Literary manager and founder of The international Intermezzo Short Story Festival (Vinnytsia, Ukraine) talks about finding the right format and implementation details.

The international Intermezzo Short Story Festival is held in Vinnytsia at the end of May each year and is dedicated to the Ukrainian author Mykhailo Kotsiubynskyi. Intermezzo is one of his most famous works. The idea for the festival comes precisely from the plot of this short story: in difficult times, a person weary of his personal and other’s problems, needed a change of scenery, to sharpen his insight and reconnect his own essence. At the same time, he faced the realities of life and following a short intermezzo was once again capable of dealing with his problems.

Idea and Preparation

It somehow all happened in Vinnytsia from the very beginning, with Kotsiubynskyi and that “short interval” described in Mykhailo Kotsiubynskyi’s short story. Ever since school Kotsiubynskyi has been my favourite writer, at the time of the conception of the idea for Intermezzo I had only been to Vinnytsia once, but I could sense the potential in this city and see the necessary functionality. One of my first partners was Sasha Vesheleni [programme director of the festival –editor], other like-minded people joined later. Fortunately, the municipal authorities readily heard us out and showed support.

We mostly worked remotely: I in Chernivtsi, Lviv, Zalishchyky, Warsaw and other places; Sasha in Vinnytsia; some girls in Kyiv; and others permanently from abroad.

Format and Funding

The idea of short stories was very good. This is a format that, on the one hand, constrains within certain boundaries and, on the other, gives a lot of space for creativity. Why do we have so many film screenings? After all films are also stories... I wanted to reflect the relationship between storytelling in a motion picture and a literary work, while highlighting that literature actually comes first. Of course, the impulse for this combination came from the literary (Kotsiubynskyi) and film (Parajanov) masterpiece titled “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors”. In addition, I have always disliked the fact that in Ukraine professionals from different creative industries live and work somehow apart from one another. I believe that this approach is wrong. The future lies in cross-cultural projects.

The festival’s format does not suggest competition with the Book Arsenal or Publishers’ Forum. This is something local from the very beginning, with its own style, scale and audience. “Intermezzo” is a non-profit project, based on the fact that not all people have the opportunity to attend cultural events in the capital or Lviv, but this does not mean that they do not want to.

The project is financed by various sources. A third is allocated from Vinnytsia’s municipal budget; another third comes from grants and the support of official institutions such as the Consulate General of Poland in Vinnytsia, the Polish Institute in Kyiv, and the Czech cultural centre. The final third is provided by commercial sponsors. All the above was important for sparking an idea, a clear understanding of what you are doing and why.

Need for Decentralisation

I began to talk and read about decentralisation even before the word became fashionable. I really hope that our festival helps the residents of Vinnytsia, especially youngsters, to discover their own city, to see that they can comfortably live and grow there, and that in order to attend interesting events it is not necessary to go to Kyiv, Lviv or Odessa. At the present time it is often said that the events in Donbass are, to a large extent, related to the fact that we had forgotten about this region from the cultural point of view. But is this a problem of the eastern part of the country alone? Do you find many cultural events in the cities of central Ukraine? What about the western part?

Do you create a festival?

What can I recommend to people who do not have experience in cultural management but have a great desire to create something similar in their small town? Use what you have. However trite this may sound, but the Internet, even Facebook, offer a lot of possibilities. Even finding yourself in the most remote village in Ukraine, you can now be abreast of interesting events happening around the world. Read about the experience of other people, subscribe to the pages of events that inspire you, and search online for mentors and like-minded people.

If we talk about the readiness of local platforms, I can say from my experience in Vinnytisa that local libraries and film theatres were very happy to work with us. Of course, in the course of work, problems pop up associated with the human factor or technical malfunctions and you have to be prepared to deal with that. But the result is definitely well worth it. The main thing is to start and to not be afraid.

Intermezzo 2016 and cultural diplomacy

The theme of Intermezzo 2016 (26-29 May) is the sea. We will talk a lot about Crimea: about the peninsula’s contemporary authors and the Crimean theme in Kotsiubynsky’s work. There will be European guest writers of short stories related in one way or another, mentally or physically, with the sea. The festival’s slogan is “Private seas, common shores”. We will present a teaser of the Intermezzo 2016 programme at the Book Arsenal in April: these will be discussions about Islam in the works of Kotsiubynsky, Crimean cinema and the Isle of Europe special project.

In my opinion, cultural diplomacy with Europe is simply a necessity for us. Without it we will not be able to move forward. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to curate the Ukrainian programme at the Dutch literary festival Read My World in October 2016. I will do my best to contribute in such a way that Ukraine is not only perceived as a country where fighting is taking place and where a plane was brought down, but also as an independent and fully-fledged European literary and cultural unit.

As for Intermezzo, I would like to invite participants from new countries every year (possibly, not only Europeans) and experiment with communication formats with viewers. I hope that our festival will continue to inspire as well as create a positive cultural and touristic image of Ukraine. 

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