I spent Saturday afternoon on the South Bank, at Potter’s Field Park, hard by City Hall, hanging out with my Ukrainian friends at day three of the Days of Ukraine in the UK festival. It was exactly up my street: music, beautiful costume and head dresses, delicious food and interesting people.
We were so lucky with the weather: it poured and poured all morning, and then, just as the festival opened, the skies cleared and the sun shone.
The sheer pride that Ukrainians take in their country and in their heritage is thought provoking. A large proportion of attendees were mixing traditional Ukranian embroidered blouses and and shirts with jeans, and plenty of women were casually wearing floral headresses.
There was a series of stalls selling Ukrainian handicrafts. I’m regretting not purchasing one of these hand made blouses
with its exquisite workmanship
I kept hearing what sounded like shots coming from the middle of the park. Upon further investigation, I discovered a group of young Cossacks teaching onlookers how to crack whips, and fight with swords. As you might expect, this was extremely popular.
Then we watched the experts in action:
Chloe lives around the corner from the park, so she and Zelda came to join me for lunch. I’ve never seen such lines for food: Ukrainian food sure is popular.
Here sausages, with potato, onions and cask cucumber (pickles), are being prepared.
This is Golubtsy, cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and meat, and served with sour cream and parsley.
Of course, I ordered varenyki, stuffed with cottage cheese, and served with onions and sour cream. So. Very. Good.
Chloe had Pirozhki, which Zelda thought really should be coming her way
My next culinary mission is to have a stab at Deruny, the potato pancakes with mushroom sauce which made my skirts fly up.
There was one main stage, which hosted a series of Ukrainian acts, mainly modern folk bands.
This is the Ukrainian folk group Krosna, who collect Ukrainian traditional songs and customs, which they weave into performance. Their music is really beautiful.
This is one of the singers from the band Folknery, who play what I guess is alt folk. I couldn’t get her bright pink Converse in shot, but thought she was the perfect poster girl for the beguiling mix of Ukraine old and new, which seems to run so deep in their culture.
In between bands, I wandered off to look at the activities: There were lots of traditional Ukrainian activities for children to take part in, including clay bird making,
Easter egg painting,
and dough moulding.
I loved this clutch bag by a Ukrainian designer. So chic with the green coat.
One of the things I have really enjoyed has been getting to know so many Ukrainians. My family left Russia in 1917, and I now have little or no roots left in any parts of the former USSR. It’s been such a pleasure discovering this culture in such depth, and I’ve met some lovely people. Here’s gorgeous Mariya, who I went to see Swan Lake with in Kiev last month.
As the sun set over the Thames,
some of the key figures behind Days of Ukraine spoke, including chairman of the organising committee and head of the Firtash Foundation, Lada Firtash
And then Oleg Skrypka came on. He is a Ukrainian legend, who plays both accordion and electric guitar, (yet another example of the Ukrainian love of melding all part of their culture together), and the lead guitarist with the Ukrainian rock band Vopli Vidopliassova.
I described him as Sting with electro-folk on Twitter, someone else came back with Robert Plant on Borscht. Either way he is insanely popular: I thought the crowd would self combust with glee during his closing set. (I’m quite pleased to have converted several doubtful Twitter followers to his music.)
There are rumours that this will all be happening again next year, and I do hope so: for all our British wanderlust we can be quite insular, and this was a wonderful window into a country that, at first seems quite other, but upon examination is anything but.
Huge thanks to The Firtash Foundation for hosting me yet again at the Festival, and for sponsoring this series of posts on the Days of Urkaine in the UK festival this week.