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21 July, 2024
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Ministry of Culture to launch 'Kypria' pilot for art festivals

State-sponsored festivals reinvigorate Cyprus' cultural scene after years of decline

Apostolos Kouroupakis

Apostolos Kouroupakis

We have fully entered the summer, and the eagerly awaited cultural events have either begun or will soon begin. Theater festivals, music festivals, literary evenings, film screenings, and festivals, as well as local gastronomic celebrations, will enrich our summer days. The difference this year is that many of these events fall under the pilot umbrella of "Kypria." This is the state festival that had dwindled and lost its former glory over the past few years. It was a festival that had fallen victim to the cultural malaise of the place, struggling to survive in a world of cultural creation that had moved far ahead, and our own "Kypria" was unable to catch up. Something that it ultimately failed to achieve. With the "Kypria" institution clinically dead, the Cypriot cultural scene moved on without taking it into account. The major international productions—the ones that the festival's budget allowed—never came, but we had a good time and boasted that we had "Kypria," the most important international Cypriot festival. Of course, this was something that no longer existed, and there were many reasons for it.

I mentioned earlier the cultural malaise of the place, but it was also exacerbated by a mentality of improvisation, the lack of reflexes, the difficulty of overcoming bureaucratic obstacles, it's relatively low funding, and above all, the lack of vision on the part of those in charge of how they wanted to see "Kypria" in one, two, or more years. All of this changed with the creation of the Ministry of Culture and the decision of Giannis Toumazis to abolish it and transform it into a specialized sponsorship program for supporting arts festivals in Cyprus. And so it happened that in December 2022, the Ministry of Culture announced the program "Kypria - Sponsorship Program for Arts Festivals," a program that operates as a pilot for 2023. Just a few days ago, the ministry announced the results, granting a total of 648,000 euros to 18 festivals. This is the entire amount that was budgeted for the "International Kypria Festival."

Certainly, it is still unclear how the new "Kypria" will operate and how it will replace and upgrade the old "Kypria," which, I repeat, had completed its cycle and its continuation was merely a waste of money. It is also unknown how the "Kypria" logo, which is now used by the festivals that have received funding from the "Kypria - Sponsorship Program for Arts Festivals," will be utilized by the festivals themselves and, of course, by the Ministry of Culture in a broader context. Does the Ministry of Culture have a plan for evaluating the pilot "Kypria"? Is there a plan for the year 2024 and how the ministry will capitalize on the new environment expected to be created by December 2023?

The previous leadership of the Ministry of Culture, namely Giannis Toumazis, decided on its transformation and announced the sponsorship program, and rightly so. From now on, the question is what we do. Therefore, the new leadership of the ministry should start thinking about what will happen with the "Kypria" and with anything significant that will place Cyprus on the cultural map, not only in Europe but at least in the wider region. Cyprus and its people yearn for great productions from abroad, which, if they come at all, arrive like migratory birds... you can hardly catch up with them or like shooting stars.

The low funding to attract major productions from abroad is the most significant cause, and many times cuts are made from other things to have a very important performance in Cyprus, but this cannot be considered as cultural health. Therefore, one aspect is an increase in funding for cultural activities overseen by the ministry. Another aspect is the involvement of the ministry in cultural events through a committee or a person who will coordinate the various festivals—not with manipulation, top-down interventions, or similar approaches. This person or committee would consult with them and based on the identity of each festival, propose productions that align with it. A separate budget would be allocated for those productions. A centrally devised program could be created by the person or committee for summer or other festivals, with parallel activities and the activation of spaces for their implementation. For example, a literature festival could organize events in the spaces of the Feneromeni Library, or archaeological sites and museums adjacent to a festival, and the State could have its parallel program there. The "Kypria" was abolished because it had lost its purpose; it was not abolished simply to divert funds to other organizations.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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