Cypriot Village Project

Posted by editor 21/05/2013 0 Comment 3426 views


By Figen Gunes

Eighty-two-year-old social entrepreneur George Eugeniou is angry: “Our project has been hijacked,” he says. “We will be lobbying ministers to maintain community life through placements of families at the block.”

The block in question is a small community of housing units dedicated to elderly Cypriot people. It is part of a project Eugeniou developed in the late 1980s when he noticed how isolated elderly Cypriots could become without proper community relationships – and later on in their lives, dying in hospitals with no one around. The project also aimed to show the international community that Turkish and Greek Cypriots could live peacefully side by side.

In the late 1980s the project received support from Camden Council, which recommended the project for funding. A site was identified where the development could be built at Farrier Street, Camden and the initiative received a Times/Riba Prince of Wales award at that time for innovation.

Now he is battling a Housing Association who are threatening to take nomination rights to the block away from vulnerable members of the Cypriot community. 

Lifelong actor and director, Eugeniou is well known in the local community since he founded the fringe arts venue Theatro Technis in Camden in 1957.    

This passionate and dedicated actor had turned his one-bed flat into a daytime theatre rehearsal studio in the 1950s when he first came to the UK. Later a Cypriot friend leant him his garage to rehearse in. After the garage was sold, Eugeniou approached Camden Council to open up a theatre – at that time there were a high number of exiles settling in the Camden area due to a military junta in Greece.

There were a lot of deportations, which Eugeniou thought unfair: “I wrote a play about a couple deported from the UK after 9 and a half years,” he says. “I went to the local church with the couple and also informed a TV station about their case. We set up the first sanctuary in the UK for 200 years at the church for the couple to live in.

“Due to Cyprus politics after 1974, the couple were due to be deported to north and south of the island separately. They slept in the church for five months before they lost their case and were sent back,” he goes on. “But after our campaign the Home Office decided to review other cases and as a result they gave 2,000 people the right to stay here.”

And now Eugeniou has another fight on his hands at Philia House, the six units of housing for Cypriot elders. But he finds inspiration easy to find: “Theatre is the mirror of life; it is inspired by life and contributes back to the community,” he says. “The Greek word ‘technis’ means art and craft. It is not just work but it is a mission. The mission is to enlighten ourselves and our audience, and to break down barriers that divide us and learn how to live together.”

 Picture: George Eugeniou is the second from left at the opening ceremony of the block.
















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