Why do people organise festivals? What makes them form groups of like-minded people to do an enormous amount of work and show their skills and talents in public?
Let’s see. Some people might decide that the Church apparently blesses an event aimed at entertainment. Actually, it’s the purpose that the organisers and the participants of the Festival have that determines whether the event is solely “for fun” or has edifying value.
Of course, if a festival is just an excuse for reckless and irresponsible partying, it can’t be justified. But what if a festival turns into a pulpit for preaching the Gospel?
That’s exactly what the Heart 2 Heart Festival team attempts to do. They want to show the beautiful Orthodox culture and art, along with the unique Slavic traditions, to a contemporary European, who is hard to surprise.
Nowadays, there are more and more people who are tired of and fed up with the mass culture. They complain about it in social media and other online platforms. Sometimes they mention this fact while talking with their friends. Even if people don’t realise it, they are looking for the Christian ideals of beauty and harmony. Only the things that comply with their natural purpose, i.e., God’s plan, can be truly beautiful.
This is the kind of beauty that the organisers of Heart 2 Heart Festival want to share with European public. Sometimes even a small push in the right direction is enough to set a person on the right track.
Our desire to “share the beauty” is backed by months of rehearsals, meticulous work of the Convent’s workshops, sleepless nights spent writing the scenarios, and enduring the painstaking visa application. The most crucial factor that keeps the Festival afloat is the sisters’ daily prayer, which precedes all good undertakings of St Elisabeth Convent.
“There are countless colourful and exciting events going on in London on any given day,” Nickolai Storozhenko, one of the Festival organisers, says. “What can we bring to this mix? We would like to make a feast for the people and to show them the beauty of living with God. Our contribution is in our hearts and our eyes. If people can see the light, goodness, and warmth emanating through them, our mission will be accomplished.”
Indeed, even strong logical arguments presented by Apostle Paul were unsuccessful with the wise men of Athens at Areopagus: And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified, so that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1 Cor. 2: 1, 2, 5).
This alternative witness is more effective even today. We preach from heart to heart and our testimony does not require rational arguments. When people see a sister wearing her habit, it’s already enough to testify about Christ and about the fact that there are people who prefer service to their neighbours to their own personal interest.
A girl from Ireland came to Minsk not long ago in order to study icon painting in St Elisabeth Convent after she had seen works by our icon painters during our Festival in Dublin. She had visited our workshop sessions in Dublin, too. Currently, her family has become good friends of the Convent and helps us to organise new festivals.
Who knows, perhaps this year someone else will be inspired by the beauty of Byzantine mosaic? It’s just one example. There are more and more new friends of our Festival in various cities across Europe. Three years after we launched this project, 10 000 people in Berlin, London, Vienna, Belgrade, and Dublin have already visited our Festival.
Our project is moving forward. We’re heading to London in just a week. Long travels, borders, and sleepless nights await us. However, we will overcome all hardships by enjoying the work that we do and conversations with new friends.
This year, there will be two Festival locations in London: the Representative Office of Rossotrudnichestvo in Great Britain on July 3-6 and St Sava Serbian Orthodox Church on July 4-8.
The Festival programme is very diverse and includes workshop sessions on icon painting, ancient mosaic, and folk crafts, photo exhibitions, and drama performances.
Mosaic artists from St Elisabeth Convent (Minsk) will share the secrets of ancient artists. Their works are located in churches in Belarus, Russia, Greece, and other countries. Anyone will learn the basics of smalt mosaic assembly and the technology of mosaic art in just a couple of hours.
Traditional Belarusian crafts never fail to interest the visitors. They enjoy workshop sessions on weaving traditional Belarusian belts, painting wooden souvenirs, straw-plaiting, and making Belarusian dolls.
There will also be an exciting Children’s Programme. For instance, Batleika Puppet Theatre will show the young audience the battle between the good and the evil from the beginning to the happy end.
“Hearty Evenings” are a new format at the festival. The visitors will see funny shows and exchanges in the atmosphere of an old Belarusian hut. They will also receive an opportunity to talk with the participants of Heart 2 Heart Festival in an informal setting.
A concert of church music by the Monastic Choir of St Elisabeth Convent, which will happen in East Cowes, a town on the northern shore of the Isle of Wight on July 6, deserves special attention. The Choir will also sing at divine liturgies on Saturday and Sunday.
Places & Times:
The choir’s visit is part of the events that mark the 100th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Romanov Family and the Holy Martyr Grand Princess Elisabeth (Romanova), who was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the British Empire.
The Choir will have a concert of two parts in East Cowes. The first part of the concert will feature worship chants. They are based on ancient chants of the Russian singing tradition, e.g., znamenny, Valamo, Bulgarian chants, as well as Macedonian and Byzantine chants. Some chants will be sung in a unique harmonisation done by Nun Juliania (Denisova) who is the precentor of this choir.
The second part of the concert will contain spiritual songs, canticles, folk songs, and Christmas carols.
The Anniversary Programme on the Isle of Wight will include joint worship services and lectures, along with exhibitions and presentations based on rare photos and cinema footage about the life of the Royal Family of Romanovs, and about the visits of the Russian Royal Family to the United Kingdom.
The events in honour of the Russian Royal Family on the Isle of Wight are organised by Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov (GDER) Society, established in 2015 by several historians and activists. GDER purports to make this amazing woman, who was a Russian Orthodox saint, a German princess, and an ethnic Briton, and whose statue stands at the entrance of Westminster Abbey, better known to the general public.
Heart 2 Heart Festival helps to raise funds for charitable projects of St Elisabeth Convent in Minsk. A sale of products made in the workshops of St Elisabeth Convent will be open daily during the Festival. You will get the chance to purchase ceramic items, mosaics, icons, souvenirs, herbal products, teas and balms, church supplies, stained glass products, clothes made of natural fabrics, and a lot more. Anything you buy will be a contribution to the cause of the social ministry and development of the Convent.
For the last five years, the Convent of Saint Elisabeth has been hosting a self-help group, offering support and guidance for the relatives of sufferers from substance abuse. Recently, it also began to work with individuals in co-dependent relationships.