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Ukrainian industry urges gov to ‘stop cultural quarantine’

Professionals from across the creative industries in Ukraine last night took part in a special kind of “flashmob” to urge the government to help the sector come out of quarantine.

As part of the #stopculturalquarantine project, live event professionals shone beams of light into the sky in 25 cities across Ukraine, using a total of 5,400 lighting devices provided by rental and production companies.

More than 100 companies took part in the initiative, including festivals Atlas Weekend and UPark, which both recently cancelled their 2020 editions, venues including Caribbean Club (250-cap.), Lviv Arena (35,000-cap.) and the NSC Olympic stadium (70,050-cap.), agencies H2D and Virus Music, event infrastructure providers such as including Zinteco and Alight and ticketing companies including Concert.ua.

“We represent the modern culture of Ukraine and we are convinced that this peaceful action will go down in history,” comments Yevgenia Strizhevskaya, the founder of industry conference Kyiv Music Days.

“We ask the government to open a dialogue with us in order to develop unified rules for overcoming this crisis.”

“We ask the government to open a dialogue with us in order to develop unified rules for overcoming this crisis”

The Ukrainian government laid out its five-step lockdown exit plan last month, with the first stages of easing beginning this week, but “nothing in the current plan helps clarify the situation for the live industry”, a source in Kiev tells IQ.

“There is an obvious ban [on events] that comes with the lockdown, but we have no official bans on festivals or pretty much any clue when venues, music events or festivals will be allowed to operate again.

“Most festivals have cancelled of their own accord, because they don’t want to be a part of the health risk, or expect a ban to be put in place at some point soon. We also know that even if everything is allowed here, we are still very dependent on the rest of the world which already has measures in place.

“Hopefully it’s just an oversight on [the government’s] part and they will realise there is a massive industry that’s been hit hard and needs some information and help.”

Images and videos from the project can be found using the hashtag #stopculturalquarantine on social media. The online broadcast, available to watch back here, has been viewed over 120,000 times.


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ASAP Rocky awaits Sweden assault trial verdict in US

Rapper ASAP Rocky has returned to the United States after a temporary release from custody in Sweden, where he was being held on suspected assault charges.

The rapper, real name Rakim Mayers, and two of his entourage were detained on 3 July, charged with assaulting a 19-year-old man in Stockholm, Sweden.

All three have pleaded not guilty and claim to have acted in self-defense.

Following the conclusion of the trial on Friday (2 August), Mayers was released from Swedish detention and given permission to leave the country, along with co-defendants Bladimir Corniel (Bladi) and David Rispers (Thoto).

The three men will receive the verdict of the trial on 14 August. The prosecution has asked for the rapper to be jailed for six months.

Mayers was in the country to headline a two-day hip-hop festival, Smash x Stadion, on 2 July.

“This has been a very difficult and humbling experience”

While detained, Mayer had to cancel a host of European tour dates, including headline festival appearances at Ukraine’s Atlas Weekend, Longitude in Ireland, Spain’s Sónar and Wireless festival in London

The rapper is scheduled to play at Blockfest in Finland and the Netherlands’ Lowlands festival later this month.

In an Instagram post, the rapper “fans, friends and anyone across the globe” who have offered support throughout his detention.

High-profile acts including Tyler, the Creator, Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, Post Malone and Jada Pinkett Smith, have voiced their backing for the rapper through the online #JusticeForRocky petition.

US government has also supported the rapper, with president Donald Trump celebrating Mayers’ return on Friday.


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Record attendance for Ukraine’s Atlas Weekend

The fifth edition of Kiev-based Atlas Weekend festival saw more visitors than ever before, with 538,000 festivalgoers from 75 different countries attending the six-day festival.

The festival, which took place from 9 to 14 July, featured performances from the Chainsmokers, Black Eyed Peas, the Vaccines, Liam Gallagher and Russian rock group Splean.

“We are really happy with how the 2019 edition went,” Atlas Weekend owner and chief executive Dmytro Sydorenko tells IQ. “It was our best festival yet.”

159,710 people attended the free-to-enter opening day of the festival, breaking the event’s daily attendance record.

“The point of the first day is to showcase Ukrainian music to the widest audience possible,” explains Sydorenko, stating that the number of attendees also marked a new daily attendance record for festival venue Ukrainian Expo Centre, “in all 61 years of its existence”.

“One of our main goals is to develop music tourism in Ukraine and also make the festival more prominent in markets outside of our country,” says Sydorenko. “We work closely with government departments to ease planning for foreign visitors – both artists and fans – and make sure they have the best time possible during their stay in Kiev.”

Over 250 acts from 20 different countries made up the festival’s most international line-up yet, with 30 acts performing in Ukraine for the first time.

“One of our main goals is to make the festival more prominent in markets outside of Ukraine”

Asap Rocky, who was billed to headline Atlas Weekend’s Saturday night, was detained in Sweden for suspected assault shortly before the event, leading to the cancellation of remaining tour dates.

The absence of the headliner was much talked about on social media and in the Ukrainian press, says the Atlas chief executive, admitting that “there was a lot of tension involved”.

“We have never had to deal with a headliner replacement before, especially not one that urgent,” Sydorenko tells IQ, “but we are happy that we managed to find a suitable replacement both for Asap Rocky’s fans and our festivalgoers.”

Fellow Asap Mob member Asap Ferg filled the headline slot, in a performance that “almost didn’t happen due to flight delays”.

A key goal for the 2019 festival was to be “as inclusive and accessible as possible.” Through its Mastercard Vibes initiative, festival sponsor Mastercard provided sign language interpretation at the main stage, as well as setting up a lounge area with visual and tactile installations.

“We believe in inclusivity and take pride in our efforts to make our festival a place for everyone to have a good time and enjoy music,” says Sydorenko.

The festival was held in partnership with Music Conference Ukraine, which was organised by the country’s music export office.


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