Director of the Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture Pavlos Paraskevas in conversation with Saskia Constantinou about cultural development in Cyprus.
Pavlos Paraskevas was born in Cyprus, in the village of Kontea, Famagusta. He graduated with a BA from the department of Archaeology and Art, Faculty of Philosophy from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece. He also holds an MBA in Management and Public Administration from the Mediterranean Institute of Management in Cyprus.
Between 1981 and 1987 he held the position of chief editor at ‘Chr. Andreou’ Editorial House. Since 1987 he has been working at the Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture.
He is the author and editor of significant works on Cyprus literature and poetry. He has also published various essays and articles in newspapers and literary magazines and has cooperated with the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation for the production of radio shows on cultural issues.
As Director of Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture, what are some of the responsibilities you have?
As the Director of the Cultural Services, I’m responsible for the administration and effective performance of the Department. I am also the Secretary General of the Cyprus National Commission for UNESCO and a member of the Board of Directors of the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra Foundation. The Cyprus Library, the National Struggle Museum, SIMAE and the Offices of the three cultural attachés in Athens (The House of Cyprus), London and Berlin are also under my authority. As the Head of this Department, it is my duty to envision, propose and execute the state´s cultural policy as regards to contemporary culture.
We have seen a great progress in the Cultural Services especially over the last decade with regard to high profile international musicians and artists visiting Cyprus – What is your long term plan to further develop culture?
One of the main goals of the Department is to further enhance access and participation in Culture. This is achieved through the “POLITISMOS” funding programme, which aims at supporting high standard performances by celebrated artists, as well as through the various Festivals that are organised or co-organised by the Cultural Services, such as the KYPRIA Festival, the Ancient Greek Drama Festival, the Cyprus Film Days Festival, the Contemporary Dance Festival etc. We expect that the forthcoming upgrade of the Cultural Services shall further accelerate our cultural policy and strategic planning, which in turn will give culture on the island a boost.
What are the biggest challenges you face every day?
Our sector faces a constantly increasing number of challenges that need to be addressed every day. Primarily, we have financial restraints and a lack of human resources. This then puts limitations on proper management structure and inhibits the proper utilisation of a very promising cultural force.
How involved are businesses in supporting the arts and what benefits does the government offer them for their support? Are there enough cultural figures on boards of major businesses?
Before the financial crisis there was great support from the Bank sector as well as other major companies. At the moment, the government offers small tax benefits to those who support culture. However, although there is some interest, we do not have a proper plan that aims at encouraging organisations to invest in culture.
Many artists leave Cyprus, as there is not a steady platform for their art – for example, we have no permanent Opera of Ballet company. Are there any plans to focus on these areas?
The fact that Cyprus is a small country puts limits on the way we proceed with regards to Culture, especially in certain sectors where the need for investment is considerable and the audience’s interest is limited. Our aim is to first attempt to create a proper background in order to support the acquirement of such artistic tastes and then proceed to decide whether to bring forward new ideas regarding cultural infrastructure. For now, our intention is to acquire basic cultural infrastructure.
A healthy creative sector is absolutely vital for a healthy economy. Do you have a five or ten year plan of how cultural organizations can be supported?
At the moment we have the five-year “POLITISMOS” funding programme which comprises our main funding tool. There is also the funding programme for Film Production as well as smaller grants for specific sectors in order to meet their distinct needs.