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A Journey to the capitals of tomorrow: Eleusis 2023

ELEVSIS ELEVSIS Photo by GERASIMOSDOMENIKOS_FOSPHOTOS

We asked managers of the European capitals of culture from 2022 to 2025, five same questions to understand their expectations in a clear and concise way. Each interview is preceded by a fact sheet on that European capital of culture. The format is the same for all. At the end of the series of interviews we will try to make a synthesis of objectives, trends, expectations by the Ecocs. After Novi Sad 2022, Esch2022, Kaunas2022 and Veszprem2023 today we talk about Eleusis, European Capital of culture 2023.

One of the five most important sacred cities of antiquity, the city of the Elefsinian Mysteries and birthplace of Aeschylus, Elefsis - thanks to its natural port and strategic location, 21 km west of Athens, in the Thriassian Plain, the northwesternmost tip of the Saronic Gulf - was transformed from the 19th century onwards into the productive engine of Greece and one of its largest industrial centers. The signs of industrialization are prominent on the body of the city, affecting it and often building the perception of a place that keeps its cultural wealth well guarded, like a timeless mystery. The image of Elefsina as a city that has been hit hard by industry remains dominant in public perception. Eleusis 2023 European Capital of Culture seeks to unveil the invisible side of Elefsina, marking a new era for the city and its transition to a new model of development, focusing on its dynamic cultural assets.

The substance of Elefsina is composed of exceptional traces of antiquity, modern stories of internal migration, industrial development, labor movements, but also de-industrialisation and unemployment. In the same web, sensitive issues are intertwined such as the strong impact on the environment, while the ambiguous relationship of the city towards the sea deserves attention, exploration and exploitation. The importance of Elefsina as the birthplace of Aeschylus, the notable place of women throughout the long life of the city, the special place of the city in the folk songs about immigration, unfulfilled love and hard work - through the presence of the legendary bard Stelios Kazantzides, representative of this music genre - add to this city colors and aspects of uniqueness.

Deeply inspired by the city’s rich and diverse history aspects, Eleusis 2023 formulates a variant and complete artistic, research and educational program, the so called MYSTERIES of TRANSITION flowing within the four strategic directions / priority areas: CULTURE,  HUMAN,  CITY, ENVIRONMENT.

The crucial "key phrase" that reflects the overall approach of the program would be SOCIAL  SCULPTURE (Cultural intervention in the frame of a city as an expanded notion of the Arts) or the PERFORMANCE OF THE DRAMATURGY OF ELEFSINA WITHIN THE WIDER  PUBLIC SPACE THAT CONSTITUTES THE THEATRE OF THE CITY

The interview is with Georgia Voudouri, Director of Creative Industries, Eleusis 2023

Why did the city decide to be the European capital of culture?

Elefsina is a city unique in its historical and archaeological past, which has experienced a great degradation in its quality of life, reputation and environment, due to an unhampered and reckless development of heavy industry. In the title of the European Capital of Culture, stands a unique opportunity for the city, a trigger for a change, for the development of a new way of life, a new economy with culture at its epicenter.

What changes are expected for the reference community?

The main benefits of the ECoC for the local community, also serve as key points for our strategy and program: Encouraging the sense of identity and belonging, illuminating the “community” spirit among citizens, with the greatest possible involvement of all communities, who have experienced migration, and who would offer their unique stories, habits and ways, in the culture of daily experience. Supporting, stimulating, developing education about culture from the earliest age, even in interdisciplinary fields, through capacity building and applied training. Enhancing life in public space - turning the city into a "theater of itself". Shaping a collective eco-consciousness in local and regional level, enhancing the already high awareness about the Environment. Finally, in the long run, the community would certainly benefit from the re-introduction of the city as a peripheral center for Culture education and creativity at a national and international level, and also a destination for environmentally sustainable informal tourism.

What are the three keywords of your cultural program?

The first axis is dedicated to PEOPLE/SOCIETY and it runs through the thread of the evolution of society from antiquity to the present, in order to connect the alien with the familiar, to discover hidden aspects, memories, and elements of cultural diversity. The second axis focuses on the ENVIRONMENT, sustainability and wellbeing, seeks new ways of appropriating the city and focuses on the need to redefine our relationship with the natural environment as a prerequisite for sustainable development. The third axis explores the past and future of LABOUR, the common European challenges of precariousness and the cultivation of a model of a contemporary, sustainable economy, characterized by the innovative interconnection of art with sectors such as industry, science, technology and social innovation.

What are the main citizen involvement activities?

The inhabitants of the city as participants in the creation process of actions constitute a prominent dramatic staff (dramatis personae) in the overall work. Enhancing citizen participation, as well as networking of city residents and groups, is a key goal of all actions, to the extent it is possible. The main citizen involvement activities are: Micro - engagement projects, Participatory projects and actions of model and original creation, Actions in collaboration with communities, groups and associations and Transnational exchanges and collaboration.

What do you want to remain after the capital year?

One major goal of the ECοC is to create a sustainable, tangible and intangible legacy for the city, ensuring a long-lasting development after the title year. It will emerge both through the promotion, encouragement, support of the local community and workforce and b) through initiatives / actions that form a “constellation” of artistic nodes (hubs), an "Industry of the Arts" in Elefsina.

Serafino Paternoster

Ecocnews Founder, Journalist, repentant jazz guitarist, music critic and film lover.

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