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Ukrainian artist plays three sold-out arena shows in Kyiv

Amid Russia’s war against Ukraine, local pop artist Artem Pivovarov performed three sold-out shows at Kyiv Sports Palace, drawing 10,000 attendees each night.

The April shows, for which tickets were priced between US$25 and $150, mark the longest run of concerts at the arena by any Ukrainian artist.

Music Export Ukraine’s Dartsya Tarkovska called his most recent run “a great success story to note in these wild times”.

Discussing his recent run of shows, Pivovarov told IQ that the main challenge was providing all the necessary technical equipment.

“A large amount of it was brought from Europe and considering the situation on the borders, that wasn’t an easy task at all. Thank god and our technical partners, we coped with that in time!” he said.

Event safety was also a major focus for the team, which dedicated a “huge amount of attention, time and skills” to keeping attendees safe during the shows.

“[These shows] are a great success story to note in these wild times”

“Our country has been subjected to constant missile and drone attacks for more than two years and Kyiv, as the capital city, is no exception,” explains Pivovarov.

“Ukraine is in a very hot and hard phase of the war right now. We had to be ready for different types of provocations and attacks during the shows. As you can imagine, the level of our responsibility in matters of security was off the charts. We worked on that task with private security companies and with the police department.”

Against all odds, the concerts went ahead without a hitch and proved to be a cathartic and essential experience for attendees.

“Obviously, in these difficult times, people in Ukraine are in particular need of support,” he said. “There’s a special atmosphere at our concerts. The audience can let out their emotions, laugh and cry, communicate sincerely and recharge because we always exchange energy at our performances. Сoncerts at the Palace of Sports were no exception. Our new and unique show gave people an unforgettable experience and positive emotions, which is really needed now.”

Pivovarov’s shows aren’t the only ones to take place in the war-torn country. Vladyslav Yaremchuk, programming director of Atlas Festival, told IQ last August that “concerts are happening everywhere in Ukraine”. 

But despite a burgeoning live music scene in Ukraine, execs such as YOUROPE’s Christof Huber have encouraged the international live music industry not to forget about the ongoing war.

 


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City of Helsinki set to buy former Hartwall Arena

The two-year saga over the future of Finland’s largest arena could finally be nearing its conclusion after the City of Helsinki signalled its intention to acquire the venue from its Russian owners.

The 15,500-cap Helsinki Halli, formerly the Hartwall Arena, has been owned by Arena Events Oy (AEO) – a company co-founded by oligarchs Gennady Timchenko and Roman Rotenberg – since 2013, but shuttered in early 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. All of Timchenko’s holdings in the EU have been frozen, while Rotenberg’s family is the target of US sanctions for their ties with Vladimir Putin.

“The city will take measures to buy the required shares or arena property by sale,” the City of Helsinki tells Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (HS).

According to YLE, the city is seeking a voluntary deal with the current owners, with a process to expropriate the venue to be launched by early June if an agreement cannot be reached.

“This is an important step towards making the arena operational,” says Helsinki deputy mayor Paavo Arhinmäki. “The events industry in particular has lost a huge number of concerts while the arena has been out of use.”

The publication notes that the foundation operating the arena has already been instructed that it must be prepared to reopen as soon as possible if ownership is transferred to the city.

“At this point, it is not relevant who will own the arena later”

Head of office Jukka-Pekka Ujula tells HS there are no estimates on how much the acquisition would cost the city, which is reportedly losing more than €100 million per year due to the closure. In the meantime, Tampere’s 15,000-cap Nokia Arena has filled the breach as the country’s leading events venue.

Several private parties have failed in bids to buy the arena over the past 18 months, and Arhinmäki indicates the city’s ownership could just be a temporary measure to get the venue back in use.

“At this point, it is not relevant who will own the arena later,” adds Arhinmäki.

YLE previously noted that Rotenberg and Timchenko own a combined 44% of the arena’s holding company, Helsinki Halli Oy, but their combined voting power in the firm accounts for 93.9%.

Beverage giant Hartwall ended its 25-year association with the building due to the arena’s Russian ownership shortly after the war began in 2022. Finland’s Flow Festival also ended its brand partnership with Heineken Silver last year due to the lager firm’s operations in Russia.

 


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Music among bombs: How festivals survived in Ukraine

Music Export Ukraine’s Alona Dmukhovska spoke to Beeyhype about how festivals and events have taken place in Ukraine amid curfews, bomb threats and a lack of infrastructure due to Russia’s ongoing invasion.

Was there any kind of ‘festival summer’ in Ukraine this year?
Alona Dmukhovska
: The majority of events we have now are small-scale. Small, because when you have an event for 200 people, you have to have a bomb shelter right next to it for 200 people, so when the alarm siren starts, over the course of a couple of minutes you can evacuate all of them.

We heard you have rave parties during the day now?
The electronic community in Ukraine found a way to continue their activities – the world-known Kyiv techno club Closer even does music festivals – starting early in the morning and finishing in the evening. The reason for that is the curfew in all cities that we have during the nighttime, so no events are allowed then. So yes, you have got it right – rave parties during the daylight. It’s possible and still entertaining. And now you finally have an excuse to wear those fancy sunglasses while dancing to look cool.

Also, a lot of Ukrainian artists are trying to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine and go to play acoustic concerts for our brave people. The frontman of one of the biggest Ukrainian rock bands, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, every couple of months goes to the frontline to make what he can best.

Because all these events are not just for fun?
It’s because of a clear humanitarian need in the first place – every single event happening now in Ukraine and abroad is not for business, but to raise donations to help those in need. Besides, it’s crucially important to keep the economy moving, keep the working places and own teams active. Not to mention such well-forgotten words as ‘mental health’, which does not exist in our reality anymore. It’s rather an important activity to stay sane.

“When you have an event for 200 people, you have to have a bomb shelter right next to it for 200 people”

Coming back to festivals, what about them?
Not that many, but they are still happening. One example is Brudniy Pes Festival, you can read a report by Louder than War. Also, in the heart of Kyiv, a new music initiative appeared at Expo Center of Ukraine – Uyava – that is having open-air concerts and two-day festivals during the weekend.

But the most prominent event was definitely Faine Misto in late July. They had to move from Ternopil, where they were taking place for many years, to Lviv, where the security situation is better, and the city administration provides significant support. The lineup was primarily Ukrainian but still, they have managed to attract more than 15 thousand visitors over three festival days. Besides the music programme, they have had a significant charity component and managed to raise UAH 3.7 million (appr. €100k) for security needs.

Are there any foreign artists coming to Ukraine already?
Luckily for us, international acts are starting to come back to Ukraine: we recently had The Tiger Lillies who dedicated an album to Ukraine and played two sold-out shows in Lviv and Kyiv. UK’s London Elektricity came to play a set in July. Luxembourg-born singer-songwriter Rome played a couple of times here both in Kyiv and Lviv, and continuously supports humanitarian needs at the spot. All of that gives a good sign for the foreign agents, that promoters are in place and the audience is active, so with the proper preparation concerts, in Ukraine are possible. Electronic musician IAMX just announced he will be back in Lviv after many years, in November. All of that brings hope that we’re not alone in the current situation and that true friends of Ukraine are ready to come and support Ukrainians.

What about the audience?
We have the warmest audience you can imagine because people are supper happy to see their favorite artists – as not many people are allowed to go abroad for the concert, because of the military law. And the most flexible promoters, that have learned to do events in the most extreme situations. If any European colleague needs a risk manager, ask a Ukrainian. We know how to find a way out of ANY situation.

“People are trying to live their best life because, unfortunately, every single day may be the last one – so cultural life is blooming”

What has happened to music clubs and venues?
Obviously, economically, the situation is extreme. People would rather donate some extra money for the security needs, rather than spend it on leisure. Therefore, pre-sales of the tickets are extremely low. The horizon of planning is for a couple of days in advance maximum as any time a new missile or drone attack can destroy another energy infrastructure. But we are ready for that as well now.

After the last winter, the best present for the Ukrainian promoter is an electrical generator now. And yes, most of the concerts were played with them. Even if the electricity is switched off because of the numerous Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure, the audience will cover the artist anyway, just like at the famous concert of Ukrainian artists Artem Pivovarov. And that’s impressive as the full-scale war came right after Covid restrictions.

Many venues and clubs have not survived the Covid times – like Monteray Live Stage or BINGO, legendary music venues, which were around for 20+ years. And of course, Russian aggressions have not helped to keep the rest going.

But the people are trying to live their best life because, unfortunately, every single day may be the last one – so the cultural life is blooming. People really are paying attention to concerts and social gatherings, therefore many events are happening – mostly open-air but some clubs like Closer or K41 are still active.

Many production companies had to transfer their equipment – stages, sound equipment, lightning – to Europe last year because those are huge investments and it takes a lot of money to pay even for the warehouse and not use it. So many of them are abroad. But the ones that have stayed, are pretty busy at the moment.

 


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Finland mulls options for Russian-owned arena

Finland is reportedly seeking ways to take control of the country’s largest arena, which has been shut since last year because of sanctions against its billionaire Russian owners.

Authorities in the capital city estimate that up to €400 million of income per year is being lost for hotels, restaurants and other businesses while the former Hartwall Arena in Helsinki is shuttered.

The 15,500-cap venue has been owned by Arena Events Oy (AEO) – a company co-founded by oligarchs Gennady Timchenko and Roman Rotenberg – since 2013.

All of Timchenko’s holdings in the European Union (EU) have been frozen, while Rotenberg’s family is the target of US sanctions for their close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Finland, which joined NATO in April in response to neighbouring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is a firm supporter of EU sanctions but hopes an exception can be made to allow it to take control of the arena.

Several bidders have expressed an interest in buying the arena, but any sale price would be frozen until sanctions are lifted

The government is also considering options to expropriate the venue if the Russian owners refuse to sell their stakes voluntarily.

Helsinki mayor Juhana Vartiainen is hoping for the latter. “We are aware that active negotiations to sell the hall are ongoing and we hope that the transaction would proceed as quickly as possible, in order to get the hall back to the use of Helsinkians,” he told Reuters.

Several bidders have expressed an interest in buying the arena but under the current situation, any sale price would be frozen by Finland’s bailiff authority until the sanctions are lifted, Finland’s foreign ministry said.

The EU’s current sanction rules do not include expropriation of frozen assets, which could complicate that option, it added.

Beverage giant Hartwall ended its 25-year association with the building – since renamed Helsinki Halli – due to its Russian ownership.

Earlier this year, Finland’s Flow Festival ended its brand partnership with Heineken Silver due to the lager firm’s operations in Russia.

 


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‘Concerts are happening everywhere in Ukraine, even in trenches’

Vladyslav Yaremchuk is the programming director of Atlas Festival – Ukraine’s biggest music festival, which had more than 600k+ visitors in 2021. He is also the partnership manager at Music Saves UA – a humanitarian initiative that harnesses the power of the international music community in order to provide humanitarian help to Ukrainian civilians.

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he had to abandon his regular work in order to fully focus on doing projects that help Ukrainian civilians and spread the Ukrainian message far and wide across the word.

Here, as part of a New Bosses 2023 interview, he tells IQ about the realities of living and working in a country under siege.

IQ: The lives of everyone in Ukraine have been massively disrupted by the war. Is anything taking place in terms of live music, or is it too dangerous to organise large gatherings of people?
VY
: Live music, stand-up, theatre are all alive and well. We even had a first couple of small festivals, one in Kyiv and another in Lviv just last week. You have to take care of safety, make sure there is a shelter that can fit everyone nearby and that everyone knows where to go. Curfews are a big factor and will rain one going forward. Kyiv curfew is midnight till 5 am for example and events have to wrap up by 10 pm. Events are very needed to keep people’s mental health and morale intact. They unite people and every single one serves a purpose – they fundraise for humanitarian or military needs.

“It’s time to get more artists and all kinds of people to come to Ukraine to experience what is happening here first-hand”

As time passes, news coverage about Ukraine is slipping down the order of priority in other countries. What can the live music community do to keep helping the people of Ukraine?
We need to see each other and talk to each other. Ukrainian people and artists need a platform that will give them a chance to reach people and tell it how it is straight into people’s eyes. It’s also time to get more artists and all kinds of people to come to Ukraine to experience what is happening here first-hand: to support people, to give charity shows, to then come back home and share their own personal experiences and perspective.

We need to keep the connection strong as time isolates Ukraine from the rest of the world, because what is happening is too extreme and tragedies are happening on a daily basis, people are tuning out. The tragedy needs to be bigger every time so that people outside of Ukraine care like they used to. People need to understand what is happening here and not take their information just from the news or media, but from the people who are living through this and from those who came here to see it with their own eyes.

If you want to help, but don’t know how – just simply reach out to me and we will see what we can do together. At Music Saves UA we collaborate with venues, conferences, festivals and artists to make a real difference and we always try to find an individual solution that would work best, all we need is people willing to support us and together, we will come up with something great.

“I’m sure if we didn’t do it we would not survive as a company since our last festival would have been in 2019”

You say that 600,000 people attended Atlas in 2021 – can you tell us more about the festival, its headliners and how you achieved such a high total of visitors?
We were lucky to be pioneers when it comes to organising a festival of such scale in Ukraine. We started in 2015 and the festival was growing faster than we could keep up. The population of Kyiv and Ukraine are also big, we had a huge domestic audience we could work with and even in 2021 despite the crazy number of visitors, we had so many people in our target audience who never came to the festival. That’s even without mentioning the international audience which we were only starting to attract.

It was 2019 when we finally managed to put down roots deep enough that will ensure that the festival will happen this year and the year after and two years down the line, it was a privilege we haven’t had before. We also made a festival for everyone – so much different music, so much space, so much to do apart from the music itself. You had a lot to do and experience no matter your age and so it was a festival for everyone. We were also on very good terms with our sponsors – we were a one-of-a-kind platform and so they were ready to back us financially and that was essential, since our ticket sales alone wouldn’t let us grow nearly as much.

We also taught our sponsors to do something special, to generate memories and experiences for the visitors instead of just trying to have their name on every corner of the festival and that’s it. Basically, it was a lot of passion, hard work and of course, sheer luck. Things were looking great for us in 2020 – we secured Twenty One Pilots, the biggest act at the festival yet and had very exciting prospects for 2021. Then came Covid and everything came to a screeching halt. We were exceptionally lucky to pull off a festival on 2021. I’m sure if we didn’t do it we would not survive as a company since our last festival would have been in 2019.

“Concerts are happening everywhere, even in frontline cities in shelters, even in trenches”

Ukraine pioneered the idea of vertical concerts during the pandemic. What impact is the lack of concerts and arts events having on you and your fellow citizens?
Like I’ve mentioned earlier, the concerts are very much happening and play a very important role. Since we don’t have many international artists coming to Ukraine the local scene is thriving, especially amidst the renewed interest in everything Ukrainian. The capacity to innovate and adapt is also insane, but it’s because there is no way we can abandon music and culture. It’s needed more than ever amidst the attempt to erase our very identity. So it’s a cultural renaissance in a way with daily explosions and deaths as a background.

People often bring up the phrase “when guns roar, the muses are silent”, but I don’t believe it applies to reality, not in our case, nor historically. Of course, in the first few months, everything went dormant, people couldn’t even listen to music or write it since our we all sought to survive. But now the concerts are happening everywhere, even in frontline cities in shelters, even in trenches to support those who we thank for being alive. And these are some of the most raw, special concerts since we are all living through this intense experience. It brings us together and helps us prop each other up and keep working and keep supporting the military and each other. It’s quite fascinating and I wish people outside Ukraine could see and experience this more, but also realise that it’s our defence mechanism, an adrenaline rush in response to being subjected to literal genocide.

“We have the first proper festival taking place with a couple thousand people”

How long, post-war, do you think it might take for Ukraine to rebuild the infrastructure needed to host concerts and festivals?
It depends on what you mean by infrastructure. Many venues are working, we should be opening our Atlas venue in autumn for the first time since 24 February 2022. We have the first proper festival taking place with a couple thousand people focused first and foremost on the charity aspect, while also giving a lot of the new artists their biggest live performances so far.

International artists are coming to do charity shows, we just had The Tiger Lillies who dedicated an album to Ukraine. UK’s London Elektricity came to play a set in July and others are coming. I hope this trend will continue and we will certainly be inviting those who are ready to come as it’s very important. But it’s all a very different way of functioning, I can’t imagine when things will be “normal”. This war is far from over, we are learning to live with it, to do festivals amidst the drones, missiles and alarms and looking for ways how can they be as useful as possible. It’s not the time to think about business, big tours or huge festivals, we don’t have that privilege.

You and your colleagues have all had to pivot in your careers since the war broke out. But how are people who remain in music managing to fund their work?
It depends. Grants and outside funding play an important role. For example, Music Saves UA, the humanitarian fundraising initiative I work for right now, can exist and pay me a salary thanks to the grants and allows us to focus on saving lives without worrying about making ends meet. It also makes sure 100% of what we raise on spent on providing help instead of operational costs or salaries.

For the Atlas Festival team it’s a lot more difficult. We tried to keep paying our sizeable team for as long as we could, but eventually we had to “freeze” the whole operation as we are simply not making any money. All we did since the invasion was charity projects which enabled us to pay those who were involved from the sponsor money. Now we work on a project basis, if we can find funds to put on a big charity event while also getting a chance to employ a part of our team and help them financially for a couple of months, we do it. But until then most of us are doing work on the side.

In general, as long as people can put bread on their tables they are content and focus all their efforts on doing something useful. There’s no “music business” as such here anymore. Everything operates on grants, government support, etc, no one is pursuing big profits, it’s about sustaining yourself and your family and helping the country.

“It’s simply exhausting to live this reality”

Your daily life is unimaginable for people who have not had to experience war. What’s the most difficult aspect of your current situation?
I feel like a lot of us are sugar-coating things because we feel like people outside of Ukraine are not ready to face the reality of what’s happening and what we have to live through – it doesn’t really register because it’s that extreme. It’s simply exhausting to live this reality – and that’s coming from a person who lives a very privileged life compared to those who are sacrificing their lives for us and the rest of the free world on the frontlines.

These last few months have been mentally challenging. In May, Kyiv was attacked every night with drones and missiles, literally hundreds of them. People simply couldn’t get sleep, and that accumulates with time. Then Russians proceeded to attack less protected regions and every morning you wake up to another tragedy in one or two of Ukraine’s big cities with dozens of civilians dead, murdered in their homes. And then you see how that’s just become normal for the world.

Then Russians blew up the Kakhovka dam – a case of genocide, a war crime of unimaginable scale amidst dozens of war crimes every week, and then we saw a lack of a proper response from the world, which disillusioned a lot of us.

Media was trying to both-side their coverage which reminded a lot of us of MH17 coverage. It made us physically sick to see this and see how there was no adequate response from the world, which only emboldens Russia to do worse things with impunity. I have a little box in my corridor with documents, cans of food and water. The whole country was preparing for nuclear sabotage at ZNPP after the Kakhovka dam explosion.

It’s an overwhelming feeling of injustice that we feel here. The democratic world is one of the reasons why we are still alive and exist, yet at the same time, so much could have been done and can be done, but it’s not being done and the price is in human lives. I can’t imagine what our military feels when they see the world’s hesitancy to really put an end to this. Ukraine needs more weapons, it’s as simple as that. It’s an uncomfortable fact for people who don’t know what war is and lived for decades in countries that were safe.

“Music was never out of politics, that is simply impossible”

We can keep raising money for humanitarian needs forever, but it treats only the consequences and does nothing to stop the very reasons – Russians are killing our best every single day and they only understand power in response. Hesitancy and appeasement only embolden them to keep going and outlast the free world’s will to help us till this is over.

We need tougher sanctions as we see that Russia is producing missiles and drones in quantities enough to shower us with them non-stop. Putin is showing his commitment to this war, but Russian propaganda and meddling in politics immobilised the world. This conversation needs to be normalised. It needs to happen in cultural and music circles. Music matters and it plays a huge role in this. Music was never out of politics, that is simply impossible. You either stand for what’s right or let those who are ready to use brute force and propaganda to take over.

We are exceptionally grateful to our allies and the UK especially as they have been leaders in terms of mobilising military and political support. You can’t imagine how much love there is for the UK for that reason. And don’t get me started on how supportive regular people are, it’s heartwarming and it keeps us afloat mentally knowing we are not alone and so many people genuinely care. It’s the reason why we are still alive and live in a country called Ukraine. But at the same time, we are not seeing an end to this, because there is a lack of confidence in big politics that enabling Ukraine to win is the only right thing to do and it has to be done now, not later. It sometimes feels so useless to tell people about how we are preparing to rebuild the country and live a bright future when that future is in no way secured yet.

Where might people be able to meet you in person during the remainder of 2023?
I haven’t left Ukraine since February since the rules for obtaining the temporary permission to leave as a male from 16-60 have been changed. Hopefully, I will be able to travel soon again since nothing works better than speaking to people face-to-face and mobilising support that way. I had to write a lot of emails and be a part of many online panels. I appreciate the conferences that accommodated that and made it possible.

Meanwhile, the Music Saves UA team is currently on a festival tour through Europe, where they talk about Ukrainian music, culture and the current state of things, and raise money for humanitarian help. The results are great and it’s good to see that there is still so much willingness from fellow festivals to join our cause. If things work out, I hopefully will attend Reeperbahn and any other conferences that will be kind enough to invite me. But hopefully ESNS, ILMC (I missed it two times in a row due to visa and documents, so hopefully the third time is the charm) and all the other staples.

“My hope is that the music industry and community will continue to support us while we are fighting for our freedom”

As a New Boss, in normal times is there anything you would change to make the music industry a better place?
It’s tough to think of “normal times” right now. In many ways, I feel rather removed from the industry and feel like I missed a lot and barely know how it operates post-Covid since we went from Covid straight to war here, and that changed everything. I haven’t had a chance to work on the festival for a long time, I don’t know what the fees are, who represents who, or what the crazy new contract shenanigans are, as my work is very different now. My hope is that the music industry and community will continue to support us while we are fighting for our freedom and will be there for us once the war is over.

Ukrainian music professionals worked a lot in the last few years to put Ukraine on the map, to integrate it into the European market and it was going well. Hopefully, the world saw our resilience, our willingness to stand for what we believe in, our love for music and our ability to keep it going no matter what and would be willing to help us create a strong bond with the rest of the world.

I want to see Ukrainian music being welcomed everywhere and to see artists from all over the world willing to come to Ukraine and use music as a means to help and make a difference. I hope there will always be space for the music itself, for the passion of the people in this beautiful community, and for the willingness to stand for what is right using your platform amidst all the business stuff, profits, acquisition and mergers. This is a very human-centric industry and community and I hope it stays as such, because when I see how willing people are to help us and others it gives me the capacity to keep going and it is the reason why I love my job and cling to it so much.

 


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Flow ends Heineken partnership over Russia war

Finland’s Flow Festival has announced it has ended its brand partnership with Heineken Silver due to the lager firm’s operations in Russia.

Heineken has been in Russia for 20 years and is the third largest brewer in the country, with around seven breweries and an 1,800-strong workforce. But despite announcing it is “committed” to leaving Russia, the firm is still working towards detaching itself fully – prompting Flow to cut ties ahead of this weekend’s festival.

“When we were informed about Heineken’s situation in Russia in the spring, we had discussions with the festival’s main partner Hartwall about the presence of different products at Flow and evaluated the situation together,” says Flow Festival CEO Suvi Kallio.

“Based on knowledge at that point, Heineken was to leave Russia during the spring. Unfortunately, this has not happened up to this point.

“We have reassessed the situation and come to the conclusion to end the partnership and brand cooperation with Heineken. Heineken Silver will be replaced with Hartwall’s other products at the festival.”

Amsterdam-headquartered Heineken said in April that waiting for the Russian Federation to approve the sale of its business in Russia.

“Heineken is committed to leaving Russia and we’re doing everything we can to find a suitable new owner for our business”

The Dutch brand released the following statement earlier this year: “We are shocked and saddened by the war in Ukraine. The strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people is remarkable, despite the continuing horrors that are happening in the country.”

It continued: “Heineken is committed to leaving Russia and we’re doing everything we can to find a suitable new owner for our business while taking care of our local employees.

“The situation in Russia is unprecedented and the reality for businesses with large production and manufacturing operations in the country is challenging and complex.”

Flow Festival takes place at Suvilahti, Helsinki, from 11-13 August. The event will feature around 150 acts including Lorde, Blur, Wizkid, Kaytranada, Christine & The Queens, Tove Lo, Devo, Pusha T, Caroline Polachek, Suede and Moderat.

Finland’s largest arena Helsinki Halli has been left unused since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. The former Hartwall Arena is owned by Arena Events but has laid empty since two of the company’s co-founders, oligarchs Gennady Timchenko and Boris Rotenberg, were added to the UK’s sanctions list shortly after the war began in February 2022.

Beverage giant Hartwall ended its 25-year association with the building due to its Russian ownership, while scheduled shows by acts such as Kiss, The Cure, Eric Clapton and Queen + Adam Lambert were relocated.

 


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The Tiger Lillies pave the way for touring in Ukraine

The Tiger Lillies have paved the way for international acts to tour Ukraine with their recent performances in Lviv and Kyiv.

The British trio, whose latest album Ukraine is inspired by the war, are thought to be the first international act to play full-scale concerts since the Russian invasion last year.

Frontman Martyn Jacques told the Financial Times that the concerts at Lviv’s FESTrepublic and Kyiv’s Caribbean Club “were probably the most amazing concerts we’ve ever done”.

Having previously played in Ukraine, including in 2014 after the Maidan Revolution and Crimea’s annexation by Russia, the Tiger Lillies were invited to return by the same promoter, Yougin Kibets.

“Tiger Lillies will be my breakthrough to write to a lot of agents, saying that you can see we did our first live show”

Kibets – who used to promote about 70 shows, mostly with non-Ukrainian acts – hopes the band’s performances (which were paid) will attract other foreign acts: “Tiger Lillies will be my breakthrough to write to a lot of agents, saying that you can see we did our first live show.”

Though the Tiger Lillies are the first foreign act to deliver a fully-fledged gig, Ukraine has seen pop-up performances from the likes of U2’s Bono and The Edge, Slovakian musician and Pohoda festival founder Michal Kaščák, US video game composer Paul Romero and British hip-hop stalwarts Stereo MC’s.

Ukraine’s music industry is starting back up and fans are hungry for live entertainment, according to locals, but it’s still far from business as usual in the war-torn country.

Concerts usually finish by 10:30 pm due to a midnight curfew in most parts of the country and are sometimes interrupted by air raids; audiences and artists have diminished due to emigration and recruitment for the armed services; the logistics for international acts visiting the country are complex and dangerous.

“But if you have an audience there and they haven’t seen you play for a long time, then I think people should go,” says bassist Adrian Stout.

 


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Pohoda’s Kaščák pleads for more Ukraine support

Slovak promoter Michal Kaščák has spoken exclusively to IQ about his recent visits to war-torn Ukraine and he wants to remind people that those risking their lives to protect their homeland “are fighting for all of us”.

Pohoda Festival organiser Kaščák says he first visited the neighbouring country last December for a project organised by the Ukrainian Association of Music Events as part of the Music Saves UA initiative, realised in collaboration with the Night Ambassadors team from the city of Lviv.

“After that trip I decided I had to try to do more, so I’ve now been on personal trips to Kherson and other cities in south eastern Ukraine,” explains Kaščák.

Not content with helping Ukrainian crew, artists and musicians with securing work at festivals and events around Europe, Kaščák understood that people in the country who are simply trying to get on with their everyday lives are also in need of cultural entertainment, and as a result, he and his band, Bez Ladu A Skladu, undertook their own endeavours to play live shows in the besieged country.

“This is not just some Russians on an Imperial adventure in the neighbouring country. This is an attack on our civilisation and our values”

“It was very important and an honour for us to play there, so in May we played two shows in Kyiv – at a recording studio and on an open air stage next to Peppers club – and we also recorded a live video at the Olympic Stadium.”

Indeed, he reveals, “We are thinking about going back in autumn, again. People in Kyiv, they are doing their best to live as normal life as possible. But the whole country is in war now and even Kyiv is bombarded nearly every day. So there are many restrictions, many rules they have to follow. But I think that it’s very important not just to bring artists and people from Ukraine to our country’s our cities, but also to go there to show the support in the country.”

While Kaščák has integrated multiple Ukrainian elements into Pohoda Festival, which takes place 6-8 July, he would like to see others stepping up to support those enduring the everyday reality of life in Ukraine.

In addition to Ukrainian acts on the Pohoda line-up, the festival will see the Slovak National Theatre orchestra premiere new compositions by three young composers from Ukraine. “We also have debates, we have guests in literature, we have stands from Ukraine and also from Slovakia who are dealing with some of the issues caused by the war. And we’re also collecting money to pay for two ambulances, which on 17 July we are driving to the frontline to give to the soldiers fighting for Ukraine’s freedom.”

“It’s not a special war operation: it’s genocide – one country trying to destroy another nation”

Asked what he thinks the live music community can do to help, Kaščák says, “We should all speak more about it; we should use the power of our events, the power of our art, power of anything to try to change the approach to Ukraine. We should be more focused on what’s going on there and speak more about it as that creates pressure on our politicians.

“I’m afraid that people will come to the stage where we will think that the war is a normal part of our lives, as it’s not in our countries, it’s not so painful, and it’s not so horrible. But people in Ukraine dream about freedom. They can see absolutely clearly that it’s not a special war operation: it’s genocide – one country trying to destroy another nation.

“I know that European countries and the United States also have their own problems, but Ukraine is fighting for all of our freedom. There were similar happenings in the beginning of the Second World War and then it lasted seven years. So we cannot wait. This is not just some Russians on an Imperial adventure in the neighbouring country. This is an attack on our civilisation and our values. So we should all try to be more active.”

Kascak says that travelling to the Ukraine is not as difficult as people might imagine. “You cannot fly there, so my first three visits, I travelled by train, and it’s amazing how the railway works in Ukraine. When Kherson was liberated, the day after they sent the first normal train and now, they are working daily.

“People in in our countries can’t imagine sending your kids to school, and you are not sure if they will come back”

“On the last visit with the band we were travelling by van mainly through Western Ukraine and it looked like normal countries in Eastern Europe. The travelling itself was not so difficult. It maybe took a longer time, but it was worthwhile to do it.” But he adds that for the five band members who made the trip, “It was one of the most important events in our personal lives and of course in the history of our band.”

As a punk outfit, Bez Ladu A Skladu had numerous battles with Czechoslovakia’s communist regime in the 1980s, and they continued to be vociferous champions of human rights following the Velvet Revolution.

But Kaščák says the experience of visiting Ukraine hit hard with his fellow bandmates as parents.

“People in in our countries can’t imagine sending your kids to school, and you are not sure if they will come back. But the Ukrainians need to live life as normally as possible, so they do it and they do it with a bravery which I haven’t seen anywhere on the planet till today.”

“The targets of the bombs are not military complexes, it’s cultural places – the strongest part of identity of Ukrainians”

Urging everyone to help elevate the plight of Ukraine in the political agenda, Kaščák contends that the missiles and drone bombs are deliberately targeting cultural hubs and institutions.

“I have never seen such a strong connection between art and people and human rights like in Ukraine,” states Kaščák. “In Kherson, the city was being bombarded so much they don’t use warning sirens anymore because they would just be on air all the time. But when we walked around Kherson with the chief of the theatre, everyone was asking him when the theatre will start to play again.

“This connection with culture is such a strong part of the identity of Ukrainians – and the aggressors know that – they target the city halls, they target the schools and they target the theatres. I saw it for myself in Kherson. The targets of the bombs are not military complexes, it’s cultural places – the strongest part of identity of Ukrainians. But someone is not accepting the existence of another nation and another people, so that’s why it’s very important for us to deal with it in a more straight way, and to speak about it more and more.”

Bez Ladu A Skladu’s video from the Olympic Stadium can be seen here.


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Ukraine’s Atlas venue joins Liveurope

Kyiv’s Atlas has become the first Ukrainian venue to join Liveurope after the European Union-backed association hosted its ninth annual celebration of Europe Day through music.

The 9 May event, which also served as a fundraiser for Music Saves UA humanitarian appeal, brought audiences together to celebrate European values and pay tribute to Ukraine’s music scene.

It started with an intervention by the head of the Mission of Ukraine to the EU, Vsevolod Chentsov, followed by a conversation with two Ukrainian culture professionals, who provided first-hand insights into the current state of the music sector in Ukraine.

“We created Liveurope out of an appetite to make music venues ambassadors for European values.,” says Elise Phamgia, Liveurope’s coordinator. “By celebrating Ukrainian music on Europe Day, we hope to show the power of music to build bridges between our shared cultures”.

The evening concluded with performances by two Ukrainian bands, made possible through the collaborative efforts of hosting venue Ancienne Belgique and Atlas.

“As Ukraine’s accession to the EU draws closer, our collaboration with Liveurope will foster a sense of unity across borders”

“This Europe Day event was about the contribution of Ukraine to European culture,” says Vsevolod Chentsov, head of the Mission of Ukraine to the EU. “It is very important that Ukrainian culture organisations like Atlas get integrated into European cultural landscapes.”

The collaboration with Atlas served as a first step to integrate the venue in the Liveurope platform, with Liveurope announcing that the Ukrainian venue is joining its platform of concert halls as an associate member. As a result, Atlas will get direct access to a network of like-minded venues and in the long run, receive support for programming European acts in Kyiv.

Liveurope now houses 23 leading European concert venues, all committed to promoting music diversity and supporting the next generation of European musicians.

“We are thrilled to be joining Liveurope as its first Ukrainian representative,” adds Vlad Yaremchuck, Atlas’ artistic director. “As Ukraine’s accession to the EU draws closer, our collaboration with Liveurope will foster a sense of unity across borders and it is highly symbolic that this announcement came the same day when Ukraine celebrated Europe Day officially for the first time”

 


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Liveurope reveals Ukraine Europe Day tribute

Venues association Liveurope has announced the ninth edition of its Europe Day celebrations will be a tribute to Ukraine.

Liveurope founding member Ancienne Belgique is joining forces with Kyiv music venue Atlas to present three emerging Ukrainian artists – Cepasa, Ragapop and The Lazy Jesus – at the 9 May event at the Brussels, Belgium venue’s AB Club.

Attendees will be invited to make a voluntary donation, with all proceeds going directly to the Music Saves UA humanitarian appeal. Each €10 collected will finance one humanitarian box providing food for one person for an entire week. The boxes will be mainly distributed in Kherson, the biggest city liberated by Ukrainian forces since the start of the war.

“Since 2015, we have built on this public holiday to bring Europe closer to our audiences by organising our own Europe Day festivities,” says Ancienne Belgique’s general manager Tom Bonte. “This year, we naturally came to focus on Ukraine, as its scene is great source of inspiration for us all.”

“We hope this is just the beginning of a lasting relationship with Liveurope and its venues”

Before the concerts begin, Liveurope, an EU-backed association of 22 music venues, will host a panel discussion with key Ukrainian music professionals to discuss their challenges on the ground and their hopes for the future, as well as the importance of European cooperation. The conversation will be followed by invite-only networking open to cultural operators, representatives of the European institutions and media professionals.

“We hope this is just the beginning of a lasting relationship with Liveurope and its venues,” adds Vlad Yaremchuk, Atlas’ artistic director and Music Saves UA partnership manager. “We are fighting this war for our very European futures, and the support we have been receiving shows us that we are not alone. We are touched to host such an event in the heart of Europe in collaboration with a world-renowned venue like Ancienne Belgique.”

The event is co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the EU and is endosed by the Cultural Creators Friendship Group, a cross-partisan coalition of 28 members of the European Parliament from six political groups and 14 countries.

 


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