Forgotten places brought to multi-media life

TWO places that the world has largely forgotten are brought to life in remarkable multi-media presentations at Salisbury Festival – Zvizdal, on 1st and 2nd June, looks at the lives of two people who stayed in the fall-out zone from Chernobyl, and Imber: You Walk Through, from 5th to 8th June evokes the experience of the Salisbury Plain village that for more than 70 years has been an army training site.

Salisbury International Arts Festival is marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War with a unique multimedia experience about a couple who refused to leave the fall-out zone from one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents.

On the night of 26th April 1986, the failure of an atomic experiment and the subsequent explosion of one of the reactors at Chernobyl caused a drastic change in the lives of the people living in and around the city of Pripyat. About 90 towns and villages in a radius of 30km around the reactor were evacuated. The inhabitants left their houses never to return.

Petro and Nadia, a married couple born and raised in the village of Zvizdal, refused to be evacuated and refused a newly offered house. They preferred to stay put in their own house in their old village, which became a ghost town. All their acquaintances left; houses were overgrown by nature; all utilities and services were closed so there was no electricity, no phone – and no buses. The nearest living soul was more than 13km away.

In May 2011, production company BERLIN met the old couple – both well into their 80s by this time. It was the start of an annual visit by the film-makers.

Zvizdal, presented at the Five Rivers Health and Wellbeing Centre, features a film recorded over four seasons, from 2011 to 2015, following the couple through their daily lives and chronicling life after 25 years of solitude in the fall-out zone.

It will be projected onto to a double-sided screen with additional shots projected into three scale models of the couple’s dwelling beneath the screen.

The Imber film is an audio-visual experience, commissioned by Wiltshire Creative, with its premiere in a pop-up city centre venue.

The village of Imber in Wiltshire is seven miles from any town. An inhabited village until 1943, now a British Army/MoD close combat training ground, Imber is open to the public for a few days each year.

Directed by Wiltshire Creative associate director Jo Newman, the presentation combines film captured and created by Rachel Bunce; spoken word written and performed by Francesca Millican Slater; original composition and sound design by Helen Skiera; and 3D architectural rendering of the original village from Chris Bayly.

Imber: You Walk Through will enable audiences to experience the stories, history, wildlife, sights and sounds of Imber past and present.

Jo Newman says: “I’ve been wanting to make this project ever since I first visited Imber four years ago – it’s such an atmospheric place and a real collision of worlds. Imber is close to many people’s hearts. Its legacy has been kept alive through the passion of a few individuals, an important part of Wiltshire’s history and an actively occupied training ground highly valued by the MoD; serving personnel from all over the world come to train on this site.”

Lt Col Stewart Andrews, Defence Infrastructure Organisation’s senior training safety officer says: “Working with Wiltshire Creative to bring Imber village to life has offered an ideal opportunity for the MoD to engage with the local community and promote safe and legal public use of the Salisbury Plain Training Area.”

For more information or to book for both events, visit