Serbian Month in Great Britain is organised and hosted by the Serbian Council in the UK, offering a range of Serbian cultured events from: music to art, drama to sports and film to folk dancing, all of which could not have happened at a more convenient time for our research project. However, the event that we took significant interest in was, ‘An Evening with acclaimed Serbian Writer Uroš Petrović, Reading – Serbian School and Serbian Council of Great Britain’. This event was to take place in both London and Reading on the 6th – 7th February, making this a very last minute opportunity for us to take up as I had only found out about Serbian Month earlier in that same week. Nevertheless, other members of the group along with myself felt that this was something we should take advantage of and decided to attend this event in Reading.
The first thing we decided on was who would be attending this event and be representing our group. As Petrović is an acclaimed writer and the first author to have his novel turned into the first 3D film in Serbia, it made sense and was of particular interest for Rajinder, Harpreet and myself. We all knew that we wanted to gain as much information possible and take advantage of this event to the best of our ability. Therefore, we emailed the woman hosting this particular event to ask if it would be possible to interview Petrović and any other staff working on the event. To our surprise, she emailed back almost immediately expressing her gratitude that we wanted to attend the event and expressed that it would be a pleasure for us to interview Petrović.
In preparation for our interview, the three of us set about conducting research into Petrović’s biography, his work and awards so that we could write constructive interview questions. Petrović is best known for his writing of children’s horror and mystery novels. He was the first author to write for the children’s horror genre in Serbia and has most recently (December 2014) had one of his books, The Fifth Butterfly, turned into the first 3D film in Serbia. Petrović has won many awards for his novels, the most recent ones being: Rade Obrenovic Award, Best Children’s Novel (2013) ‘Children Of Bestragija’. In addition to his writing, Petrović is a renowned photographer; Chairman of the Serbian MENSA (2008-2013) and founding member of the Menza World Photo Cup.
We arrived at the event about fifteen minutes before it started so that we could get acquainted with the host and how the day was going to run. Mirjana greeted us at the door, explained the itinerary and introduced us to Uros Petrović. Within moments of meeting Petrović, he had handed us the magazine ‘Metropol’ December 2012 edition, containing a 30-page spread interview on him and his work. Although he did not clearly explain why he had handed this to us, we gathered that it was so that we could understand his answering style and to see the questions he had been asked in the past.
Unbeknownst to us, everyone at the event knew exactly who we were and were eager to talk to us and find out why we were so interested in, what was to them, a small cultural Serbian community event. The events were delivered mainly in Serbian, however every time there was a new section of the itinerary starting, we were officially informed and it was delivered in English. The first event of the day was delivered by the children of the Serbian school – a short play based upon farmyard animals, poems and nursery rhymes again following the comedic route (from what we can gather) accompanied with Serbia music, preformed by themselves.
Our next adventure for the day was Petrović’s workshop. The teacher of the school, where the event was being held, explained what was going on whilst Petrović was delivering his talk. Petrović is known for his love of riddles and this was a major part of his work today. Although we could not understand what was being said for the majority of the time, the children’s and audiences participation and laugher response made it clear that Petrović is a very comedic and well received man. The atmosphere of the room made all three of us still enjoy this workshop.
Petrović was selling a variety of his books at this event, unfortunatley none printed in English, though we were lucky enough to get to discuss with the seller about Petrović’s style of humour. She expressed that he is a very philosophical man who loves to get people thinking in order to solve his riddles and puzzles. She further developed her explanation by explaining that Petrović has a brilliant sense of humour that entices the audience inwards. The conclusion that we drew upon after these two displays was that sarcasm is a big part of Serbian humour. In fact it appeared similar to ours and proved an excellent way to draw in audiences of all ages.
The interview with Petrović was our last event for the day but, unfortunately, was cut short. Continuation of this interview at a later date is being arranged. All interview information will be posted in a separate post.
We also had the chance to interact and talk to other guests throughout the day. We found it especially beneficial when talking to Lazic as he recommended a Serbian film that we should watch before visiting Serbia in helping benefit our research project – Cinema Komunisto.
The day was not only successful in starting the initial interview with Petrović but we also managed to secure further contact details from other Serbian people working at the event. These include one man filming the event, the teacher’s son (who works for the BBC) and Petrović’s personal contact information too, so that we can continue with the interview over email or Skype.
Charlotte, Rajinder and Harpreet.