With the Ukranian Culture Week launching at the end of September Daily Info sat down with Helen Clarke, the Vice Principal of Cherwell College to discuss what to expect from the festival, how it came about and what some of the highlights are of the line up.
Daily Info: Where did the idea come from for the festival?
Helen Clarke: The idea of the creation of Ukrainian Culture Weeks in Oxford was born at the beginning of March, when a group of Ukrainian ladies, including myself, in search of consolation from an existential threat caused by the war, were in dialogue to host a multidisciplinary Bouquet Kyiv Stage festival in Oxford: to host accomplished Ukrainian musicians and composers, sharing the rich cultural heritage of the country with the wider audience in the heart of a liberal environment.
Throughout the past 6 months, the idea has grown into the concept of an Annual Ukrainian Season to take place in Oxford each year, at the end of September, to preserve the heritage and support musicians and artists. The organisers - Cherwell College Oxford, Bouquet Kyiv Stage and Oxford University Ukrainian Society - decided to present this gift to the United Kingdom, the country, which cherishes liberal ideas and supports Ukraine throughout this most difficult period in its history. This is a gift from our Ukrainian heart.
DI: What are some of the highlights of your line-up?
HC: A special guest of the festival is the world-famous Ukrainian composer Valentyn Sylvestrov, who will celebrate his 85th birthday with us in Oxford on the 30th September. Being the national pride, he is the most performed Ukrainian composer in the world, winner of the Gaudeamus International Composition Prize and the bearer of the honorary and highest title of People's Artist of Ukraine.
Among our headliners, is the Orchestra of St John's (UK), conducted by John Lubbock. They will give the Grand Concert at the iconic Sheldonian Theatre, together with the Ukrainian Chamber Choir "Kyiv" and the leading Ukrainian violinist Bohdana Pivnenko. Ukrainian Chamber Choir "Kyiv", under the direction of Mykola Hobdych, will also perform on the opening day of the festival, they will present a programme of works by Valentyn Sylvestrov. We are expecting a world premiere during that performance!
Another two world premieres we expect to be performed by Apollo 5 (London). They will present to the connoisseurs of high culture the works of Ukrainian composers Victoria Polyova and Anna Kuzina-Rozdestvenska.
However, we are not limited to the musical program, though it is the core of the festival. We want to introduce the British to the gems of contemporary Ukrainian art and culture in all facets. Therefore, in addition to 7 concerts of classical music, Oxford will also host a photo exhibition "War" by documentary photographer Oleksandr Glyadyelov, 3 screenings of Ukrainian movies, and a fashion performance "Face the Future", with the fashion artworks created by Fedir Vozianov.
To discuss sensitive issues of the present times and their influence on the culture, we offer a format of public talks with our headliners – Nelia Kukovalska (Director General of St. Sophia of Kyiv, National Reserve) and Valentyn Sylvestrov.
DI: What are you hoping people take away from it?
HC: We hope to provide a world audience with a deeper understanding of us, Ukrainians, and our culture. Art is the shortest path from one heart to another, and from one nation to another. We hope that people will be delighted and get aesthetic pleasure, as well as broaden their knowledge, thoughts and conclusions about what is happening in the world, about the war that Ukraine is going through now, the way Ukrainians protect all of us. The UK was one of the first countries in the world to uncompromisingly express its position in this war and has been providing invaluable support to Ukraine since the first days. Therefore, this festival, as I have already mentioned, is our gratitude to the British people from all Ukrainians.
DI: Is this something you can see being repeated in subsequent years?
HC: The organisers: Cherwell College Oxford, Oxford University Ukrainian Society and Bouquet Kyiv Stage are hoping to enable the Ukrainian Culture Weeks in Oxford to maintain continuous collaboration between Ukrainian and British musicians, artists, to join this Oxford season every year and raise further high culture interests between two countries: the United Kingdom and Ukraine. We believe that solid friendship between Ukraine and the United Kingdom is getting stronger, where culture and education are the crucial pillars in this process.
DI: If you could sum the festival up in a few words, what would they be?
HC: Hope, Heart, Soul, Gratitude, Gift, Unity.
Ukranian Cultire Week runs from 28th September to 2nd October and you can find the full line up here.