The UK’s first ever Bicommunal Cypriot Festival was held with phenomenal success on Sunday 8 October at the Cypriot Community Centre, sending a resounding message that Greek and Turkish Cypriots can live united in their common homeland Cyprus.
The event, jointly organized by AKEL in Britain, the Turkish Cypriot Association for Democracy, the Turkish Cypriot Republican Turkish Party (CTP), the Union of Cypriots in England (EKA), the Enfield Cypriots Association, the Cypriot Community Centre, the Turkish Cypriot Community Association (TCCA), the Hackney Cypriot Association (HCA),
the Cyprus Art Platform – UK and the KaliMeraba Platform (CIC), was the first of its kind, aiming to reflect the common culture and traditions of all the communities living in Cyprus; there was a great ‘panygiri’ atmosphere with music, traditional dances, poems, theatrical performances, short films, ‘tsiatista’ and photographic and painting exhibitions on display.
Visitors also enjoyed the traditional delicacies of our island, including soutziouko, lokmathes, palouze, mahalepi, not forgetting souvlakia, zivania and Cypriot coffee.
Coordinator of the Bicommunal Cypriot Festival, Photios Kouzoupis, gave a brief opening speech before the Mayor of Haringey, Lester Buxton, welcomed visitors and praised the initiative.
Deputy High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus in the UK, Spyros Miltiades, referred to the event as “a living testament to our commitment to a future where descent, language and religion are not a source of division, but a source of strength and unity. At the end of the day, we are all Cypriots.”
He continued, “You are all here today not just as individuals, but as representatives of your communities, brought together by a shared love for art, music, dance, and the stories that define you. But beyond the festivities, let us not forget the deeper message that underpins this celebration. The prospect and wish of us all, for the reunion of our island and its people. We must all work tirelessly – and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus is committed to – in finding a fair, sustainable and workable solution to the Cyprus problem. A solution on the basis of bi-zonal bi-communal federation with one sovereignty, one citizenship, one international personality. A solution that will fully respect international law and the European acquis. For a state of peace, prosperity and security that will safeguard the human rights of all the Cypriots; Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Armenians, Maronites and Latins, in conditions of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and co-creation. To find a solution that will truly reunite our beloved island, its people and create auspicious prospects for the future.”
Mr Miltiades concluded by extending his heartfelt gratitude to all the performers, artists, organisers and volunteers who dedicated their time and talent to make the festival a reality. “Your contribution has made this event possible, and your passion is the driving force behind this celebration of unity, he said.”
President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, Christos Karaolis, also congratulated the organisers of the festival for bringing together all Cypriots and for ensuring such a rich cultural and culinary programme.
“The festival is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate our common love for Cyprus. It also sends a powerful signal that as Cypriots we can, and do, want to live together in a reunited island within the agreed UN framework,” he said.
In his turn, Elias Demetriou, Member of the Central Committee of AKEL, said that the first such festival in London was “a meeting of peace in which we found ourselves without having to cross checkpoints and dividing lines. A broad gathering that should have been the normality of our daily life in Cyprus.”
He added, “Unfortunately, we are still not close to the goal of reunification, since today, we are going through a record period without negotiations for the Cyprus problem…As AKEL, we believe that the way to a solution lies through the resumption of negotiations from where they left off in Crans-Montana within the framework of a bizonal, bicommunal federation. We propose at the same time to use the energy sector as an incentive for all parties in a joint agreement.”
Mr Demetriou continued, “This special evening deserves to be dedicated to the thousands of Cypriots who left Cyprus as immigrants in search of a better life. But it is particularly worth mentioning those Cypriots who fled to London and elsewhere to survive the volleys of chauvinist circles within their own community from 1958 onwards. Such was the comrade Nurettin Seferoglou whom we lost last year.”
“Knowing the past but looking to the future, tonight let us sing together a song of peace and be heard as far as Karpasia and Paphos. Let us become what we expect the world to be,” he concluded.
Addressing the visitors, Direnc Ozbaris, Member of the Turkish Cypriot Republican Turkish Party (CTP), said, “CTP has been supporting a federal solution in Cyprus since the day it was founded and has been fighting in this ideology…when we look at what is happening in our geography, we understand once again how much we need peace in our country, Cyprus. The struggle to reach a permanent solution, on this path we walk together, and the embrace of the two communities in England, as well as the organisation of this festival will bring hope and excitement to all Cypriots spread all over the world.”
Finally, he thanked everyone for their participation and “all the comrades who made great efforts and sacrifices to make the event possible.”
The festival ran until 8.30pm with plenty of food, drink, entertainment – including a performance from the Let’ Sing Together band with lead singers Frideriki Tompazou and Niyal Ozlurk, trilingual games and workshops.
Media sponsors were Parikiaki and Hellenic TV.
Photos Stavri K