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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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SOME 10 days ago, foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides raised expectations by announcing the possibility of a deal with Turkey for the opening of the fenced off area of Famagusta, for the return of its inhabitants. In exchange the Cyprus government would agree to the opening of Tymbou airport to direct flights. ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Should Nicosia be the only EU capital without a Culture Centre? ]

Should Nicosia be the only EU capital without a Culture Centre?

‘The centre of Nicosia is a barracks’

THE ANNOUNCEMENT of plans for the construction of a €100 million National Cultural Centre in Nicosia has enraged cultural stakeholders, particularly from Limassol, who argue that the money could be used more wisely to support Cyprus’ ailing cultural infrastructure.

They have launched an organised campaign in a bid to prevent the project from coming to fruition. But now, the Cyprus Cultural Foundation (CCF), which initiated the project, has hit back, arguing it will act as the catalyst for the island’s cultural development.

“It is a shame for our country to be the only European state without a Culture Centre. We are underdeveloped and do not possess the necessary infrastructure. When EU representatives came to Cyprus to discuss funding this project, they were stunned by the lack of cultural infrastructure in our capital. Their exact words were ‘Oh my God, the centre of Nicosia is a barracks. Our pockets are open and we will give you any assistance you require’,” Tassos Angelis, General Director of the CCF, told the Cyprus Mail.

Angelis believes the centre will be the nucleus of Cyprus’ cultural development. “The Culture Centre will be the steam-engine, a catalyst for cultural development in Cyprus, and will completely transform the culture scene. We expected the participation of all stakeholders, but it seems that some have chosen not to,” he said.

Not only have some stakeholders chosen not to participate in the centre’s creation, they have declared open war on the centre, blasting the lack of transparency in the decision-making process and the extravagance with which money is spent, while local cultural centres and theatres are struggling to survive.

Last week, Limassol culture stakeholders gathered at the Panikos Mavrellis arts centre in Limassol to discuss action on the Culture Centre. They agreed that the decision to go through with the project was unacceptable. “At the meeting there was a universal realization that the construction of such a large-scale Centre, with a budgeted cost of at least €100 million should NOT at this time be an immediate or necessary priority in the development of our extremely weak basic cultural infrastructure,” read the statement circulated by the stakeholders after their meeting.

Limassol’s culture stakeholders have already started collecting signatures at national level in opposition of the Centre. Notable personalities, including Anna Marangou, Titos Kolotas and Costas Kafkarides have already signed. The stakeholders also agreed to organise a general meeting in Nicosia, which is taking place today at 7pm at the Journalists’ House.

Angelis said that no-one from the CCF had been invited to this meeting. “When major projects are created, some agree and some disagree. Some disagreements are voiced in good will, some are not. The people who disagree are not basing their opinion on proper information. They have never come to us to get information on the project. They are basing their unfounded views on assumptions. We are at their disposal if they want to come to us to get information,” he explained.

Those opposing the Culture Centre, however, argue that it is the CCF that excluded stakeholders from the decision-making process, which lacked transparency. “The procedure was totally transparent from the outset,” Angelis replied. “Ten national cultural organisations, representing all segments of Cyprus’ cultural scene, were always invited and participated in all the events, meetings and so on organised by our foundation.

We set up a special committee, headed by the General Director of our foundation to inform these organisations of the plans for the Cultural Centre and discuss it with them. Even in Limassol, the major cultural stakeholders are supporting us and are eagerly waiting for the creation of the centre,” said Angelis.

Culture Centre opponents are also criticising its huge cost, although Angelis said that most of this will be covered by an EU fund that is not traditionally assigned for cultural infrastructure. “In terms of financing the project, we should have been credited with finding funds from an EU fund that is not assigned for culture. Eighty per cent of the project will be funded by the EU’s Enterprise, Sustainable Development and Competitiveness Fund. The remaining 20 per cent will come from the state,” he said.

Still, Centre opponents are not convinced, arguing that the running and administrative costs will be heavily absorbing state funds, leaving nothing behind for smaller cultural initiatives. The CCF argues that the Centre’s operation will not cost the state as much as some may think. “We are in the process of completing a study on administrative costs and its findings will soon be publicised. Its findings will come as a surprise to many,” he said.

A recent statement by Angelis that the Culture Centre could be used as conference venue for Cyprus’ EU Presidency in 2012 was also criticised; it was taken as an indication that the Centre will be used for purposes other than culture. “The centre will also operate as a conference centre, which will provide some income to cover administration costs,” said Angelis. “What I had said was that the Culture Centre would be ready by March 2012 and that if the government asked us to use its conference space for the European Presidency, then we would be in a position to undertake the task.”

Although its main purpose will be to act as a venue for the performing arts, the Culture Centre will be a multi-faceted venue. Its main auditorium will have 1,400 seats and will house symphonic music, chamber music, opera, ballet, modern dance and conferences. There will also be a recital hall with 500 seats for chamber music, world music, dance, cinema, lectures and conferences, an Education Centre which will act as library, e-library, music library, workshop, and training centre, a Rehearsal Space, a Main Foyer and auxiliary spaces including an open square and park as well as entertainment and dining facilities. Its underground parking will accommodate 600 cars.

Following a competition, architectural house Hopkins Architects have been commissioned for the building’s design. Project consultants include Ove Arup and Partners (Engineers), Kirkegaard Associates (Acousticians) and Auerbach Pollock Friedlander (Theatre Designers).

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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