We do not know what the future holds. We have great plans - and in development - for 2020 and 2021. So Watch this Space! But for now...
Brave New World Productions was chosen for the European Cultural Foundation's Tandem European Cultural Capital Programme. We are working with Yannis Pappas from Chorus in Eleusis / Elsefina, Greece. It is still early days, and the project is in the initial phase, but here you will find an idea of one of our potential projects in 2021.
I’ve never been good at telling men I like them. So it was the Tandem that almost never happened. Perhaps, considering the occasionally heavy burden of social awareness, it would have been easier if we had not met. But that is cowardly. And we are not cowards, Yannis and I.
When Yannis spoke of environmental problems in Eleusis, I had absolutely no idea of the magnitude of the problem.
My trip to Eleusis could not have been better organised. Yannis had contacted the people I had asked him to contact. Meetings had been set up. In that fluid, not very precise Greek way of having appointments. I loved it. Every day brought new surprises, and I would not have had it any other way. With a bicycle at my disposal, Yannis as my guide and colleague, blue skies, a future ECoC city before me, an idea already in bud with Yannis, all felt good.
The people we met were an impressive list of the Eleusian cultural, political and activist scene:
Kalliópi Papangelí, head of the archeological site of the Eleusian Mysteries, entrance to Hades and temple to the goddess Demeter;
Kélly Diapouli, Artistic Director Eleusis 2021 and Angelikí Lampíri, Director of Cultural Strategy (responsible for Tandem) in an abandoned railway station, HQ of the artistic team of Eleusis 2021;
Maria Philippi, CEO Eleusis 2021, and her 3 go-getting female fixers. In a different building in town;
newly appointed Deputy Mayor Dimítris Liáskos, responsible for Eleusis 2021 ECoC. Municipal to municipal environmental dialogue welcomed;
newly appointed Mayor Argíris Económou. We had been promised 5 minutes, and got over 30. A lobbying conversation. For our city2city knowledge exchange idea. And for the newly elected council’s belief in the gift of the ECoC title for a city;
Chrístos Christákis - Founder of ecoeleusis.org, maths teacher, environmental activist and guide to Hades;
Pános Gkiókas and Yannis’ colleagues at Chorus and Mentor;
Anastasía Tsopeláki - Member of Chorus (also, Director of Creative Industries of Eleusis 2021).
We had a guided tour around Demeter’s site, and I gazed out from the Museum at the top of the hill over a cement factory, with an oil refinery in the no-way-far-enough-away distance. I could not believe this polluting industrial zone was literally right next to and within the city.
But oil refineries and cement factories aside, I wanted to visit some of the industrial heritage of Eleusis. This meant chaining our bikes by the coastal road (from where you can barely see the sea), waiting until there were no cars on the dual carriageway, and clambering quickly over a wall, illegally breaking into the site of Kronos. It is stunning. Crumbling majestic buildings stood before me. I was speechless. And terrible that it is being allowed to crumble away. It is the jewel in the crown of Eleusis' industrial past and needs to be saved. A new life breathed into it. A new purpose and hope for the future that combines the financial realities of the owners, the architectural importance of the main building, and the needs of the city to reclaim its seafront and take pride in its past by finding a creative economically viable future for the site. Can the city's European Capital of Culture status in 2021 impress an urgency on the relevant stakeholders? Or is it too late?
I was more than ever convinced that the idea Yannis and I had dreamt up in Reijka was right. And had to be implemented. Irrespective of the law. The nay-sayers. The too afraid. This industrial heritage needed a new hope, a new future.
We visited other sites, and I remained baffled by the failure on the part of the city - and the ECoC - to use the sites in a constructive way. They have no cultural buildings to speak of in Eleusis. No theatre. Only a small archeological museum. No concert hall. No gallery. And yet the city has industrial buildings crying out for a new purpose…
And then Chrístos took us to hell. The oil refinery by the city. The industrial waste. Empty factories. Oil seeping from dumped ships. Rubbish left (not) to rot. Thick crude oil oozing into the bay. Rusting boats polluting the sea. The stench.
I was shocked. Deeply shocked. How had this been allowed to happen?
I was more than ever convinced that the idea Yannis and I had dreamt up in Reijka was right. And absolutely, completely and irrefutably had to be implemented.
Yannis and I brainstormed. Wrote out various potential plans, from A to C (via A1 and A2, B1 and B2…) Pros and cons. Success factors. Risk analysis. Our vulnerability through stakeholder dependency. Dreams and reality intertwined.
You learn so much more if you go somewhere, of course. Greece is complex. We all know that. But oh oh oh. We’ve a long road to go, Yannis and I. Next step Yannis in Leeuwarden. But the linking of these two cities is so unlikely that it has to happen. Creative thinking is required. Practical knowledge exchange. Political commitment. Law enforcement.
And two artistic projects which mirror, enrich and contrast with each other. Which separately and together add to the discussion, the urgency, the better future our planet needs. And culture can be the impetus to achieving this. Of that there is no doubt.