Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Biela Noc, Kosice

Almost on cue, that song was playing in the taxi from the station to the hotel in Kosice. You know the one, the massive international hit which defined a moment and inspired a generation but was regarded as no more than a sing-along in England. No, not that Adele song that everyone belts out, but Wind of Change by Scorpions, the anthem which was accompanied by the crashing sound of the Berlin Wall tumbling down and eastern Europe turning from communism to fledgling capitalism almost overnight.

But while the tune endures, the sentiment is long gone. Countries such as Slovakia are unrecognisable from the early 1990s, when, in point of fact, the country didn't even exist. Now it nestles independently and proudly on the European Union's easternmost flank, a country on a seemingly upward trajectory, albeit a slow one (trajectory that is, not country).

Part of the renaissance has been down to aggressively attracting inward investment to utilise the educated skills and knowledge base which exists as a legacy of the old socialist system which prided itself in free education for all. And to add to this sense of place, a burgeoning cultural programme is being established, one which will see Kosice don the mantle of European Capital of Culture in 2013.

One notable event which already takes place, however, is White Night (or Biela Noc as they say around here), an annual arts event which last Saturday celebrated its 10th anniversary with a powerful and, well illuminating international programme of installations, performance and multimedia. The night attracted 30,000 visitors to the city centre, impressive for a city with an overall population of 220,000. I spent an evening soaking up the atmosphere feeling that I was part of something special. It was a privilege to be invited here to be part of it and interpret the event through my photography.

The wind of change continues to blow!

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