The project initiators — "Krai" and "Concerned Starokostiantyniv" NGOs — hoped to attract public and municipal attention to the issues of preservation and exploitation of architectural monuments, specifically, castles.

The problems faced in the preservation of our extant Ukraine historical heritage is highly relevant. The castles in both these cities are included in the national registry of historic monuments and have fascinating histories face similar challenges to their preservation.

Brody (Lviv region)

The castle complex in Brody sees use for educational purposes — housing part of a school, a museum exhibition hall and a library. Despite this the rest of the castle is in disrepair.

The casemates and castle vaults are dilapidated. It hosts events on occasion, but rarely attracts any tourists because it's so unappealing. The castle, however, is integral to the system depicted on the town's coat of arms — the ideal fortified city.

Starokostiantyniv, Khmelnytskyi region

Starokostiantyniv's Ostrozky Castle is more an administrative institution than a cultural centre. It offers few cultural activities and is of low interest to tourists. The head of the centre asserts that there is a lack of community awareness of the castle's value and that local residents don't go there on excursions and have shown little interest in the monument's history.

Vasyl Strilchuk, CEO "Krai" NGO

During the CHOICE programme strategic planning sessions were held and participants identified the castle as the focal point for the preservation and development of the town's cultural heritage. It was this idea that gave shape to our "Castles Come Alive!" project, by which we would bring the community up to date on the importance of preserving architectural monuments. This idea was found in our project "What the Locks Live", with which we wanted to inform the community about the importance of preserving architectural monuments.

We got to know the director of Concerned Starokostiantyniv, Serhii Khudyi, during the CHOICE: Cultural Heritage and Modernity project. We noticed that their organisation was busy with the issue of preservation of the castle in their town and they had made some progress. It was also important that Starokostiantyniv was located so close to Brody, which made everything easier logistically.

The most involved event in this project was the organising of the two-day "Castles Come Alive!" festival that involved several stages:

— an organisation of plein air artists from the Kyiv National University of Art & Design assemble in Brody. The group produces 90 paintings;

— announcement of the short film competitions;

— CastleFest opens in Brody on 5 August with a programme offering a painting exhibition, concerts, film competition screenings and awards;

— on 18 August a second festival event — KinoFest — is held in Starokostiantyniv. Film screenings and awards for the film competition are supplemented by master classes, art therapy sessions, quests for kids, a retro photo exhibit and castle excursions;

— a final conference in Starokostiantyniv entitled "Brody — Starokostiantyniv: Prospects for Cooperation".

We didn't expect to receive so many applications for the film competition — more than 50 — and that in large part from an initiative by youth and school-age children. We were validated in our belief that people are always ready to join in and help with a worthy project.

Apart from the short film competition we produced a popular-research 10-minute film — "Castles Come Alive! Brody — Starokostiantyniv", which is available in both Ukrainian and English.

In response to our initiative the City Council proclaimed 2018 the Year of Brody Castle, ushering in a new approach to working with historical monuments in our city. Of symbolical significance, this coincided with the 430th anniversary of the first historic record of the castle.

The city council began to promote our effort and to help us, attracting the attention of the public utility, which plans to install lighting on the castle grounds. We were able to attract crowds to our events, round-tables and festival gatherings who had never attended this sort of thing before.

The town has benefitted with its development furthered by a new cooperative working relationship between the City Council and civic organisers.

And yet we made sure that in small towns, getting partners involved and convincing them to support the project financially is helped by the fact that they've probably heard about the organisation and its accomplishments, the positive work it's done. If your activity is transparent and you have some achievements you can point to, then go to people directly, tell them what you're planning, and say you need funding to make it happen.

The future of castles

We'd like to bring the project to its logical conclusion and so we're working to draw greater interest to the castle and looking to fund its restoration.

At Brody we need to start with some basic improvements: cleaning the grounds, sealing off access points and improving site safety in order to incentivise the City Council that the job is worth pursuing. With the approach of spring and summer we're looking to continue this work, putting the territory in good order and installing doors in the gun casemate (currently there are bars in place) and installing lighting.

In Starokostiantyniv, a slightly different situation applies. Housed in Ostrozky Castle is the Starokostiantyniv Historical Cultural Centre and Museum. The edifice isn't in the best condition, but it's vital and the institution located there assists its slow, steady development.

Photo Credits: "Krai" and "Concerned Starokostiantyniv" NGOs