After serving for over a year as a platform for cultural exchange, artistic expression and cooperation, the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture has come to an end bringing together a community of artists from both countries. Developed jointly by the British Council and the Ukrainian Institute (Kyiv), the Season featured artist residencies, workshops, exhibitions, talks and performances across many genres.
The UK/Ukraine Season of Culture was a bilateral cultural programme initially developed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Ukraine and the UK. Its aim was to strengthen cultural and artistic ties between the two countries. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began on 24 February 2022, forced organisers to rethink the meaning behind the Season’s theme – Future Reimagined – and set new priorities for the Ukrainian cultural sector.
The UK/Ukraine Season of Culture, a dynamic fusion of face-to-face and online events, has showcased the talent and creativity of 1,000 artists and cultural professionals. Across 20 UK cities, live cultural events served as platforms for artistic expression while online programmes built connections between organisations – a total of 36 projects. The Season has garnered remarkable media attention, with 100 million coverage and 630 media mentions across the UK and Ukraine.
Among the highlights of the broad multidisciplinary Season’s programme were: the hard-hitting multimedia opera Chornobyldorf that opened this year’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival; spectacular audiovisual event at the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival Discover Ukraine: Bits Destroyed, which saw images of monumental mosaics projected onto the Old Royal Naval College in London; Ukrainian films and animations touring to film festivals in Belfast, Brighton, Leeds, Bristol, and Cornwall; and Bouquet Kyiv Stage Festival coming to Oxford to express gratitude from Ukraine to people in the UK.
At the end of the season, the British Council and the Ukrainian Institute collaborated with Liverpool City Council at the EuroFestival, which presented 24 cultural projects, 19 of which were collaborations between Ukrainian and British artists.
The last project of the UK/UA Season of Culture is a pilot residency initiative for Ukrainian arts professionals, developed by the British Council in Scotland, Creative Scotland and the Ukrainian Institute. Partnering with five Scottish organisations, six leaders from the Ukrainian arts sector will spend time in Scotland, reflecting on and looking to the future for their organisations and the art sector in Ukraine. The residencies have been designed to build lasting connections between Ukraine, Scotland and the whole UK.
Volodymyr Sheiko, Director General of the Ukrainian Institute, said: The main goal of the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture was to enhance artistic and cultural exchange between the UK and Ukraine. Solid and resilient partnerships that were developed during the Season have not only led to new artistic projects but have also sparked ideas and plans for future creative collaborations. We are proud to witness the Season’s partnerships and projects as they continue to exist and thrive even after the close.
Claire De Braekeleer, Director Arts (Wider Europe) of the British Council: In the face of the Russian full-scale invasion, the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture, themed Future Reimagined, has taken on profound new meanings. Artists and organisations, working amidst rockets and forced displacement, have shown unparalleled dedication and creativity. The Season of Culture, despite unprecedented conditions, has celebrated our shared values and reminded us that even in darkness, art thrives. It highlights the urgent need for ongoing international collaboration and partnership.
The closing event, hosted by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in London, on 1 June, presented the opportunity to hear more from Ukrainian cultural professionals about their work and the importance of supporting creative expression during times of war. The event celebrated their contributions to the Season and the enduring friendship between Ukraine and the UK. Among the presenters were: Charlie Walker, Director of the British Council’s Global Network; Volodymyr Sheiko, Director General of the Ukrainian Institute; Vadym Prystaiko, Ukrainian Ambassador to UK; Dame Melinda Simmons, British Ambassador to Ukraine (online); Emine Dzhaparova, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (online); and Olesia Ostrovska-Liuta, Director General of National Art and Culture Museum Complex “Mystetskyi Arsenal” (Art Arsenal).
Watch a short recap of the Season.