Being the Country Manager of Fryday Ukraine, an international networking of business professionals responsible for organizing for more than 100 events per year in the country, Mr. Sam Kearley has witnessed many changes here in Ukraine. Nevertheless Kyiv has become his home.
How long have you lived in Ukraine?
I first arrived in Ukraine in the summer of 2012 and have been happily living here ever since.
How has the social scene changed during your time in Kyiv?
When I first arrived Kyiv was preparing to co-host the EURO2012 football tournament. It just so happened Sweden had drawn to play all three of their group stage games in Kyiv. What followed was a two-week love affair between the residents of the Ukrainian capital and an army of 30,000+ goodnatured Swedish fans. The atmosphere on Khreschatyk and Maidan was just spectacular! But then, not much more than one year later, the same streets were back in international headlines, but with something far more sobering; Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity - a gruelling 3 month struggle by the people of Ukraine to rid themselves of a corrupted, pro-Kremlin stooge of a President. Only a few days after the Revolution was over, Russia sent their army into Ukraine, first annexing the Crimean peninsula then conducting a full-blown invasion of eastern Ukraine. These events had detrimental affects and an early vicim was the economy. In early 2014 Ukrainian’s local currency began to tank and went onto loose 3 times it’s value. With GDP per capita the lowest in recent history Kyiv was quiet, partying was not a priority. But there was something else had changed too; you could feel more ambition and innovation, and a lot more patriotism. By the end of 2015 the economy was showing some positive signs and there were a lot of cool projects gaining momentum. Now in 2017 there is loads of really great stuff happening in Kyiv; many popular trends including street-food, mixology, live jazz and craft beer have evolved into major movements. Now we see busy calendars filled with plenty of well-produced events and occasions.
What can you say about the expat community in Kyiv?
Kyiv is home to expats from all-over the world; the international community here is truly diverse. But, one thing which I think makes our expat community unique is the level of patriotism and commitment to Ukraine felt by many of it’s members. Usually international expats fulfil a 4 or 5 year contract and move on, but things can work differently here in Ukraine; it becomes home. Many of Ukraine’s best expats first arrived here in the 1990s and now it’s impossible to get rid of them!
What do foreigners expect from their holidays in Kyiv? What kind of entertainment are they looking for?
I think that largely depends on individual circumstance. Generally though it seems Kyiv always gives more than expected. One of the reasons for this probably has something to do with the fact that the majority people outside of Ukraine know very little about the country, it’s culture and it’s people. Ukraine has not done a particularly good job of promoting itself overseas. So when travellers arrive here for the first time they are not really sure what to expect. This was certainly the case for me back in 2012, and the same for my family and friends who have visited over the years. The end-result always seems to be the same; everyone leaves with a new love - Ukraine.
How does entertainment in Ukraine compare to the U.K and America?
Comparing Kyiv to cities like L.A. and London is like comparing the Olympic Games to the annual ‘Sports Day’ at my former high school… They are completely unbalanced financially, and in terms of international awareness and recognition. They are incomparable. However I can say that events in Ukraine are certainly getting bigger. We are seeing more international artists coming to Ukraine for the first time; this summer has bought some big bands including the Foals, Marylyn Manson and the Kooks; also world-class DJs - Terrence Parker, Rudimental and Die Vögel. The recent ‘Atlas Weekend’ music festival, now in it’s third year, really stepped things up; previously there were very few international artists but this year we enjoyed live sets from the Prodigy, John Newman and Kasabain to mention a few; coming from UK where festival culture is huge I am really happy to see events of this size taking place in Kyiv and am excited to watch as the industry develops further.
Interviewed by Anna Vishtak
Photo credits: Fryday Kyiv events 2016 / 2017