A brilliant initiative launched in the French town of Grenoble has found a way to fill that “dead time” wasted as people wait for the bus. With the press of a button, the Short Story Dispenser prints (for free) a small piece of fiction on a length of paper similar to a receipt that can be read in one, three or five minutes, the average time people spend waiting at a urban bus stop.
The idea, which emerged in 2011, has spread across France, and at the 2nd Athens Culture Symposium “Investing in Culture: Destination Civilization” earlier this month we learned that the Short Story Dispenser has made it to the United States and might be heading to Greece next. More than 6,000 authors have contributed short texts and the stories have been read an estimated 13 million times at bus stops and on bus journeys.
As well as an innovation, the Short Story Dispenser is an example of the kind of entrepreneurial idea that contributes to the dissemination of a cultural product, the short-story format or microfiction, at a time where the market seems to favor long-form stories, the author Dimitris Kalokiris noted at the symposium.
Organizing the 2nd Athens Culture Symposium with a focus on the connection between culture and tourism was a natural follow-up to the inaugural event two years ago, where the main theme was self-financing culture. The aim of the conference was to show how to “use culture as a vehicle to encourage tourism 12 months a year,” as mentioned by Zozo Lidoriki, president of the Culture Committee of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, which organized the symposium. While news that revenues at museums and archaeological sites have gone up is welcome – expected to surpass 100 million euros this year (Kathimerini,14/11/2017) – what is troubling is that this barely covers the management and maintenance costs, said Pantelis Panos, director-general at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.
The need to modernize the way material and human resources, potential and capabilities are managed so as to attract tourists year-round was highlighted by speakers at the symposium. The Municipality of Trikala, which is known for its self-driving bus and its museum dedicated to rebetiko legend Vassilis Tsitsanis, is one of the public institutions that has managed to combine culture with tourism through smart management.
“The municipality needs to handle culture with respect. In Trikala, tourism and cultural planning happen together, and the next step is to attract school field trip tourism and make venues and sites more accessible for people with mobility problems,” noted Trikala Mayor Dimitris Papastergiou.