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John Bailey about the book Interesting Kyiv

Interview with John Bailey, director, winner of the Cannes Lions, and editor of the book Interesting Kyiv.

Please, tell us when and why you moved to Kyiv?

I first came to Kyiv in 1998 to become Creative Director of McCann Erickson, Kyiv, a multinational advertising agency.

How did you find Kyiv then? How do you find it now? What do you like it and what don’t?

Strange! The communist way of thinking – we do everything as a group and take no individual responsibility – was very strong then. It’s still present today. But people were so eager to learn – and very open and friendly. I have never felt resented as a foreigner in Ukraine – which I have in other countries I have worked in.

What would you recommend to see in Kyiv to a foreigner for the first place?

It depends on the time of year. In the summer – Pyrohiv [National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life]. In the winter – the Lavra where you can be indoors!

Please tell us a few words about the book that you’ve been working. What is the difference between other books like that? What do you like in it and what do you not?

The amount of detail. I remember the first time I went to Crimea (although we don’t go there now) and searched for a detailed guide book on the palaces and there was nothing. Just picture books. You can carry this book round Kyiv and dip in and out of it as you see things and always find some interesting information about virtually everything. From the tram, you might be traveling on to the chicken Kyiv you have for lunch.

What should we take into confederation for the second edit?

Well… now and again I would find myself describing something in detail and then – ‘it was blown up/destroyed/knocked down in 1956’ – whenever. I don’t know how easy it is for you to find historic pictures but I felt that some picture spreads that show ‘How it was then/how it is now’ would add a lot of interest.

What Kyiv symbols which are described in the book are the most interesting on your opinion (TOP 10)?

This is highly personal you understand but – in no particular order:

* The military museum [State aviation museum]

* The history of the trams and trolleybuses

* The small railway that shows children how to run a railway

* The funicular

* The Kyiv sea

* The Dnieper

* The World famous Ukrainians – Sikorsky, Bulgakov for instance

* How Kyiv came to be here

* The famous and unusual houses

* Mother Russia statue [The Motherland monument]

What objects shouldn’t be put into this book?

As I said earlier – unless you have an historical picture, describing something that is no longer there is not, for me, very interesting. Ditto long detailed lists of architects, assistant architects, party chairman, painters and electricians (of course I exaggerate!) of the time etc don’t add a lot for me.

What would you change if you become the mayor of Kyiv? How do you see Kyiv in the future?

Cleaning the pavements of ice in the winter. Residents are used to it but even they fall over. I wouldn’t like to guess how many broken arms, wrists, legs, and ankles there are every year. Not much of Kyiv is flat and it is really dangerous. And the older you get the more frightening it is.

How would you develop this book project about Kyiv? I would be happy if you give some advice.

I think my main points are contained in previous questions:

* More ‘then and now’ picture spreads

* Less details about who designed and built something

* If it is not there anymore or we can’t see it in a picture then keep any description to an absolute minimum

Please, tell some facts about yourself, about Cann Lions, your plans for the future.

Cannes Lions were a long, long time ago when I was a different person with different priorities – my life in London advertising is a distant memory. The second half of my advertising life which has included living and working in Kenya in Africa, in Warsaw and here in Kyiv has been much more interesting. Can you work and succeed in a society very different from your own? That has been the big adventure – and ultimately far more rewarding than winning some advertising award. Of course – it was very important at the time; but not now? My plan for the future is to stay alive as long as possible! I have a Ukrainian wife to look after. And her Mum and Dad too!

Maybe I haven’t ask you a question you would like to answer, if you have one what would you ask?

It’s a rhetorical question. I’ve often wondered why – faced with a task or a problem – Ukrainians will invariably choose the most complicated and difficult way of solving it.

KISS – ‘Keep it simple stupid’ – rarely applies in Ukraine. Now that is part of your charm – but it drives me crazy sometimes!

March 2019