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ASSITEJ Cyprus is one of the newest and smallest members of ASSITEJ International. Stavros Stavrou, founder of ASSITEJ Cyprus, attended ‘Catch the Wave: Conversations on inclusivity’ taking place at the festival yesterday which gave the opportunity to participants to engage in one-on-one or small-group conversations with representatives of the International Inclusive Arts Network (IIAN). Following the event we had a Q&A with Stavrou, here’s what he told us:

What were you speaking about/ presenting today?

Today we presented the ASSITEJ Small Countries Network, a Network which was founded in 2021, aiming at bringing together ASSITEJ National Centres and affiliates from countries with a population of less than 1,000,000 inhabitants, which face the same challenges and opportunities.

The Network was modelled after the concept of the Games of the Small States of Europe, organised by the International Olympic Committee, as well as similar Networks in organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Network consists of the ASSITEJ National Centres from Cyprus, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg, as well as the ASSITEJ Affiliates from Malta (ŻiguŻajg Festival) and San Marino (Bradipoteatar).

How was your experience at the session?

We have been working with this Network for the past 3 years and we met in physical presence for the first time last month, in Liechtenstein. Today’s event was a great moment for the Network, since we experienced the interest in our project from our colleagues from all over the world. It was amazing seeing people from different parts of the planet becoming familiar with the work we are doing in the small states of Europe, as well as our activity as a Network.

What outcomes did you walk away with?

One of our aims as a Network is to increase the visibility of our centres and make our voice stronger, by coming together. This need, I believe, was the take-out from today’s session. It is clear that artists in the small states of Europe have their own, independent voice, a voice that is worth being heard. The feeling that everyone left with was that by believing in themselves, TYA professionals from our countries have all the potential to pursue their dreams on the world stage. We have also commented on the fact that there is only a thin line dividing the challenges and the opportunities arising because of our countries’ small size and it is up to us to transform every challenge to an opportunity. 4. As a newer member of Assitej, I think this is your first time at a gathering. What is your experience so far? It is indeed my first time attending an Artistic Gathering in physical presence. It is an amazing experience, reminding us all that ASSITEJ is a big family. It is also great to meet so many colleagues from all over the world. With some of them we have met so many times online, but never in person, so it is amazing to finally do so. I am also impressed by the high level of the professional programme, which is rich and colourful.

What are ASSITEJ Cyprus’ future plans?

The new board of ASSITEJ Cyprus was elected recently and the enthusiasm by all of us is high. This Christmas we are running for the third consecutive year the campaign “Every child to the theatre”, which gives the opportunity to children from vulnerable backgrounds to visit the theatre for free. We also have a big two-day event in coming up in December, with workshops, discussions and shows, while for the new year we are designing a rich programme with professional development workshops for our members, our annual celebration of the World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People and many other projects, new and old. The most important challenge for 2024, however, will be the first edition of the ASSITEJ Cyprus International Festival, which will take place in October 2024. We are now carefully designing the programme and we will soon be able to reveal more details.

The title of this year’s gathering is turning point, can you define a turning point for yourself?

My involvement with ASSITEJ was certainly a turning point in my career. I would have never thought that my involvement with this organisation would change my life in the way it has.

 

Stavros Stavrou (right), Founder of ASSITEJ Cyprus

 

Melissa Hekkers is a freelance journalist and author.
Her most recent book, Amir’s Blue Elephant, a creative non-fiction based on her experiences working in the Moria refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece and Cyprus. In 2018, she launched the My Cyprus Mandala Series, colouring books inspired by the natural and cultural heritage of Cyprus. In 2007, she published her first children’s book in both English and Greek entitled Crocodile, which won the Cyprus State Illustration Award. In 2012, she launched her second children’s book Flying across Red Skies (in English and Greek), using an experimental approach to literature, for which she was nominated for the Cyprus State Literary award. Her third, similarly well-received children’s book was Pupa (Greek and English), published in 2014 and was adapted as a theatre play in 2019. In between her last two books, she published her first free-verse poetry book entitled Come-forth. In 2019 she was contributing author to the anthology Nicosia Beyond Barriers: Voices from a Divided City, published by Saqi Books, London.