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Seviros Koullas: “Each Festival of EDON is a preview of the future society we want to build”


Christothea Iacovou

A small state of culture and volunteering, the EDON Festival, comes to life between 5-7th of July in the moat of the Famagusta Gate in Nicosia.

“Voice International” interviewed Seviros Koullas, the General Secretary of EDON, who talked about the content of this year’s festival and the broader significance of the event.

35th EDON Festival: What’s special about this year?

This year, the main stage opens with “Coverdoze” (Cypriot band) performing for the first time. On the second night, “Prospectus” will perform a musical tribute in memory of Nikolas Filetas, a dedicated companion of EDON and the Festival. The third night will feature a debut performance by the Cypriot band “Nofreno”. We will also have Greek hip-hop artists making their first appearance on the second stage and the main concerts will welcome the first-time participation of Matoulla Zamani, the return of Natasa Bofiliou after two years, and Vasilis Papakonstantinou is going to celebrate 50 years of musical presence. On the folk stage, we will have Cypriot bands with folk programmes on the first and third night, while on the second night, alongside Natasa Bofiliou’s concert, Dimitris Basis will perform a musical tribute to Nikos Kazantzidis and Dimitris Mitropanos. Moreover, the festival offers a rich programme with dance performances, artist presentations, and much more in thematic centres and venues, in addition to the concerts.

“Moving Forward! In today’s fights, for tomorrow’s world,” is inscribed in this year’s festival slogan. What does it aim to highlight?

Initially, let us mention that our festival has a slogan because it is not merely three concerts; it is a sociopolitical and cultural event. This year’s emblem aims to demonstrate how we fight for a better education system, university, and overall a better life in the present, while always keeping our eyes on building a better society—the vision we aspire to construct. We can say that in slogans, in general, we strive to convey the pulse, the sentiment, or the political necessity of the year. That is why each year we choose something new and relevant to accompany it.

How does the festival engage with multilingual and non-Greek communities living in Cyprus?

Beginning with the festival poster, it is translated into English and Turkish, as well as our programme, which is published online. It’s worth mentioning that we put up posters in both the southern and northern parts of the island. We distribute informational flyers in various youth centres to reach Turkish Cypriots, as the material is available in English and in our thematic centres where our positions are presented. One new addition this year is the use of QR codes, which direct interested individuals to a trilingual text (Greek, Turkish, English) when scanned. During the festival, there is a “bicommunal corner” dedicated to Cypriot culture and tradition with representations from Turkish Cypriot organisations and Turkish Cypriots in general, serving as a space for the exchange of ideas, opinions, and discussions among visitors, especially young Turkish Cypriots and those who feel young. We showcase common culture, shared customs, and engage in interactive language games and other activities. In previous festivals, we also had representations from migrants living in Cyprus from other communities. Additionally, we have the “International Corner,” a section with over 15-20 representations of foreign sister youth organisations of EDON because internationalism, as a whole, is a fundamental principle of the Left and EDON. I would say that we strive for an element of inclusivity. Although Turkish Cypriots’ case is not just about inclusivity but mainly a political priority for us. The “bicommunal corner”  is the core of EDON’s actions, as well as our festival.

Why is there a need for such a festival with a strong political message?

There is the song that makes you remember and the song that makes you forget. In modern society, people need both. Obviously, there are so many problems that push people to seek temporary entertainment. Something that is not bad, as people need to escape from their problems through entertainment. However, the world also needs engaged culture that aims to awaken society, make citizens reflect, remember, and think. At the Festival, I believe we offer both. We have all these elements and we strive to serve culture in its broadest sense, not just through music. All our festivals are a small brick in the wall that we are trying to build. A wall that may symbolise the great transformation we want to achieve. Within the festival, members of EDON try to explain to the attendees how we envision Cyprus, the relationship between the two communities and other nations, our opinion on the Cyprus issue, and more. At the same time, this particular festival provides space for Cypriot artists to showcase their talent. Besides the Greek Cypriots we host, we have an arts corner where amateur or professional painters, sculptors, and any other artists come and present (for free) and sell their work and creations. We have amateur music groups who wouldn’t have the opportunity to perform music because of the demands from entertainment venue owners. We provide them with a space in the second stage or folk stage. So, we serve this culture and this type of festival, which we feel people need, hence embracing it for 70 years and more.

What do you consider it has achieved all these years?

This year, the 35th EDON Festival is taking place, but its history goes back to 1951 when the first festival was organised by AON. Therefore, the festival carries a 72-year history. For us, this is the greatest achievement. It is an institution that has been running for seven decades and does not remain stagnant: it renews, evolves, and enriches itself as it embraces different generations, mindsets and mentalities.

Tell us one ingredient of the Festival that you believe has been maintained and developed throughout the years.

If we had to choose, the most fundamental and essential ingredient of the festival is the concept of volunteerism. It has managed to pass on, from generation to generation, and continues to build upon the notion of volunteerism. That is, the selflessness with which hundreds of people willingly sacrifice their time, energy, fatigue, and money to set it up and make it run smoothly. We are building a small community. Many times, this may sound somewhat romantic, but it is the essence. We plan something for six months, we design and prepare it two to three months before we start the implementation. Then, we “build” it for three weeks and dismantle it within six hours. Moreover, for us, it is not just a cultural event: it is the presentation of our DNA, our positions, and our concerns. It is a preview of the future society that we desire, a better society, completely different from what we live in now.

What would you recommend to people regarding the festival?

To come and explore it, to see every corner and every spot of it. It has many interesting stands with young artists, young people, small gatherings with discussions, and more. Obviously, the highlight of the programme is the three concerts, but we recommend to the audience to come as early as possible. The festival gates open at 19:00 and close in the early morning hours.

For more information, you can visit the festival’s website (https://festivalcy.com) to learn about the program, the map, and the ways you can purchase tickets.

Voice International 2023

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