The ISON Choir on Project 22: Novi Sad Has What No Other City in the World Has

The Inclusive Mixed Choir ISON will perform in the Svilara Cultural Station on Thursday, 17 June, at 7:30 p.m. within the Project 22. Since the entire Project 22, which is jointly implemented by the Novi Sad 2021, European Capital of Culture Foundation and the NEO Festival – a non-classical festival of classical music, is conceived as a kind of overture to the title year 2022, when the programme will be implemented in eight programme arches, the concert of the ISON Inclusive Mixed Choir will symbolically present one of them – the Second Europe.

The focus of that programme arch, which will be implemented from 4 October to 27 November 2022, is the research of different value identities from those that dominate European culture and art, and as the conductor of the ISON Inclusive Choir, Professor Miodrag Blizanac, says the choir represents what Novi Sad is and what no other city in the world has:

Honestly, I am glad that others also noticed us. Novi Sad is one of the few cities where there is such a socio-cultural everyday perspective. The mixed inclusive national choir ISON, which includes members of marginalized groups, the elderly, people with dementia, members of the Children’s Village, the ‘Veternik’ Centre for children and youth with disabilities, the Reception Centre, the Safe Children’s and Women’s House, and young people with disabilities, simply completes one of the basic and most important links of the city of Novi Sad,’ says Blizanac.

You are participating in Project 22, which will present the concept of the European Capital of Culture programme for 2022. First of all, tell us how do you like the idea of making such an overture to the title year through music, local and world performers, at several locations in the city?

I think that recognizing the ISON Inclusive Choir as a European and world trend is the right thing. ISON is the identity card of the city of Novi Sad, Serbia and Vojvodina. Through art, in many ways we show our essence or the seriousness of professionals.

How much space do people with disabilities have for presenting their work to a wider audience and how do you assess that in Novi Sad? Is there any noticeable improvement?

Novi Sad deserves the epithet of the capital of world culture precisely because of the activities of the ISON choir, such as the Inclusive European Festival Hearts in Harmony Novi Sad, which is also the largest single festival corpus that Europe and the world have. Novi Sad is the only one to support this, and we wish to further expand the scope of our goals in finding young talents in Serbia and the region.


Association Vera Ljubav Nada has existed since March 2010 and today has more than 180 members, numerous sections and activities – from acting, singing, dancing, sports to fishing, activities with horses, orienteering, etc. Now you have mentioned the organization of an inclusive European festival Hearts in Harmony. How much has your association contributed to greater visibility of people with disabilities in culture in Novi Sad?

I can proudly say that we are the bearers of everything that means breaking many stereotypes in society. We are a recognizable socio-cultural idea that strives for the most natural strengthening and inclusion of young PWDs in modern life, and I think that because of our goals we are leaders in many ideas that present Serbia to the world in a completely essential light that the world has not seen.

It seems that many are not aware of the great creativity and talents of children with disabilities, so what are the most common prejudices, unfortunately, still remain?

I think we have done a lot in terms of breaking down prejudices with our persistence, which can be seen in our performances. Many cities wake up after our performances. By opening classes in music schools, academies, children with disabilities continue their education at higher schools and faculties, they are employed, visible, speak publicly and are no longer just parts of actions but active participants and spokespersons.

Will you attend any other concerts within Project 22?

The policy we pursue within the organisation is to attend the greatest music and other artistic events in which we seek inspiration and new expression. We have to live with the world and the world needs to accept our outstretched hand, but also to understand what benefits it receives with us.

What does the title of European Capital of Culture mean to you?

The children I work with are the foundations of the capital and I am very proud of them and our city.

Why, in your opinion, should everyone come to Novi Sad in 2022 when it will shine as the European Capital of Culture?

I believe that those who do not come to Novi Sad will fail to be better, wider, spiritually richer, because of all of us who form the city through centuries of its existence.


Photo: V. Veličković