsenal founded in 2011. It is an annual intellectual event in Ukraine, where the book, literary, visual, musical, and theatrical scenes develop and interact, where the important issues of human existence, as well as society and culture are raised, prompting the proactive position of the participants and visitors.
A collaboration between The British Council and the Ukrainian Institute, the UK/Ukraine Season will be presented in the UK, online and across some satellite locations until March 2023, featuring artist residencies, talks, film, music, literature, drama and dance. The Season, which has been planned since 2019 to mark 30 years of diplomatic relations between the UK and Ukraine, aims to strengthen and build cultural connections between both countries, while providing new platforms and opportunities for Ukrainian artists to connect with the UK. With the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Season’s theme is ‘Future Reimagined’, focusing on the changed needs and priorities of the Ukrainian sector, giving a voice to Ukrainian creatives, both in the UK and online.
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We support peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. We do this through our work in arts and culture, education and the English language. We work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2021-22 we reached 650 million people.
The Ukrainian Institute is a public institution affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. Its mission is to strengthen Ukraine’s international standing through the means of cultural diplomacy. The Institute facilitates international connections between people and institutions and creates opportunities for Ukraine to interact and cooperate with the world.