On Thursday, September 22, three days of cultural, environmental and social events took place at the historic city park of Agrinio. The central concept of the celebration in this city park, named after the donor family of Papastratos, was the re appropriation of public space and its revival as a common good.
A three-day meeting full of creativity was held at the park's abandoned cafeteria, organized by solidary people with the struggle for the protection and revitalization of this park and the free, social occupation of Apertus. In the clearing next to pines, oaks, grevileas, eucalyptus and many other shrubs, evergreens and deciduous, that have been evolving for many years within the local ecosystem.
These three days of autumn proceeded with cleaning work, landscaping, concerts, a photo exhibition of the park's remodeling, graffiti, cooking exquisite dishes, drinking at the open bar and lots of music; International bands like Sergi Botswanas of Barcelona and Krav Boca of Toulouse participated as well. We enjoyed two nights under the stars with sounds and music of the streets of the Catalan capital and the French city, and of course, Ioannina and Agrinio. On Friday, Sergi brought us the Spanish music scene with his rumba-rock-ska, after the rhythms of punk band "Syraxi" and an anonymous group. On Saturday night, the explosive Greek-French band Krav Boca was definitely the protagonist. The "Satraps" of Ioannina, Sarantapente and Promitheftis from the community hip-hop of Agrinio harmoniously completed this Mediterranean mosaic of concerts.
These three days of events in the park were very important. The last self-organized cultural event in this degraded area was held in May of 2014. At the time, only a few days before the local elections, this celebration was an important thrust and promoted change in the political landscape of the municipality of Agrinio. The case of this park is a typical modern greek phenomenon of public mismanagement of European funds. On behalf of this eu funded project the destruction of this historic park was attempted against best practices of art and technology management applied throughout the world in such spaces.
After some time, these recent activities of public space re-appropriation have succeeded in distinguishing the park as a core of artistic experimentation and social solidarity, activating its role as an essential public good for the whole city. Basically the park is functioning as a springboard for improving the quality of life, integrating social relations and encouraging contact with nature. This infrastructure promotes the education and recreation of its' users with emphasis on art, culture, sports and environmental protection. It functions as a social factory for land management, rural leisure and culture.
The revival of the outer space of the park's cafe, despite its piecemeal nature and fixed-term purpose, is a cultural event that aims to establish a periodic and self-organized festival in the park of Agrinio.
Using the appropriate documentation it has been demonstrated in practice that the city park could become an international point of reference for the whole region, an active cultural cell that attracts people and offers them a participatory tool at the Community level.
In short, placing the issue in a broader context, its three years since the beginning of the park's reconstruction. Since then (the end of the summer of 2013) in response to the rapid and tragic developments in the historic Agrinio's park, we established an open assembly for citizens to coordinate the struggle for a sustainable park. We have been demonstrating the need to devise different structures and conditions that could make our lives better. We declare our resolve to put in use our proactive and creative mindsets, and be part of both processes of decision making and the implementation of these decisions since these concern our lives. Our guiding principles are self organization, participation and solidarity.
In other words, we gave life to the question posed correctly Eduardo Galeano in his book "A world upside down":
The village, attends the party or play it?
In a democracy, when it is true, does the place of the village is not on the court? Will democracy is exercised only on the day that the vote is deposited in the ballot box every four, five or six years, or exercised every day of every year?
One of the Latin American experiences of everyday democracy is developing in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. There, neighbors discuss and decide the fate of the municipal funds available for each neighborhood, and approve, disapprove correct and projects generated by the local government.
Agrinio's park is an important historical garden, considering the term "historic garden" as equally applicable to gardens and large and small parks, either formal or landscape structure, as mentioned in Article 7 of the Treaty Florence Charter (1982).
The horticultural landscape composition and its architectural synthesis, clearly interests the community for its environmental and artistic features, and provides the necessary conditions for the Park of Agrinio to be considered one of the most important historical gardens in Western Greece and as such, we advocate that it must be declared a protected area. Our argument for this declaration is not based solely on the agronomic, forestry or the legal dimensions. Society itself, has every right to define and articulate the history of this place, as a "historic park" that contains memories of social struggles, archaeological as well as a natural wealth for environmental education.
Certainly these three days of discovery of the reciprocal relationship established between the environment, music and human beings, have led to the activation of an alternative proposal for the Park of Agrinio, realised through projects with processes of self-organizing and horizontal dynamics. That is the prospect that the city's social forces put forward in opposition to the prevailing submissive culture of inertia. By fostering active participation and self-determination it is possible to rejuvenate the park of Agrinio beyond its modern history of stagnation and decadence and activate a more suitable role: the park as a jewel, a ''lung'' and reference point for the entire geographical region.
If you like to see more photos and read the text in other language you can follow the links:
- in greek, enterioni.blogspot.gr/2016/10/blog-post.html
1. You can read in Greek, the corresponding reference: https://parkoagriniou.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/ceadcebaceb8ceb5cf83ceb7-cebaceb1cf84ceb1ceb3ceb3ceb5cebbceafceb1cf82.pdf
Text and photos by ©Dimitris V. Geronikos.
The photos are taken in the ecosystem of the municipal park of Agrinio (donated by Papastratou’s family).
I would like to thank George Karakostas for the corrections that has made in English translation of the text.