Sometimes just a few words are sufficient to make a difference. It all started with a comment by the president of the Athens Festival published in a Greek magazine almost one year ago that stated: Athens belongs to us. And with an angry young man, George Neris, who would not agree with that.
His response was an open letter to the Athens Festival in which he expressed his anger, shared by so many in Greece.
"In my position I meet a number of theatre, dance and music groups who, even when they tried, found the doors of the Festival locked. We and many before us have proposed for years the creation of a cultural platform where new artists can perform parallel to the official Athens Festival. It wouldn't take much: a stage, a few lights and some sound equipment... . As long as the festival excludes us, we, the city, the real Athens won't surrender to you. Athens belongs to those who create art..."
It wasn't however just a simple response from a random person. George Neris is the founder and president of "Synthesis Media Company", a company that in the few years of its existence can look back to a large number of successful productions. Established in 2001 with the purpose to breathe "fresh air" in the cultural reality of Greece, the motto of the Company is "reality is beautiful". It specifically aims to make use of marketing techniques in order to present classical works to everyday, modern people.
In June 2009 (15-21) Synthesis, in collaboration with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, organizes Athens Fringe Festival 2009 in "Technopolis" the most versatile arts centre of the city in the area of Gazi. Athens Fringe is the first off-Athens festival, a celebration of the arts that welcomes artists from all over the world to showcase their work, exchange ideas and interact with the city and its inhabitants.
It is an open invitation to artists from around the world to present their artistic projects and interfere creatively with the city of Athens. Through happenings, installations, street art shows, theatre performances, gigs, puppetry environment and so on, artists will have a chance to interact with the urban and the people who inhabit it in order to contribute to mapping arts and activism in the city of Athens. Synthesis would like to explore all kinds of relationships that can co-exist in the arts, in architecture, in the cityscape, the human body, in philosophy, ecology and technology and the way that these can relate to the notion of the city. No wonder that "Athens belongs to us" has become the motto of the Athens Fringe Festival.
By adopting the successful Fringe format, the Athenian version aims to present the work of young, upcoming Greek and European artists representing all art forms (dance, theatre, music, crafts, fine arts, film, storytelling, mime, street art, physical theatre, video art, juggling, architecture, graffiti, photography, etc.), following the example of other European cities where Fringe festivals have become well-established. Fringe Festivals are innovative and experimental by default. Therefore, the use of technology will play a paramount role in preparing, shaping and coordinating Athens Fringe Festival 2009.
Earlier this year, Synthesis made an open call to artists from around the world asking them to submit their projects and interfere creatively with the city of Athens. Through happenings, installations, street art shows, theatre performances, gigs, puppetry and so on, artists will have a chance to interact with the urban environment and the people who inhabit it in order to contribute to mapping arts and activism in the city of Athens.
Backbone of the festival in Athens is the Fringe'em'all'7x7, a week-long workshop where artists from the 7 art disciplines collaborate under the discreet guidance of well-known and experienced colleagues and present their work during Athens Fringe can participate. The aim is to exchange ideas and create a spectacle from scratch. The theme of the show will be the city of Athens, of course. Artists will start their preparation a week before the official opening of the festival, with spontaneous happenings in the streets and squares of the city. They will be dancing, singing, playing music, painting, taking photos and recording little tales of the mundane in Athens.
Kid'em'all will be the children's version of Fringe'em'all 7X7. This is a series of rotating workshops led by experienced tutors that will take place on the weekend (June 20-21). Here, children and young people will have a great chance to develop their artistic and social skills, be encouraged to think in a different way, exchange ideas and views with their peers and engage in positive educational and recreational activities.
The Athens Fringe will expand beyond Technopolis area, to venues like Topos Allou Theatre, Altera Pars Theatre, Obi Uptown Theatre, Booze Cooperativa, Athens Style Hostel, ArTower Agora, Mikro Polytexneio, Art House, Trianon Film Centre and Thyra Technis situated in several parts of Athens. Random outdoor places around the centre will also be used. The City of Athens Technopolis, an industrial museum of incomparable architecture - among the most interesting in the world, has been transformed into a multipurpose cultural space. The centre has assisted in the upgrading of a historic Athens district and the creation of yet another positive element in Athens' cultural identity. It is housed in the city's former gasworks, on a site known as Gazi spanning some 3 hectares, next to the Kerameikos area and in close proximity to the Acropolis. And close to the Athens Festival. So close one could indeed call the Athens Fringe an "into-your-face event."
Personally I am looking forward to it. It might not be an event like the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but it is a start to stop the monopolization of Arts and proves once again that making theatre does not call for more than indeed a stage, lights and people with a vision and passion. "Kali archi" as the Greeks say, "a good start".
For more information see the official website: www.fringefestival.gr