As part of a special four-day long event celebrating Central Asian books and films, the mayor of Havering John Mylod cut the ribbon to open a dedicated reading corner and memorial plaque to Kazat Akmatov in the Mercury centre in Romford on 24th June. Akmatov, who died in 2015, was one of the leading Kyrgyz writers of recent years, and a prominent critic of the Soviet regime and campaigner for human rights in Kyrgyzstan.
This is the first such memorial to a Central Asian writer in the UK, and as Mayor Milod emphasized it helps create a special cultural bridge between London and Kyrgyzstan. The official opening program also included the screening of the new film Munabia by outstanding Kyrgyz director Taalaibek Kulmendeev, based on Akmatov’s celebrated novel of that name.
2021 is the 80th anniversary of Akmatov’s birth and a further series of shows, conferences and other events will be held in different countries around the world during the year. Kyrgyzstan will also issue a series of stamps dedicated to Akmatov and his contemporaries is planned to be released.
This evening celebrating Akmatov is part of twinned four day festivals in Romford, the IX Open Eurasian Book Festival and Romford/ECG Film Festival, which celebrate Eurasian books and films with entries from more than 40 Eurasian countries. To honour Akmatov, the Film Festival has announced a new Kazat Akmatov Prize, which will be awarded to the winner of a special nomination at next year’s Eurasian Film Festival in 2022.
The opening ceremony was attended by more than 40 people, including Lira Sabyrova – Counsellor of the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Officials highlighted the importance of the project in developing international cultural ties. The guests were also welcomed by the general manager of Mercury Shopping Centre Spencer Hawken, chairman of the Eurasian Creative Guild (London) John Farndon and vice chairman Marat Ahmedjanov.
The opening date of the memorial was carefully chosen. Exactly eight years ago, on 24th of June, 2013, Kazat Akmatov himself visited London as part of the Open Eurasian Literary Festival & Book Forum. Kazat Akmatov is one of the contemporaries of Chyngyz Aitmatov, and his writing on rights issues Central Asian challenged the oppression of the Soviet Union. He became a prominent campaigner for democracy in Kyrgyzstan, leading the country’s democratic movement. In 2013, Hertfordshire Press published in English translation the books “Munabiya” and “Thirteen steps towards the fate of Erika Klaus”. Later, two more books were released with the support of Eurasian Creative Guild (London) – “Howl” in 2014 and “Arhat” in 2015. A fifth book is planned in the future.
A special and much appreciated feature of the reading corner is a beautiful mural painted by local British artists Lucia Hardy and Natalie Bays, inspired by a traditional Kyrgyz pattern.