Lviv BookForum and HAY festival unveil free hybrid programme

Acclaimed Ukrainian writers join international authors in the hybrid Lviv BookForum programme, out globally now, broadcasting online 6-9 October in partnership with leading literary charity Hay Festival. This will be the 29th edition of Lviv BookForum, Ukraine’s biggest literary festival, aiming to create a civic space for a free and tolerant exchange of ideas between writers and readers around the world.
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Speakers include Nobel Prize for Literature-winner Abdulrazak Gurnah; Booker Prize-winner Margaret Atwood; anthropologist Yuval Noah Harari; authors Elif Shafak, Neil Gaiman, Victoria Amelina, Samar Yazbek, Jonathan Littell and Liuba Tsybulska; neurosurgeon Henry Marsh; palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke; psychologists Yurii Prokhasko and Volodymyr Stanchyshyn; lawyers and activists Larysa Denysenko and Philippe Sands; poets Kateryna Kalytko and Ostap Slyvynsky; philosopher Volodymyr Yermolenko; political consultant Bruno Macaes; speaker of the Ukrainian Women’s Congress Vadym Karpiak; photographer Michael Katakis; historians Olena Stiazhkina, Margaret MacMillan, Serhii Plokhy, Yaroslav Hrytsak; and journalists Masih Alinejad, Peter Pomerantsev, Jon Lee Anderson, Nataliya Gumenyuk, Alim Aliev, Andrii Kulykov, Emma Graham-Harrison, Stanislav Aseev, Tetiana Oharkova, Sevgil Musayeva, Misha Glenny, Lydia Cacho, Catherine Belton and Oliver Bullough.

The hybrid programme – part in-person and part in virtual live appearances – blends 40 writers and thinkers in 15 conversations encompassing art in times of conflict, memory, gender equality, loss, corruption, imperialism, and hope.

Programme highlights include Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood in conversation with Ukrainian psychologist Yurii Prokhasko; Turkish writer Elif Shafak in conversation with Ukrainian novelist Kateryna Kalytko; Israeli anthropologist Yuval Noah Harari and British storyteller Neil Gaiman in conversation with Ukrainian journalist Sevgil Musayeva; Ukrainian historian Olena Stiazhkina with Tanzanian-born British novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah and Mexican activist Lydia Cacho on post-colonialism; and British historian Margaret MacMillan with Ukrainian historians Serhii Plokhy and Yaroslav Hrytsak on hope.

As digital partner for the first time, Hay Festival will broadcast these conversations free online in English, Spanish and Ukrainian at hayfestival.org/lviv-bookforum to a global audience of millions, while bolstering the programme with a specially curated strand of online events pairing international writers with their Ukrainian contemporaries.

Lviv BookForum curator and journalist Sofia Cheliak said: “The role of public intellectuals is not only to interpret reality, but also to illuminate it and in so doing influence the world around us and the paths we take. Our programme is built to tackle uncomfortable questions, to which there may not be an unequivocal answer. This is a space for writers and readers to ask questions and tell their stories, a conversation that runs in defiance of the evil that seeks to squash our freedom. Please join us.”

Hay Festival international director Cristina Fuentes La Roche said: “In these challenging times, here is a programme of voices to examine and inspire. Through our online events, we will bring Ukraine to the world, offering a wider audience to these essential stories, while facilitating an exchange of new ideas with their international contemporaries. This programme is an act of defiance, a challenge to those who would curtail free expression and the tolerant exchange of ideas, and a catalyst for global change. Please join us in this act of solidarity, live online.”

Hay Festival CEO Julie Finch said: “We hugely admire our Lviv BookForum colleagues and welcome the opportunity to support their festival as part of our ongoing work with the British Council and the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture. For 36 years, Hay Festival has lit a beacon for enlightenment, bringing writers and readers together in events that inspire, examine and entertain. This new partnership represents the next chapter of that work globally and is just the beginning.”

Lviv BookForum’s partnership with Hay Festival takes place as a part of the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture devised jointly by the British Council and the Ukrainian Institute, giving voice to Ukrainian creatives and focusing on the changing needs and priorities of the Ukrainian cultural sector.

UK/Ukraine Season Director David Codling said: “A thriving and independent cultural sector is one of the hallmarks of a free society. The Lviv BookForum is an inspiration for Ukraine and for the wider world and the British Council is proud to be working alongside Hay Festival in bringing this exciting programme to a global audience as part of the UK/Ukraine Season. Together with our partners the Ukrainian Institute we began devising the Season over a year ago. In the current struggle the Lviv Book Forum is an example of the relevance of cultural exchange, needed now more than ever.”

Volodymyr Sheiko, Director General of the Ukrainian institute stated: The Lviv Book Forum has been one of Ukraine’s key platforms for intellectual exchange and debate. It is crucial for Ukrainian and international writers and creatives to come together and reflect on universal issues that shape, define, and divide the world today. I am delighted that the partnership with the Hay Festival will amplify these powerful voices and deliver them to a global audience.”

The project represents a continuation of Hay Festival’s support for the country after naming the DEC’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal as official charity partner of the most recent edition in Wales.

Lviv BookForum is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Media agency Zinc Network are also supporting the project as a partner.

Additional statements from participating writers:

“Putin’s war is an attack on democracy and freedom, not just in Ukraine but around the world. In joining the Lviv BookForum and Hay Festival programme, I support Ukrainian writers and readers as they share their work. May this theatre of ideas and talent inspire more to raise their voices and share their gifts” Margaret Atwood.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to be a part of the 29th Lviv BookForum. It’s Ukraine’s biggest literary festival, and it says a lot that, even in the dark days of a war that should never have been necessary, the festival continues in a brave act of resistance and allows writers like me to stand in solidarity with the writers and the readers of Ukraine. With the help of Hay Festival the programming of the Lviv BookForum can reach millions of people around the world. And that includes you, wherever you are. Come and listen and learn” Neil Gaiman.

“It says so much about what Ukrainians are fighting for that they’re going ahead with a festival of free speech in wartime. I can’t wait to be part of it” Oliver Bullough.

“I feel hugely excited, as well as humbled, to be able to offer my support to the Lviv BookForum, with which the Hay Festival has partnered this year. Lviv BookForum, now in its 29th year, is not only an important cultural event for Ukrainians, but for all of us. In the end, a book festival is a celebration of freedom of expression, and of democracy, and it is right and fitting that for a few days in October, Lviv will offer itself as a beacon of hope in the face of tyranny” Jon Lee Anderson.

“I am honoured to be part of the Lviv BookForum, not only because it promises to be a fascinating few days of discussions and events. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is premised on the erasure of the country’s independent cultural identity and heritage. That makes events like this a vital part of the resistance, and an important display of international solidarity” – Emma Graham-Harrison.

“LvivBookForum is a welcome candle against the darkness of our times. The invaders of Ukraine are attempting to annihilate its culture, rewrite its history, and deny its identity. I am honoured to add my voice in support of Ukraine’s struggle for its independence, its own culture and its future. May there be many more events and partnerships like this one to remind us of our common humanity” – Margaret MacMillan.

“I have been visiting Ukraine, working with neurosurgical colleagues, for 30 years. I always knew that Ukraine was of critical importance to the future of Europe, as it is the borderland between European freedom and kleptocratic Russian despotism. It was clear to me from the start that Ukraine was struggling to escape its past and look to the West, although I did not expect, however, the pure evil of Putin’s invasion. My friends in Ukraine long to be part of Europe. The forthcoming Lviv BookForum and Hay Festival event is a wonderful expression of the fact that Ukraine is indeed part of Europe, historically and culturally. It is also a source of great encouragement and hope for our Ukrainian friends as they fight for their very survival but also for the freedom of all Europe” – Henry Marsh.

“As the Rector of the Institute of Human Sciences, I am honoured to be taking part in this year’s Lviv BookForum, run in partnership with Hay Festival. The IWM Vienna has one of the largest academic research programmes on Ukraine outside the country itself and so we have no hesitation in offering our full support for this marvellous event. We are extremely pleased to be sponsoring the event on The Idea of Europe and look forward to the vital discussions at the heart of the Lviv BookForum” – Misha Glenny.

Explore the full programme and register for online events now here.

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