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Sofia Rivers Festival inspires green action

A series of intriguing events from 2 to 4 September on the banks of the Vladaiska River in the capital

Photo: @riversofthecity

Every transition starts with a small first step and a big belief in a better future. Martin Yankov already knows this. He is one of the bright young people who believe in change and know that they are the ones who can make it happen.

Martin graduated in Landscape Architecture from the University of Greenwich, UK. He started practicing his profession and even started his own business.Although his career was going quite well, he decided seven years later to return to Bulgaria. Today he says that this was the plan from the very beginning.

And surely it was meant to be. Just a few days after a state of emergency was declared in the country, Martin and a group of like-minded citizens, experts and institutions founded the Collective Foundation with the simple idea of organising an event on the Perlovska River in Sofia. They planned to launch several glowing boats to draw positive attention to the state of the city's rivers.

"Since then, many people united around the idea and it turned into a national initiative called "Rivers of the City", which is already happening in several cities in Bulgaria - in Ruse, Sofia, Gabrovo" - Martin continues his story for Radio Bulgaria. This is how the Rivers of Sofia was born. Its third edition begins on September 2 in and around the Vladaiska River in the capital - a festival that is much more than an event. It is part of the Green Change that every European city needs today.

"This is more of a long-term urban planning initiative. The idea is to bring together experts, institutions and businesses in a long-term vision to redefine the relationship between the city and the river. Because in many Bulgarian towns, rivers just flow through them without playing a role in the life of the town, even if they are the main source of livelihood.

Every city in the world is made around a river, and today we seem to forget about them. A city which has incorporated the river into its urban environment is a more joyful city, and that's what we're trying to showThe special thing here, in Sofia, is that these rivulets that flow through it are older than our city, its streets, than ourselves. Imagine that in the hectic everyday life of the capital you have the opportunity to walk along the river, to be able to sit and listen to the sound of the water, which is so clear that you want to dip your feet. That's why we're organising these festivals," Martin explains.

This year's edition of "Rivers of Sofia" has a variety of cultural events, musical performances, an art bazaar, installations, a modern circus and a summer cinema, all of which are entry free. All the events will take place on the banks of the Vladayska River, as well as at the level of the Lions Bridge Square. The main focus falls on cleaning the river water.

"Many of your listeners probably know that sewage flows into Sofia's rivers. This is a common problem for many European towns and cities, but more and more of them are taking action to solve it. On Friday, 2 September, we have organised a discussion. It is a good time to start talking about the problem and looking for workable solutions," says Martin Yankov.