Tallinn Music Week Conference 2022 Opening Panel: The impact of music in crisis and conflict
Tallinn Music Week Conference 2022
Nordic Hotel Forum Conference Centre, 6 May, 2022
Keynote address by Anna Marazuela Kim: The vital role of culture in civic thriving, the soft power tools of culture
Opening Panel: The impact of music in crisis and conflict
The keynote address and panel are re-watchable for the holders of PRO and DigiPro passes until TMW 2023 via the TMW PRO platform.
Anna Marazuela Kim, Senior Adviser and Cultural Historian at The Center for Creative Arts, Cultures and Engagement at London Metropolitan University
Alona Savranenko aka alyona alyona, Ukrainian rapper and songwriter
Alexandra Archetti Stølen, Festival Director of Oslo World Festival, co-founder of the Beirut & Beyond International Music Festival in Lebanon
Nick Hobbs, Managing Director and Owner of Charmenko, Charmworks & Charm Music
Kalev Stoicescu, research fellow at the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS)
Moderator: Helen Sildna, Founder and Director of Tallinn Music Week
The TMW 2022 Creative Impact Conference was opened with a panel on the importance of music and arts in creating purpose and unity in a time of Russian aggression against Ukraine. Emphasis was put on the need to acknowledge the impact of culture in healing divides in the society. The panel was introduced by Anna Marazuela Kim’s keynote speech on the power of music to feel, heal and connect.
Anna Marazuela Kim (AMK):
We’re here because we know the power of music. Whether as artists, as producers or as fans. We recognise music as absolutely essential to human life. I’m often called to speak and defend the value of arts and cultures to the society and what it means to be human and to thrive together. This is the first time that I speak on behalf of music. And yet literally my own existence is owed to music. My mother was a violinist from Madrid and my father a scientist from North Korea. They both survived wars in their countries and they fell in love in Boston over a shared love of music, a universal language, breaching cultural and linguistic divides. And also healing traumas they both have suffered during the wars. Now my mother has lost almost all of her senses – sight, touch, taste. She only has hearing, and so music is what keeps her alive, literally. Music means life for her. So I dedicate this talk to her.
Music is a world. Music is something that can transport us beyond the world. Looking across the broad sweep of history, in antiquity, Pythagoras, the 6th century philosopher, proposed that the entire cosmos could be understood as the harmony of the spheres, or as music. For centuries armies used music to steal the collective power of individuals towards heroic action. And in sacred settings music merged with life and, in a sense, spoken word and soaring spaces, to create a multisensory magic, transporting the believer from the physical world to the divine.
Harmony, collective power, transcendence. The world knows the power of music. But how to make the case for the power of music now, for our world? I think first we have to challenge some deeply held assumptions about the value of culture that has been shaped by the paradigms such as this one. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs would place culture to the top as an elite value, rather than something fundamental.
We must return instead to the original meaning of culture, cultura in Latin, which has its connotations as for the care of the world. As something fundamental to the very ground and conditions fostering, nurturing our lives. And this shift towards an ecological paradigm of culture is part of what I have called the cultural turn. Which is something that I have been studying and tending to in this last decade. And it’s evident in arguments for culture also as a human right or a cultural democracy, as it’s called.
For example cultural ecology recognises a creative ecosystem of all players – big and small. That forms the rich condition for nurturing talent, that then feeds the creative industries and the creative economy. And this value can be mapped and quantified in terms of cultural infrastructure as we have done in London as part of a master plan of a city which places culture as its heart. As important politically is the recognition of the right to participate freely and fully in cultural life as a fundamental human right. The right to discover, to create, to share, to enjoy and to protect.
Taken together we can then begin to leverage the soft power of culture against the hard power of aggression and conflict. Through calling for cultural sanctions, for example, as we have in the face of war with Ukraine. By the use of global platforms for the arts, such as President Zelensky’s speech at the Grammy Awards. And finally in ambitious and experimental forms such as in Tallinn, where we bring together practitioners and lovers of music into a dialogue to understand and advocate for the power of music.
Helen Sildna (HS): Thank you for joining us today. And thank you for being with us in Tallinn from Ukraine, Alona. May I just start by asking how do you feel?
Alona Savranenko (AS): For me it’s a great honor to be here. It’s my second time at TMW. And TMW three years ago was my first concert abroad. It was so good and now I’m here as a speaker. For me it’s a big honour to be here, to have the attention to me and to my country.
HS: You have worked in a kindergarten in a small town in Ukraine and have been in the kids and youth education system. Tell us a little bit about your background. How are the kids and the youth right now in Ukraine and how is the war affecting them?
AS: I worked with children for 5 years. Children taught me how to love unconditionally. Just pure love. How to see beauty around the world. Just butterflies, trees, flowers. Because when we grow up we’ll be so busy and our everyday problems do not give us possibilities to see the beauty around the world. I think that children taught me how to be a good person and share love around the world, even with music. Now I’m an artist and I don’t work with children anymore. But my children are always in my heart and they are always with me on social media. They follow me, they write to me. I always know that children will listen to music but it has to be good – about hope, happiness, love. Speaking about children nowadays, I think that from February our children have had to change as people. Many mothers have had to move from Ukraine to other countries, to your country too. And I want to say thank you for offering your home to our mothers and children.
Many journalists ask about what mothers are feeling, without their men, on their own with children, and how can they be good for them. Because children always feel everything that mothers feel. And I see how children have changed – they themselves are now a big shoulder to mothers. They have to grow up so fast… and have to give good emotion to their mothers. Like “Mother, you don’t have to cry, you have to be strong, you have to smile. Momma, everything will be ok. We will go back home and live in our home, driving our car and dancing and having picnics”. This gives hope. Children understand that they have to be strong, they have to give hope to mothers, to all people around them.
We only think about what we can give to children. But now children give more to us than we can do for them.
HS: Alexandra, something connects you to Alona as well. You noticed her performance here in Tallinn and decided to book her to play at your festival. Did you find some powerful Ukrainian roots in Alona’s performance, or what was it that caught your attention?
Alexandra Archetti Stølen (AAS): I’ve had the pleasure of having alyona alyona at Oslo World in October – November last year. She was our cover girl. At the time it was a big risk for us because nobody talked about Ukraine in Norway. It was a quite unknown music market for us. So we were extremely surprised when this show in Olso was sold out and people went crazy. I knew she was incredible and we have been following her for years now. But it was really special for us to see how everything changed from inviting her, to having interviews with journalists. Nobody was asking Alona any questions related to the president or anything like that. Just about music, love and all of that. And now, just after February the 24th, we had journalists calling us, trying to get in contact with her. In a sense there’s no turning back right now. Music has become a very important tool for change. But I really like that she’s always sticking to the core of music – that it is the most important thing and the rest will follow.
HS: Do you think there is an opportunity now also for the Ukrainian creative sector and the talent to become widely more visible? How can we support Ukrainian talent not only right now but in a way that these support structures will last?
AAS: I think it’s going to be very interesting in the coming years because all of us around the world experienced this massive support which we have never seen in any crisis. In Norway, after one week [since the war started – TMW], all of the buildings were yellow and blue. Everyone was supporting in a way they could. Everyone was standing behind the sanctions. We also had quite a huge Russian boycott, and the whole sector was like “We can’t deal with Russia right now so we need to have one focus and that is Ukraine ”. In the first month it was very massive. We have borders to Russia up in the north of Norway, so of course Norwegians also felt a bit scared. And even as members of NATO we still felt like a very small country. We have very few soldiers and in a way we are very weak. Now that the war is going on, it’s very important to not lose interest and focus.
As cultural promoters we have a very important role and it is also essential to have broadly based conversations around the topic of boycott. We need to support each other and also to be very smart in the coming years when it comes to building togetherness.
HS: Nick Hobbs, you are very experienced in working in the Eastern part of Europe. You are based in Istanbul, Turkey right now. How have you seen the war in Ukraine affect different countries? How much do these sentiments differ?
Nick Hobbs (NH):
They differ quite a lot, I would say. We work in Eastern Europe and obviously in Turkey as well. In Turkey itself the war almost doesn’t exist. There almost isn’t any war. It’s very strange. The main effect of the war in Turkey has been the increase of Russians coming to Turkey because they are in self-exile. Not refugees, but self-exiles. They don’t want to be in Russia right now, obviously because they are against the regime and just want to get out. Turkey is one of the few places in Europe where they can go without a visa. So we’ve had Russians staying in our house, who are on their way to other places, and so on. Some of my other Russian friends are now in Israel and wherever they could go. There are more Russians actually in Istanbul than there ever used to be. But the government in Turkey is sitting on the fence. You know, kind of “let’s stay away from this’”. And I think primarily it’s because of the economy, because Russian tourism is a huge part of Turkey’s annual economy that was already hit by COVID.
Another country where we work in and where we have a very active office is Serbia where people are aware of the war, but there is a nationalist rather pro-Russian government who just got re-elected… in a very Putinist way, controlling the media and using a lot of propaganda.
I discussed it with my office in Serbia and proposed that we have to organise a benefit concert for Ukrainian refugees. And they said, “No way, you want us to be killed”. I thought they were exaggerating but then I had a meeting in London with Evan, one of the organisers of the Exit festival in Serbia and he said exactly the same thing. He said that if you stand up for Ukraine in Serbia you can be in big trouble. Not officially, but unofficially, with the “hardcore”. So that’s the reality and I don’t know what I can do about it.
But obviously we are working in Poland and it’s very similar to the Baltic states. Same in Czhech, same in Slovakia. Hungary is another ambiguous country. I think most Hungarians are feeling sympathetic towards Ukrainians. But the government takes a much more ambiguous position and they also just got reelected. The EU will want to stop supporting Russian oil this year and Hungary is the one country that is saying no, we need Russian oil. Where there needs to be a unanimous agreement on an essential policy, a small country can have a disproportionately big negative effect.
HS: If a Western artist who you know would vocally promote Ukraine, would you warn them of a situation in a certain country? Would you prepare them to act in a certain way? Or can an international tour that reaches Serbia and Turkey also carry the message of supporting Ukraine?
NH: I don’t think there’s any danger for artists. If a British artist plays, and we actually do have a British artist Iron Maiden playing in Serbia in May, in Belgrade. And if I get a chance to talk to Iron Maiden and they ask me should we say something about the war, then I say “fuck, of course you should”. Say whatever you want. Nobody is going to touch them, they are untouchable. And the same with Istanbul. We had Oxymyron, a Russian rapper who is very strongly against the war. He played a concert in Istanbul a month ago. And he said whatever he wanted. But in Turkey it’s a different situation. It’s not pro-Russian, it’s just trying to be neutral. But in Serbia it’s a more serious issue.
And I would say to any artist that if you feel strongly about something you should say it from the stage. You should stand up and be counted, say what you think. Don’t be “oh it’s politics and we shouldn’t be involved”. That’s bullshit, of course you should be involved.
HS: But is it obligatory for artists? If they don’t feel comfortable about taking a stand, do you think we should push them?
NH: Encourage them. You can’t really push successful artists. They have their own bubbles, they have their own ways of doing things. They say whatever they want to say. Unless you are very close to them you don’t have very much influence on them at all. I was just in Prague this week with Dead Can Dance – they are of course strongly against the war, but they are an apolitical group, they don’t talk politics on stage. But they do support Ukraine and of course I would tell them that there might be indirect ways to show support. They could perform an Ukrainian song or wear something symbolic. There are lots of ways to show support without actually using words. And that’s up to the artist.
HS: I’m very pleased that Kalev Stoisescu was able to join us in this panel today. Kalev is a research fellow at the International Center for Defense and Security and an acknowledged diplomat in Estonia. In a beautiful way, he’s also the first person who came to an idea to take the festival to Narva this year. Kalev, you have also been part of the Estonian – Russian border negotiation and you know the border situation and the communities. Can you explain a little bit why you think that going to Narva was a good idea?
Kalev Stoisescu (KS): If I could just comment on Nick’s speech to say that of course people, including artists, musicians and singers, have their own political views. Perhaps they’re uninterested in politics. No one is pressed or pushed to say if they are voting for the Democrats or the Republicans, or whatever. That’s not the point. The point is to hear what kind of values they stand for. And if we speak about this horrible war then if someone would say that they want to be neutral… Can one be neutral when we speak about the mass killing of innocent people and this whole destruction, and say that we don’t have an opinion and don’t want to say nothing about it?
I think that even being silent speaks for itself in a way. But why Narva? Precisely because it is one of Europe’s and the world’s oldest borders. Longstanding frontiers, where two civilisations of the East and the West meet. It has a symbolic meaning. You will see those who have perhaps never before been in Narva – the Hermann’s castle built in the Middle Ages on our side of the river and the Ivangorod, or we call it Jaanilinn, on the Russian side. They have stood there from the 15th century, for hundreds of years. Borders can be both unifying and divisive. In Europe we don’t have any more divisive borders, but this border unfortunately is now even more divisive than it has been for the last 25 or 20 years. Speaking about the music that you will bring to Narva. Music is a marvelous and powerful tool that inspires, mobilises and motivates people. Through it people show their attitudes, their desires, their joy, their sorrow, their aspirations.
And looking at Russia, it is interesting that it’s not just Putin or the ruling elite that stands behind this war. Unfortunately we see that a great portion of the population also supports this. Brainwashed or not. And Russia has produced amazing music and literature. We enjoy the classical arts they have produced and their contribution to the world’s culture can’t be underestimated. But in the present circumstances it looks that this is a facade of Russia. Behind this facade there are sometimes quite horrible things.
HS: I am actually very happy that some of our colleagues from Russia are also here with us. People whom we trust and work with and continue to work with. We at TMW are part of the team that started the “Narva for European Capital of Culture” initiative back in 2017. It was much about the three themes – river, border, bridge.
Kalev, what you said about the border right now is very interesting. That there are uniting borders and there are divisive borders. It makes me sad that when we started the Station Narva festival five years ago, our thinking was that it takes place just 130 km from St. Petersburg. We had lots of ideas on how to start collaborating with St. Petersburg in Narva as well. For how long should we now postpone this idea and is there a hope that this [collaboration – TMW] will continue at some point?
KS: I think it’s not us who postponed it. We are ready, we are open. The fact that you and your team are bringing this festival to Narva is a powerful gesture. and they will listen to the music also from the other side of the river. Thousands of Russians and even their border guards. And let them see that we want to live peacefully. We have music festivals, we are not beating the drums of war and we here are defending our way of life just as Ukrainians do. And we are defending our values. Even if our values differ, we would like to live in peace and co-exist somehow. It’s also very important to show that we are not getting tired of this. It’s too early to get tired. We may have a long way ahead.
HS: Anna, you said something very important and interesting and mentioned the word combination “soft power”. What do you have in mind when talking about soft power?
AMK: “Soft power” is a term that is mostly associated with Joseph S. Nye from Harvard.
What it means is against incongruent distinction to the hard power aggression of war. Soft power is rather the leveraging of the tools of attraction and persuasion. Through diplomacy, through education, through culture. So when we talk about using the soft power of culture as a tool of mediation in conflict, then we are talking about precisely this. From the negative side we are talking about cultural sanctions.
I co-wrote an article with a colleague a week after the war started, about calling for cultural sanctions against Russia. It was a hard thing to do for me precisely because of the complexity of what we’re talking about. And precisely because we wanted to support Russians and Russian artists who are speaking against the regime. The article was really about boycotting official groups that represented the regime. Of course that is precisely what happened in the aftermath. So I felt that it was ok but now I think that the question becomes more complicated as this war goes on.
I’ve been involved in Ukraine since the collapse of the Wall, that is, for more than 25 years, helping to build civil society. I tell my colleagues in Ukraine that people are really thinking about Ukraine all of the time now. As an American I think this is kind of a Black Lives Matter moment for Ukraine. So yes, we do want to honor Russian artists as well, but this is a chance for Ukrainian artists and we have to put them on the platform. And that is also a part of the soft power.
HS: Paradoxically this year’s TMW would have had a record number of Russian artists. We have always supported Russian talent, it has been a part of our agenda to be the tool that can help facilitate better relationships for the creative communities with Europe. We kind of went to the bottom of how to go about making this decision on Russian artists. We had a Zoom call with 50 people – our partners and artists – from Russia to make the decision together. We felt that it is important that none of what we do should hurt Ukraine. It became our No 1 priority to not isolate anybody and not to stop the dialogue with [Russian – TMW] people that we trust, but to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt our Ukrainian friends. To make sure that somewhere in the future something positive can come out of this for the Ukrainian people.
HS: Alona, back to you. How do you feel about being in spotlight at the moment? I’m sure you have several interview and booking requests. Do you think that it’s too much? Do you think this is something you can use for the future as well in the long term?
AS: I know many artists who try to make cool music now and to gain interest in European countries. We all are happy that people all over the world now understand the difference between Russian and Ukrainian music because even when I was here [in Tallinn – TMW] three years ago, some people came to me and said “Alona, you’re a perfect Russian rapper”. And I said, “No, I’m Ukrainian and it’s an Ukrainian language”. Now people know the difference.
Yes many journalists ask for interviews and I really didn’t expect so many invitations [to perform – TMW]. I thought people would forget about me. My [English – TMW] vocabulary is also getting better, because I have to talk about the war. Before that I only spoke about my music and background. It’s a small positive thing in this situation. Music is a tool, a language, no matter what the language is. People all over the world need music and if some Ukrainian artists add folk into their music, and show this to the whole world, that is cool by me.
AMK: I wanted to follow up briefly on something Alona said. Actually this war is deeply cultural. This war is based on the belief of Putin and others that Ukraine is not a distinct culture, that it is not a culture that deserves to exist or to be a nation. That’s why using the tools of culture to fight it is extremely important. It is very important to make visible the fact that Ukraine and Ukrainian are part of a distinctive culture with distinctive history.
HS: That resonates to us in the Baltics. There was a time in the 90s when nobody understood that Estonia is a culture on its own. It was also important already back in the 80s when the Western artists started to perform here. It was very important for us in Estonia that there was this Western support to get out of the Soviet Union.
NH: There’s soft power and there’s super soft power. The last one is the power which is almost meaningless, because it’s so soft. In other words, for me personally, and I say this not to belittle anybody or to be provocative, it’s not enough to be Ukrainian. It’s what you do with it. What you say. Those are the questions which have to be asked in order to go one step further in your cultural discourse. And it doesn’t matter if it’s music, film, literature, poetry, visual art or whatever. If your version of soft power is “I’m Ukrainian and I’m gonna make music that sounds like American or British music, but I’m just gonna sing it in Ukrainian” then I’m not satisfied. I want more. I demand more of the artist, whatever the genre. And the same of course applies to every other country. But of course now our focus is on Ukraine and it’s is an opportunity obviously for Ukrainian artists, irrespective of the genre. But what do you do with that spotlight? You have to deliver, you have to step up – as Zelensky has in a way stepped up. He didn’t plan to become a war president and he has managed to make that transformation from being a rather rubbish comedian into a very successful inspirational war president. As an artist you also have that choice. You don’t have to think “Oh, I’m Ukrainian, I can just do my thing, it’s kind of ok and that’ll be alright and I’ll get some bookings because I’m Ukrainian”. Don’t be happy with that!
HS: Alexandra, you said that in Norway you witnessed a huge support for the Ukrainian cause. You have also been involved in Lebanon. Have you ever thought about why the war in Syria never touched us in the same way?
AAS: It has been dealt with in a very different way. Oslo World started a project in Beirut in 2012. In a way it was an accident. We were making a documentary about Norwegian musicians, travelled around the world and ended up in Beirut six months after the war in Syria had started. The first fear was about if the war was coming to Lebanon and how fast. Lots of cultural programs were stopped and humanitarian aid was implemented. Many NGOs that had worked with culture in the region were in a way obliged to work with humanitarian aid. For us it was a moment to ask our partners in Beirut what we can do. We really needed a festival for the young people, for the students. In a way, the same what you said, Alona, to give a kind of hope. Maybe it’s a bit of a saviour mentality to say “Oh, we will give you hope”, but still, our main idea was to create the festival, and get the international fundings. It’s easier for me to get these than it was to our partners in Beirut at that time as it was impossible to transfer funds to Lebanon. It was also a possibility to make the regional scene visible because a lot of refugees from Syria and from other parts of the region were coming to Beirut. And it was also a comment to our government, because we did not welcome refugees at the time. From 2012 to 2015 Norway was in a way blocked. The whole of Europe was blocked. And then Germany received most of the Syrian refugees, but we were still blocking. I just have to say that now we are having a festival in the refugee center in Norway in September. Some of the refugees have been living there for 16 years without getting asylum. And they see the Ukrainian refugees coming and from day one they have had amnesty, schools, jobs… I’m not comparing disasters, you can’t really do it… But I really hope that the war in Ukraine will also teach us that a refugee is a refugee, no matter what. We really need to rethink the whole issue of amnesty, integration and diversity.
KS: I wanted to say that I very much enjoyed the concept of super soft power. And also Nick’s comment about Volodymyr Zelensky. I think Putin the tyrant thought that he would fight a quick war or have a “special operation”, as he calls it, “against the comedian”. The comedian became a war leader overnight to the surprise of everybody. But all this may end someday with Putin himself becoming a pitiful comedian, so they would switch roles in a way. His foreign minister is already a comedian, because it’s quite laughable whatever statements he makes every day.
HS: The President of Ukraine is an actor from the culture sector. Do you think this fact has anything to do with why he is such a brilliant communicator?
KS: Communication is everything these days. Russians were lamenting that they lost the information war in 2008 after they attacked a much weaker country Georgia. They lost it again in 2014 and they did not learn anything. They lost the information war on the first day of the war. When I saw the resistance of Ukrainians, not just the armed forces, but people in all parts of Ukraine, including Khakriv etc, I was asked how long are they going to stand. That’s not the question, the question is who’s going to win. They [Ukrainians – TMW] have already won from because they started to resist and showed such a strong spirit that no one outside Ukraine expected.
HS: What does defense by the people consist of?
KS: It’s the spirit. I think history has shown numerous times that arms cannot defeat the spirit of tough and freedom-loving people. We defend our freedom, our way of life. When we speak about music, then each country has its own traditions. We have our Song Festival in every four years. We also had it before we re-established our independence, it’s our tradition already from 1869. In the end of the 80s we had the Singing Revolution. We sang ourselves to freedom. There were hundreds of thousands of people. It was so impressive. The collapse of the evil empire in 1991 was such a lucky thing in history because it happened without civil war unlike in Yugoslavia. But then in 2008 we realised that unfortunately it’s not going to be that way and they are not going to live and let live, so to say.
NH: I just wanted to put in a word for Russian cultural figures who speak out against the war. The Russian government is of course really crap at communicating. But they have a massive propaganda machine, they have trolls and almost complete control. Russian public opinion is heavily swayed, influenced and manipulated by the Russian state. so the major Russian cultural figures who speak out against the war are very important. I work with Russian artists who are not major stars in Russia and they have a problem because they are under the radar. If they speak out they can lose their livelihoods, they can go to prison. They are afraid. But the stars who are kind of untouchable, can’t be put into prison, so they have a major influence. And the more you encourage Russian cultural figures and intelligentsia to really speak out, the more effect it has on Russian public opinion, which is essential here.
Comment is taken from the audience member Vlad Yaremchuk, a booking manager of Atlas Weekend Festival, Ukraine’s biggest music festival.
Vlad Yaremchuk (VY): First of all, it’s an absolute honour to be here. It’s my first time out of Ukraine since the war began. And that is a massive privilege. It’s also very deeply weird at the same time – being here and not being there. Because there you all have the same thoughts, you all read the same news. Every small gesture that has been made from the Western side of the world or the world in general, it is very valued in Ukraine. We have this endless flow of news and most of them are completely tragic. In a way we have become insensitive to seeing our people die every day. By the dozens, by the hundreds. Seeing support from the world is one of the few things that really counteracts that. So I want to thank everyone who has helped Ukraine or is planning to help Ukraine. Even though you might not get immediate feedback because we have a lot of stuff to sort out in Ukraine before we can loudly thank everyone, just know that it matters immensely. If you are willing to give Ukraine a platform then the time is now.
Most men in the age group of 18 – 60 years cannot leave Ukraine, but I’m in this privileged position of being sort of a cultural ambassador of Ukraine. In a way it’s even egoistical, because we run the biggest festival in Ukraine, but that’s not happening anymore. Live music industry, as it is in Ukraine, does not exist anymore. We will fix that eventually, the time will come. But until then, you giving us a platform is the only chance for the artists who don’t have their domestic market upon which they relied so deeply. They don’t have that anymore, so having them play in Europe serves so many purposes on so many levels. You provide the livelihood to those who have lost it, but at the same time you give Ukraine a platform.
Many people who support Ukraine have never been to Ukraine and I would want them to come as soon as there is peace. But I also want them just to see what they were actually defending and protecting. It’s nice to see that people are ready to stand up for something that they don’t have a deep knowledge of. Thank you for not getting bored of this war in this day and age.
AS: I want to say thank you again for having the opportunity to be here. And I want to say something about my people who are in Europe. As you know we need your help, but just for a time being. We all want to go back home. We just need a bit of help for some time, and we will win this war.
AAS: I think what we can do as festival organisers is to give platforms and status. And I also think it’s remarkable that the Ukrainian president has understood how to reach an audience.
AMK: I also think that President Zelensky shows the real value of a creative education. That cultural and creative education is not just something for the elite, it’s not just something for the top of the pile, but it can fundamentally help us envision a different world and a different life for ourselves. And I just want to say that the Ukrainians that I know and give support and platforms to, are incredibly organised and professional. So you just have to find them because they are already doing incredible work.
NH: Three quick points.
Point 1: I think this war is very sadly likely to continue for quite a long time. So I think that as cultural workers we have a job of keeping the support for Ukraine active and continuous, so it doesn’t start to decay into fatigue.
Point 2: cultural figures, especially artists, influence public opinion in a very direct way. Politicians listen to public opinion, so if there are serious discussions amongst politicians in Europe, particularly in Germany etc, we all know we have to stop Russian resources, oil and gas, but we can’t because it’s going to hit our economy. The Ukrainians are being destroyed, they are dying in their hundreds and thousands and we are concerned about 5% of our economy”. That for me is obscenity. So there’s a tremendous role for cultural figures to influence public opinion and influence politicians.
Point 3: I have a few hopes out of all this, but maybe my number one hope is a reinforcement and recatalisation, a renewal of the concept called Europe, which transcends ethnicity borders, national identity, nation states. That for me is something which has gotten lost somewhere or is not strong enough or not invested in enough. In the sense of the importance of culture, the European identity is something transcendent which can bring us out of the situation that we have now, which is kind of an ultimate negative manifestation of nationalism.