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Words As Salvation – first national literature contest for the blind

Words As Salvation – first national literature contest for the blind

News about the project initiative of the Alma Alter theatre-laboratory at sofia University were shared with the general public and visually impaired people via Bulgarian National Radio broadcasts and posts on social groups in November 2020. Blind and partially sighted people were given the opportunity to send up to three unpublished works within two weeks in the end of December. Two workshops on creative writing and editing were carried out in January 2021. Due to antivirus measures, online access to the workshops with Nikolay Georgiev, regarded as father of the avant-garde and improvisational theatre in Bulgaria, and the national award-winning poet, journalist and critic Marin Bodakov, was provided for the contestants. Some of the works were read aloud by an actress at the university theatre and discussed during those sessions. The participants were then given two weeks to edit their works, if they wanted to do so, and send them again for assessment by a honorary jury consisting of five distinguished persons. The Head of the jury was Prof. Boyan Biolchev, former President of Sofia University. The poet Petar Chuhov, Valya Sotirova (curator at Geo Milev’s House Museum), the actor Stoil Atanasov and the writer Georgi Bardarov were the other four members of the jury. They all voted anonymously in order to select the winning works.
The results of the voting were announced on March 16, 2021, during an evening ceremony at the university theatre, which began at 7:30 pm. The Thhird Prize and €250 went to Annie Kovacheva for her short story,written as a love letter, entitled I Am Leaving. Ivan Yanev – Ministry of Education expert, Chairperson of the Bulgarian Sports Federation for the Blind, publicist and novelist – was awarded the Second Prize and €350 for his post-Balkan war short story A Second Hole in the Overcoat. A special Public Award was given to Mihail Nedkov – musician and songwriter – for his somewhat mysterious short story, entitled Marta. The First Prize and €500 went to Ivan Karastoyanov for his poem In Hostage of the Night. Some of the best works sent for the contest were published in a Braille collection and distributed to rehabilitation and local centres for the blind.
Before the results were announced, the four winning works had been adapted into plays, directed by Nikolay Georgiev and performed by the actors Petia Yosifova-Hunkins (choreographer), Georgi Arsov (pop rock singer and musician), Marko Dzhenev, Andriyan Asenov (blind imitator, winner of Bulgaria’s Got Talent 2019), Monika Metodieva (blind musician and pop singer) and Valeria Dimitrova (PR). Their performance was streamed live on Facebook and later on shared on the Alma Alter‘s channel on YouTube.
The project was implemented in partnership with the ‚Louis Braille 1928‘ National Library for the Blind and the ‚Eyes on For Paws‘ Foundation (the school for guide-dogs) with financial support from the Socially Engaged Arts programme of the National Culture Fund.
‘in these strange times of world pandemic, we had no choice but to develop a project that was not only creative and artistic, but socially engaging, too‘, said Petia Yosifova at the ceremony.
‘That was my favorite project‘, posted Valeria Dimitrova on her facebook profile later on.