Leggi l'intervista Elli Chrisidou
«During its zenith in the 13th and 14th centuries, Thessaloniki was awash with art workshops, art schools and educational centres, acquiring fame as a megalopolis in every sense of the word across the Balkan Peninsula. This acme was interrupted by the seven-year siege of the city by the Ottomans between 1422 and 1430, which culminated in the occupation of the city that year. The Dimitria however made its ‘comeback’ in 1966 and has since become one of the most important cultural institutions in the country. In the first year of its revival, the ‘New Festival’, as it was then called, had just 11 events, while later on it was to host up to 80 cultural events sometimes lasting up to four months». Persinsala interviewed the Deputy Mayor of Culture and Arts of Thessaloniki, Ms. Elli Chrysidou to get to know this Festival up close.
In 1966, the Dimitria Festival was described as «a permanent artistic institution aiming at both at serving and promoting the eternal values and ideals of Hellenism, as well as making the Macedonian capital a radiant cradle of the great modern cultural visions and achievements of our people». Times have changed, and so did both the idea of Hellenism and the need to redefine a Byzantine identity, two concepts firmly grounded in the past. What are the driving forces of this 2017’s festival, and what is the new ideal that will shape the years to come?
Elli Chrisidou: «The Dimitria Festival began in 1966 as a city celebration for its patron Saint, and followed a 52 years-old path which was influenced by the changing socio-political and economic situations of the time, but that never left a mark on the town, as it never enjoyed the creative complicity of Thessaloniki. Ever since 2010, considering the needs of a modern city, the concerns of its citizens and creators as well as the contemporary trends of art, and given the new socio-political and economic circumstance, we saw the need to create a new institution, a festival characterized by a contemporary, innovative, open speech that responds to the current context by creating new growth and extroversion dynamics on behalf of the city’s creators and citizens. Our goal is for the festival to function as a forum for exchanging opinions and dialogue through the interaction of its creators with the most modern cultural and artistic actions, a space for accepting our differences and overcoming our cultural barriers, promoting synergies of growth and extroversion.»
For 52 years, the Dimitria Festival has been a constant appointment for the artistic clique of Thessaloniki, and for 52 years, it has served as a window on the international scene for theatre-goers and dance-aficionados alike. During all of this time, has the relationship between the festival and its audience changed? Did this half century-long dialogue bring to a factual metamorphosis of the city and its inhabitants?
EC: «In a city with such characteristics as those of Thessaloniki –a city of colorful history, multiple cultural influences, a strong memory and an uncomfortable present, a city in crisis, seeking its identity, resisting the collapse, persisting, reacting, discovering ways and dynamics of growth, a city of young people/students, a city that brings together of many countries and cultural institutions as well as actions and creative groups– the Festival, in the past few years, has helped to create a more demanding, more critical, more extrovert, more cooperative audience. The role of the Dimitria is to introduce to the city, to its inhabitants and its creators, the latest and most innovative art proposals, to let them communicate with what is happening today in the world, to inspire and cause new creative relationships between the city and its people.»
Being the only theatre festival in town comes with its responsibilities and its honours. First and foremostly, places must be chosen to host artists and meet their needs. What was the main focus while looking for a festival location? How can an «institution» such as yours reshape the urban fabric of a whole city, forcing it to go somewhere they had never been before or, conversely, keeping it in its safe, familiar nests?
EC: «The Festival is the narrative of art and it is everywhere, it opens itself to the city and all its inhabitants without restrictions or exclusions, evolving into institutional and unconventional spaces, getting involved in the everyday life of the city, inviting citizens to meet with their own city, which then becomes a huge stage and welcomes the most contemporary artistic voices and actions that move and inspire.»
And speaking of decisions, how did the artistic committee select all the shows on the agenda? What is the central idea, for example, behind the theatre line-up, and what were the criteria behind this specific selection?
EC: «Since 2010, we have established the existence of the Artistic Committee responsible for the creation of the festival’s artistic programme and with a term of more than one year. The Artistic Committee consists of people whose experience and knowledge are recognized in the fields of theatre, music, dance, performance and visual arts … The aim of the Committee is to set up a program within a general thematic framework, with proposals that dare to look at the new, the most innovative, that has no market criteria, open to both the known and the unknown, both on the local and the international level. The 52th Dimitria Festival continues on the path of renewal and extroversion, of dialogue and interaction, centred on man as its absolute protagonist, but also as a spectator of his own journey, a man who can and wants (regardless of the situations he experiences), to resist, communicate and exist with the “other”, who want to dream and hope.»
For more information: https://dimitria.thessaloniki.gr/?lang=en