The Chernobyl fallout zone isn’t an obvious summer destination – but for festival fans, that’s about to change. Chernobyling, a three-day festival beginning on 31 August 2018, aims to bring life back to the site of the world’s most famous nuclear disaster.
‘Chernobyl’ became a byword for nuclear catastrophe after an uncontrolled explosion on 26 April 1986, the result of a failed safety test at the power plant in Ukraine. The accident was classified as ‘level seven’ on the International Nuclear Event Scale (there is no ‘level eight’). More than 32 years later, several tour companies guide visitors around Pripyat, a town that was evacuated after the explosion. Dominik Orfanus, founder of CHERNOBYLwel.com – which organises guided tours in Chernobyl – came up with the idea of a festival after seeing tourists interact with power plant workers.
‘Tourists wanted to know about the life of a worker in Chernobyl, and workers about what is interesting for tourists in an over-30-year abandoned area,’ said Dominik. ‘A festival seemed to be the best way to make this happen, and help the zone at the same time,’ he added. Proceeds from Chernobyling go to residents of Slavutych, a town purpose-built to house nuclear power plant workers and their families, and to the ‘Chernobyl babushkas’. These ‘grandmothers’ were the subject of a 2015 documentary about locals, mostly women, who refused to be evacuated from the military-established exclusion zone, a 2600 square-kilometre area of land heavily contaminated by the accident.
Chernobyling will hold events both in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and in the vicinity of the power plant. The festival will host DJs, street art demonstrations, fire shows, geocaching challenges and more than 15 rock, metal and electronic bands – including one from the Chernobyl zone. Chernobyling also aims to encourage reflection, with a minute of silence for victims of the disaster and tours and talks by international experts to educate festival-goers about Chernobyl’s impact and legacy.