This year, at The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, as part of our Read the World theme, we proudly stood in solidarity with the people of Ukraine on our Ukraine Day, which included a series of events co-curated with The International Book Arsenal Festival, Kyiv, as part of the British Council and Ukrainian institute's UK/Ukraine Season of Culture. 

Throughout the day, we explored Ukraine's unique, rich culture and highlighted the impact of the ongoing conflict on those personally affected. We were joined by Ukrainian writers, poets, musicians and filmmakers, including Oksana ZabuzhkoLyuba YakimchukOlseya RhromeychuckRomana Romanyshym and Andriy Lesiv

And that wasn't all. Ukrainian talent was also featured in a number of events across the duration of this year's Literature Festival. Ukrainian Chef, Olia Hercules joined us to share how she co-founded #CookForUkraine to raise awareness of the crisis and share the beauty of her country, its people, food, poetry and art; as well as events such as Responding to Crisis: Ukraine and Europe, From the Front Line and Henry Marsh: And Finally... all discussed the war in Ukraine. 

What's more, we were joined by BBC Points West and its Gloucestershire reporter Steve Knibbs who helped share the importance of the day which you can relive in the video below.

The day was extremely poignant and its importance was recognised in Parliament by Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk who thanked Cheltenham Festivals and the British Council for hosting the event. Mr Chalk said: "I had the extraordinary privilege of meeting musicians, poets and writers who have travelled from bombarded cities to come to Cheltenham to perform. Will [the speaker] join with me in thanking the British Council and indeed Cheltenham Literature Festival for ensuring that our support isn't just military but extends to supporting the culture of that great country too."

Lyndsey Fineran, Programme and Commissions Manager for Cheltenham Literature Festival said: “We had been working on this collaboration with Ukraine long before the war began, as part of the planned British Council UK/Ukraine Season of Culture and our three-year ‘Read the World’ theme. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February this year brought the Ukrainian collaboration into sharper relief and it felt important to offer a more substantial platform to The International Book Arsenal Kyiv.”

Organisers Oksana Schur and Yuliia Kozlovets said: “It was extremely important and a matter of honour for us to have our special Ukrainian programme in Cheltenham. To give voice to Ukrainian authors, public intellectuals, artists, to speak loudly from the platform of one of the best literary festivals in the world about our literature and about who we are, where we are and how we struggle for our common human values.”

About Ukraine Day events...

There were many excellent events on the day, from Create A Canvas art workshop with husband-and-wife creative duo Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv to a music and poetic performance with Grigory Semenchuk, Lyuba Yakimchuk, Irena Karpa and Yuriy Gurzhy for Ukrainian Songs of Love and Hate. They have since released an album with tracks from the event.


We heard from prize-winning Ukrainian author and public intellectual, Oksana Zabuzhko who was on a book tour in Poland when she learned that Russian missiles had struck her home city of Kyiv. Ukrainian poet, Lyuba Yakimchuk and Director of the Ukrainian Institute in London, Olesya Khromeychuk spoke about their experiences with war at the event When War Comes to Your Home.

Throughout the day, free events were available for everyone. The day began with An Introduction to Ukrainian Language and Culture, with translators Anna Walden and Ruth Ahemdzai Kemp. What's more, there was a creative writing event Explore Ukrainian: Translate a Ukrainian Picture Book which saw a collaborative translation of a Ukrainian picture book. 


As the day drew to a close, Ukraine on Screen featured in the Everyman Theatre. Guest Curator Clarisse Loughrey was joined by Visual Culture Researcher Kateryna Iakovlenko for an introductory conversation ahead of the first UK screening of the producer’s cut of her award-winning film Bad Roads (2020). Set along the roads of Donbas, the film portrays diverse human responses that empower survival through the chaos of war.


Ukraine Day ended with the Ukrainian flag lighting up one of our venues - a wonderful way to end a day dedicated to Ukrainian culture and talent. 

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