Raising the Velvet Curtain in Sounds and Pictures
To mark the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution and put Slovak literature and arts on the map, translator Julia Sherwood organised, in association with Arts Council England, the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in London, the Slovak Arts Council, the Czech Centre, London, UCL SSEES, Rich Mix, and Dash Arts a diverse, UK-wide programme of events presenting a new generation of contemporary Slovak writers, artists and performers. The programme was funded by the Slovak Arts Council (Fond na podporu umenia), Arts Council England and the Slovak Embassy.
Manchester – Oxford – Cambridge – London, 22 – 25 October 2019
Three leading Slovak writers toured the UK introducing their latest books in English, Balla presented V mene otca, Ivana Dobrakovová Bellevue and Uršuľa Kovalyk The Night Circus and Other Stories.
The Slovak authors were introduced by British writer Glen James Brown, whose debut novel, Ironopolis (Parthian Publishing), has been nominated for the Portico Prize.
The next stop was Oxford where on 23 November, after a round of sightseeing, the three authors presented their books at St Antony´s College with their translator Julia Sherwood and Dr Rajendra Chitnis.
The writers were joined by their two publishers, Richard Davies of Parthian Books and Mike Tate of Jantar Publishing.
In Cambridge on 24 October the writers found shelter from the rain in the legendary Anchor Pub where the original members of Pink Floyd used to meet. They were joined by Diána Vonnák, a Hungarian translator of Ukrainian literature.
The day continued with a presentation of their work at Heffers bookshop, chaired by Diána Vonnák. The audience included the distinguished translator of Hungarian literature Len Rix, a Cambridge resident, and co-chair of the UK Translators' Association, Charlotte Collins.
There was a full house for the final stop of the tour, London’s British Library on 25 October. Editor and critic Lucy Popescu (left, with Uršuľa Kovalyk) engaged the writers and audience in a lively discussion.
Many of those present were enticed to buy copies of books, which the authors were delighted to sign. Lucy Popescu's reviews of the books were among the unprecedented number of notices generated by the four-city tour.
Solo Lamentoso – Sláva Daubnerová
London, Rich Mix 4 November 2019
Author, director and conceptual artist Sláva Daubnerová brought to London her stunning monodrama Solo Lamentoso.
The acclaimed show was inspired by the real-life story of a woman in the small town of Štúrovo in southern Slovakia, who barricaded herself in her house and terrorised her neighbours by playing the same aria sung by Placido Domingo through low-quality speakers from six in the morning to ten at night, in an endless loop, for 14 years.
Raising the Velvet Curtain: Slovak Literature since 1989
University College London, 5 November 2019
Leading specialists from Slovakia, the UK and the US discussed how the developments of the last thirty years have been reflected by Slovak writers and discussed the best ways to put their work on the Anglophone map at a one-day conference, hosted by the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London and co-organised with the Institute for Slovak Literature of the Slovak Academy of Science.
On the first panel, social scientist Karen Henderson (Department of Social and Economic Sciences, Bratislava University, left) presented an overview of political and social developments in Slovakia over the past 30 years and Ivana Taranenková (director of the Institute for Slovak Literature of the Slovak Academy of Science, right) surveyed the main literary trends since 1989. UCL SSEES historian of Central and Eastern Europe, Thomas Lorman (centre), the conference’s co-organizer, chaired this panel.
Ivana Hostová of Prešov University discussed Slovak poetry in English translation after the Velvet Revolution, asking whether it can ever be commercially successful or if it should even try. Papers from the conference will be published in 2021 as a special issue of the UCL SSEES journal, Central Europe.
Ľubomír Rehák, ambassador of the Slovak Republic to the UK presented organiser Julia Sherwood with a diploma from the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The library of UCL SSEES prepared a display of Slovak books published since 1989, both in the original and in English translation.
Dash Café: Europe and the Velvet Revolution – 30 Years On
Rich Mix, London, 27 November 2019
Sparks flew during this discussion, skilfully moderated by the artistic director of Dash Arts, Josephine Burton and featuring Slovak writer Zuzana Kepplová and filmmaker Tereza Nvotová, and Czech activist and diplomat Monika MacDonagh-Pajerová and writer Ondřej Štindl.
An audience member described the event as “easily the most engaging, energetic, and oh so lively discussion I have seen in a long time. Slovaks and Czechs discussing revolution, change and lack thereof, optimism, the power of creative expression, the danger of apathy, complacency and inexperience — it was a wake-up call about the future from the recent past and it was both terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure.”
Modern dance: Everywhen
Rich Mix, London, 28 November 2019
The Raising the Velvet Curtain season was brought to a close by Everywhen.
The show, which combined whirling dance, enthralling music and 3D-animation rotating at a dizzying speed, was conceived and developed jointly by (left to right) Alex Timpau (music) Soňa Ferienčíková (movement) and Mária Judová (visuals).