Athens Insider’s Culture Club: Building Community
The idea behind our literary salons and supper clubs is that Athens needs more concrete and compelling places where native Athenians and new Athenians can meet each other. In short, we want friends. We want a sense of community. And we want to develop ways to keep people coming back, or to stay in Athens. We want to tell stories that connect with this idea of Athens – not simply as a visitor destination but as part of our lives. There is no better way to do that than with our cultured guests who participated in a conversation on one of the great figures of this approach to Greece, John Craxton.
This search for community is especially true of the creatives who find themselves in Athens – they are returning back to our city from abroad, or they are arriving for the first time because they heard a rumor. And when we talk to these people we have heard that Athens does a great good job of getting them to come visit, but we need to really work in order to get people to stay, to hold our community together.
Our magazine Athens Insider has been doing that work for 20 years of building a community for expats – though today we need to find a new term. We are building on that legacy and actually returning to some of our old projects that haven’t been possible during the pandemic – like the Athens Insider Creative Club, and the Insider Terrace. We would like this event series and this terrace to be a place where you can meet people who bring you inspiration, creativity, pleasure, and food for thought.
And we hope that you will support us on this journey to expand our mission. In fact, we have some specific ideas of how you can participate and support the creation of this community which we can share later.
As a magazine, we are at a turning point. Athens is getting much more interest from abroad than any time in its past, and at the same time the city is changing very quickly in its appearance and mood. We are faced with new opportunities and challenges. We have the opportunity to be more creative and to grow our network, and new challenges because social networking is very different in 2022 than it was in 2012. I am sure we are all experiencing whiplash because of changing platforms, from Facebook to Instagram to TikTok. We are tired of always asking what is in style, because by the time we know about it, it’s probably out of style.
Leaving the pandemic, and with all the political chaos and war that surrounds us, we want more than ever to keep it simple – to connect and do our work. So our turning point is this: does Athens Insider dig deeper into social media trends? Or do we look for other ways to build our community here in Athens?
We want to look around at the world and to see what is changing, to share a vision, and we want to be able to call out something that doesn’t seem right without merely sounding glib. We want to connect. And most of all we want more opportunities to celebrate the creative work that is today being done in Athens and which is making our lives so much more interesting.
That’s of course why we are glad to have had the opportunity to converse with Ian Collins and Helena Smith.
Ian Collins is this year’s winner of the prestigious Runciman Award for the best book in English on a Greek subject. He represents the best of the tradition we aim to uphold at Athens Insider. He and John Craxton were close friends for a decade, and Craxton eventually agreed that Ian should tell his story. This became the book John Craxton: A Life of Gifts published in English by Yale and in Greek translation by Patakis. Today Ian lives part of the year in Athens, and the exhibition he curated that was at the Benaki Museum is now at the Municipal Art Gallery of Chania.
Helena Smith knows Athens as a consummate Insider. After spending some of her childhood in Cyprus she arrived in Greece during her 20s, trained with the Associated Press and then freelanced for the BBC. Recently, The Guardian celebrated her 30 years as its Athens correspondent.