Greek Festival: a victim of the crisis

By Olga Sella

It?s not just another pending issue awaiting the arrival of the next appointed minister of culture. In a strange and rather revealing way, it?s one more example of the way in which things are working in this country.

One month before raising its curtain this summer, the Greek Festival has yet to divulge its final program regarding events taking place in Athens. The same goes for the venues that will host the event?s local and foreign theater and dance performances.

An established cultural institution which in the last few years had been revitalized thanks to the efforts of its artistic director, Giorgos Loukos, the Greek Festival has so far only announced the theater performance program of the Epidaurus Festival. Meanwhile, at a recent press conference, Loukos had announced that the Athens Festival was scheduled to start on June 8 with a dance performance at its Pireos 260 venue.

On the face of it, the Greek Festival is yet another victim of the current crisis. First of all it was a victim of the Ministry of Culture?s inability to cover the cost of last year?s budget (1.5 million euros) as well as part of this year?s (3.2 million euros). Secondly it suffered the fate of institutions which are supervised by the state. The festival?s management did not work around the current financial malaise, nor did it work on developing a program that would allow it to play a leading role in the capital?s cultural summer based on a smaller budget. One would expect that an organization addressing a young audience (which to a large extent is unemployed) would try to limit the number of casualties due to the ongoing recession. An initiative regarding reduced ticket pricing for the unemployed, which began two years ago, is perhaps completely insufficient at this point.

While local political leaders continue exploratory talks, the Greek Festival could end up paying a hefty price once again if no government is formed and the country is led to a new round of general elections in June.

The Greek Festival boasts a long history featuring various fluctuations and has changed artistic director a number of times. Through Loukos, however, it managed to become a part of the daily lives of Athenians.

While the question of whether culture is necessary at times of crisis has already been answered, the issue of how cultural institutions address a society experiencing a crisis remains. So far, the latter has been answered by individual, private cultural institutions. Their state counterparts have yet to respond.