Antonis Kioukas: “Mykonos is in the hunt for money and not culture”
He loves the arts, research, adores his island and for the last ten years he has given his soul to offer culture in Mykonos. Antonis Kioukas shares with Mykonos Post the history of the Meletopoulos garden, responds honestly to the rumors that the garden wants to change hands and states that he is disappointed with the current image of the island.
In recent days, Mykonos is in turmoil. The cause of all the upheaval is the famous garden of Cine Manto, which is a donation of the historian Ioannis Meletopoulos in the municipality of Mykonos. A beautiful garden in which for many years the people of Mykonos, but also the visitors of the island have lived moments full of culture, finesse, aesthetics and culture. Antonis Kioukas, is the man who for ten years has rented the Meletopoulos garden from the municipality, but also the witty mind behind everything that happens in the cine Manto. The Mykonos Post contacted Antonis Kioukas and together we make a cinematic flashback to the story of the garden donation by Ioannis Meletopoulos, the feel that has been left to him during these ten years at the cine Manto, but also the next day in terms of the future of this garden.
Who was Ioannis Meletopoulos?
Ioannis Meletopoulos was one of the most emblematic figures in the interwar period in Greece. Lawyer, historian, scholar and a man with a deep love for the arts and culture. “He came from a very wealthy family in Piraeus. The whole family were involved in the community activities of Piraeus. Its members had been city councilors, city council chairmen and mayoral candidates. In fact, the Meletopoulos family pioneered the creation of the Tzaneio hospital. Ioannis Meletopoulos father was a well-known historian and researcher studying in Paris. Ioannis Meletopoulos was one of the founders of the historical and ethnological society of Greece, curator of the national and historical museum, curator of the Tzaneio hospital, with many donations to the archeological museum and the founders of the numismatic museum. In short it has a history of a donor and a national benefactor. Towards the end of the 19th century, the father of Ioannis Meletopoulos, went down to Mykonos because he married a Mykonian woman. In the process, Ioannis Meletopoulos became very active in the intellectual life of Mykonos. During the interwar period, gatherings were organized in the garden, where distinguished members of the intellectual generation of 1930, such as Karagatsis, Theotokis, Elytis, gathered and drank ouzo together. Essentially, today’s garden was the garden of the Meletopoulos family. Their house was where the library of Mykonos is today”, describes Antonis Kioukas to Mykonos Post.
“The truth is that in the 1960s the garden was not used. It was a sloppy garden, whose vegetation was growing. In the mid-1960s, I remember myself as a child
walking in a jungle”
The important donations of Meletopoulos in the municipality of Mykonos
In 1955, Ioannis Meletopoulos made three important donations to the municipality of Mykonos. “The first donation is to offer water. Since the garden has water, Ioannis Meletopoulos puts two fountains for the people of Mykonos, who until recently carried water from the wells. At the same time, he donates 10000 volumes from his personal library, his residence and thus the municipal library of Mykonos is created. The third big donation of Ioannis Meletopoulos is his garden for the recreation and entertainment of Mykonians. Although his initial thought was to donate the garden to the municipality of Mykonos after his death, in 1960 he changed his mind and decided to donate it alive. The purpose of donating the garden is clearly written in the donation: It is for the recreation of Mykonos. In fact, at some point he states that the non-observance of the conditions stated in the donation, will annul the donation”, he explains. In 1960, the Meletopoulos garden passed into the hands of the municipality of Mykonos. “The truth is that in the 1960s the garden was not used. It was a sloppy garden, whose vegetation was growing. In the mid-1960s, I remember myself as a child walking in a jungle. This is how the garden looked to my eyes at that time and because it is next to my paternal home, I saw it every day”, he reveals to the Mykonos Post.
“From the 1.5 acres which is the garden, what was utilized was only 400 meters of the cinema. The rest, which exceeded one acre, functioned as a reception and parking for cleaning carts”.
The involvement of Antonis Kioukas with the Meletopoulos garden
Although the Meletopoulos garden was given to the municipality in 1960, according to Antonis Kioukas, it will be 35 whole years until the time comes when it will be used by the municipality of Mykonos. “In 1995, under the mayorship of Christos Veronis, with a unanimous decision of the municipal council, a summer cinema is created in the Meletopoulos garden, which operates under the supervision of the cultural organization of the municipality, DEPPAM (Municipal Enterprise for the Cultural Promotion and Development of Mykonos), until 2010. The truth is that during these 15 years the cinema went very well, but from the 1.5 acres which is the garden, what was utilized was only 400 meters of the cinema. The rest, which exceeded one acre, functioned as a reception and parking for cleaning carts”, he says characteristically. In 2011, the municipality of Mykonos decides to put him in a public tender, so that he can be hired and operated by a private individual. “At that time, the mayor of the island was Thanasis Kousathanas Megas. It was early summer 2011. Then, I decided to participate in the competition. “Finally I rented the garden, which included the summer cinema and the refreshment stand.” The decision of Antonis Kioukas to deal with the Meletopoulos garden and the cinema is not at all accidental, as he had a long career in cultural management, as head for three years at the Drama short film festival, but also at the Thessaloniki film festival for thirteen whole years. “Typically, my profession is a director. However, in cultural management I have a lot of experience and many successes that I do not have so much as a director”, he says laughing.
“As soon as the Mykonos Art Festival succeeded, the city councilors focused on it, took it and now, instead of having
arts, it functions as a musicians transfer office”.
“I didn’t want to continue on these terms at the Mykonos Art Festival”
From 2011 until today, when these lines are being written, the cinema of cine Manto, but also the garden of Meletopoulos, operates under the supervision of Antonis Kioukas. “The purpose of the cinema was to create a cultural space: To develop a series of cultural activities on an island that even in 2011 – let alone today -, its violent tourist development had deprived it of any cultural breath. What is happening in Mykonos is terrible. We have next to us the largest archeological site in Europe and if a tourist comes he does not understand that he is next to Delos”, he emphasizes in the Mykonos Post. Having been in charge of cine Manto for a decade, I wonder what cultural activities he is proud to have organized. I feel a satisfaction for everything, but also a bitterness, because most of them fell into the void. In addition to the operation of the summer cinema, we strengthened the program of the cinema for children. We tried to make and operate a cinema in the winter, but unfortunately people did not respond. I made a series of folk documentaries about my island, from 2013 until today. In addition, for two years, I took free film lessons in Mykonos in the winter, forming an amateur film group and of course I always had the cine Manto in cultural and social institutions. I organized a series of cultural events, such as a workshop made by Mrs. Irini Syrianou for the mosaic of Delos, but also archeological exhibitions, book presentations, exhibitions of paintings, photography, sculpture, puppetry. I tried to promote the case of Delos with the concerts of Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Dimitris Papadimitriou. At one point, I brought George Chorafas from Paris and we made a film about Delos. The most important of all was in 2018 and at the suggestion of the president of the Gryparion Cultural Center, when we organized an international art festival in Mykonos, a festival worthy of what Mykonos is on the world map. This festival is the Mykonos Art Festival. Of course, our effort fell on deaf ears. As soon as the Mykonos Art Festival succeeded, the city councilors focused on it, took it and now, instead of having arts, it functions as a musicians transfer office. While Xarchakos, Protopsalti, Dalaras, Zouganeli, Machairitsas went through the Mykonos Art festival, as well as the exhibition of Kostas Tsoklis, now it becomes a thing with music and bouzouki that concerns only the people of Mykonos, that is, only the voters. Culture is not something that everyone can do”, he says honestly. Did his disengagement from the Mykonos Art Festival cost him personally? “I did not want to continue with these terms. If there is no creativity, original thought and a goal, then it does not concern me. What I wanted was for Mykonos to offer the best culture, equal to its tourism which is top in the world. That’s why I wanted the biggest names and the most creative people on the planet to come to this international festival”.
“I am disappointed, because I was enchanted and inspired
by Mykonos. I believe that we have said goodbye definitively and irrevocably to the era that created the modern mythology of Mykonos: The Mykonos of cosmopolitanism, carelessness and freedom”.
“Cine Manto offers a cleansing for the island”
He admits that during these ten years, he did his best to promote culture in Mykonos. “Cine Manto offers a cleansing for the island. As much as we could, we put it on the map of culture. The Independent ranked Cine Manto one of the six best summer cinemas in the world, and the Guardian one of the ten best in the world. Time Out magazine among the forty best in the world. And I say this because, truth be told, the image that exists worldwide of Mykonos, is not an image of culture, but the image of an unbridled clubbing. Mykonos has no culture, but a tradition, which depends on completely on two or three dance groups and nothing else. The artists have left the island, while the gay scene has also receded, a scene that exuded a unique finesse and aesthetics. On the contrary, wherever you turn your eye, you see third-world rich people, Arabs with hookahs and women in bikinis and high heels on the beaches. All this has driven away what made Mykonos what it once was. Therefore, the interest has been somewhat lost. I believe that every society has what it seeks. Now, Mykonos is in the hunt for money, success and not so much in the hunt for culture”. Disappointment has colored both the tone of his voice and his mood, in the face of everything that has happened in recent years in Mykonos. In a Mykonos that is constantly changing. “I am disappointed, because I was enchanted and inspired by Mykonos. I believe that we have said goodbye definitively and irrevocably to the era that created the modern mythology of Mykonos: The Mykonos of
cosmopolitanism, carelessness, freedom, acceptance of diversity, simplicity, creation, aesthetics, but also the beauty that will save the world”.
The expiration of the contract and the next day
In recent days, it is heard loudly that the cine Manto, after ten years will be handed over. In fact, some argue that it will be given for rent 150,000 a year to a businessman who will make it a restaurant. Meletopoulos’ garden, the garden donated by the historian for the entertainment of the people of Mykonos, has become the number one topic of discussion on the island. Antonis Kioukas, whose contract expires in a few months, is clear when I ask him about the fate of the Meletopoulos garden. “I have also heard and read a lot in recent days. However, I have no idea and I couldn’t have any idea on what will happen, because I am not the one who decides. I’m not in charge neither I own the cinema. The municipality must decide what it will do, what character it will give to it, but also what kind of course it will give to it. What I can tell you is what I would do if I were mayor. I would protect three specific things, which to this day are protected: 1. To keep the Meletopoulos garden, a place of culture and entertainment. 2. To be open, with free access to the residents and visitors of the island. 3. I would take care to strengthen these characteristics”, he clarifies. Antonis Kioukas rented the Meletopoulos garden and the cine Manto in 2011. Since then, how many times has a tender been held for this property? “I will tell you something I say to the media for the first time: In 1991, with a legislative initiative of the then Mitsotakis government, a protection was created for cinemas, which was extended to solitary cinemas. This legislative initiative protects the rent control of summer cinemas. Without this protection, many summer cinemas would have become homes and apartment buildings. I return to your question and answer you that I took the cine Manto in 2011 for three years. In 2014 we made the renewal for three more years and one year before the expiration of the contract, a renewal was made based on the legal protection, until December 2021. All these years, I pay a specific annual rent to the municipality. A rent that is clearly less than the 150,000 euros you said earlier. “This money cannot even close come out within a year from a cinema and cultural events”, he clarifies.
“My whole life has been and is dedicated to culture. The only thing I am sure of is that these ten years were some of the happiest times of my life”.
After ten years, the garden of Meletopoulos is open to all those who wish to participate in the tender that will take place in 2022. Is he willing to claim it? “It depends on the terms of the tender. If the terms of the tender meet the function of a cultural space – as it is now – of course I will claim it. If, however, this is not the subject of the competition, I have no reason to enter the process. My whole life has been and is dedicated to culture. The only thing I am sure of is that these ten years were some of the happiest times of my life”.