It’s a landmark which will forever be associated with the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, after becoming a base for foreign correspondents to report on the three-and-a-half year siege of Sarajevo.
Now De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) academic Kenneth Morrison has brought together the stories of war reporters and staff in his new book “Sarajevo’s Holiday Inn on the Frontline of Politics and War” - and it looks set to form the basis for a major new TV drama.
Holiday Inn Sarajevo
The Holiday Inn, Sarajevo described as "the ultimate war hotel"
Interest in the book has been considerable and, before publication, the rights to the book were optioned by Corona TV. Kenneth will now act as consultant to the screen-writer Tom Williams, whose credits include the acclaimed British war film ‘Kajaki’.
In the book, Kenneth, a Reader in Modern Southeast European History, looks at the history of the hotel and the stories of what went on in and around a building during the siege of Sarajevo, when it was located not only within siege lines but also on what became known as "Snipers’ Alley".
Sarajevo’s Holiday Inn remains familiar to many around the world, who can recall the nightly news reports filed from the hotel at the height of the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
The former BBC war correspondent Martin Bell described it as "the ultimate war hotel – from where you didn’t go to the war, the war came to you".
Bell has written the foreword for the book and was one of around 50 war correspondents Kenneth interviewed. Kenneth also spoke to former staff who worked in the hotel during the siege.
Holiday Inn book cover
The book cover reflects the controversial design of the Holiday Inn
Designed by the celebrated Bosnian architect Ivan Straus, the hotel became a source of controversy from day one due to its yellow, brown and grey exterior. It was built as one of the showpieces of the 1984 Winter Olympics and hosted the ‘Olympic Family’ during better times for the city.
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Later it would gain notoriety as the temporary base for the family of the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic prior to the outbreak of war in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Kenneth added: “The first shots of the war in Sarajevo were said to have been fired from the hotel into a crowd of peace demonstrators assembled outside the Bosnia parliament across the road. Thereafter, the hotel became home to dozens of journalists, tasked with covering the siege of Sarajevo – and it was in a very dangerous location. The Holiday Inn is an important building and has played a significant role in the modern history of Sarajevo.”
Author and DMU lecturer Kenneth Morrison
Kenneth’s book, which he spent three years researching and writing, also looks at the role and function of hotels in war zones, from Belfast to Beirut.
“Hotels play an important but often overlooked role in wartime”, he said. “They become targets or are militarised, but they also become bases for journalists, places where people seek sanctuary or ‘neutral spaces’ where warring factions negotiate.”
Kenneth gave a lecture to a full house during the 2016 Cultural Exchanges Festival in February about his work and will give lectures in Oxford and London in the coming months.
He added: “Working alongside Tom is really exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing how the creative process involved in shaping the TV series evolves."
Posted on Thursday 30th June 2016