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Party in the park

By Alix Norman

“You know the drill by now,” runs the press release. “Comfy shoes, kids in one hand, pets in the other, good music and great beer in the heart of the Garden.”
Yes, Avant Garden is back for the third year running. A delightful festival, as fun and easy-going as it sounds, this celebration is all about kicking back and having a jolly good time. Set in Nicosia’s Municipal Gardens, the event promises to be a “festival-ish Saturday filled with music”, and organisers Avant Garde Free Press are doing everything they can to ensure it’s an evening of pure, relaxing pleasure for all the attendees.

“It will be a great event I think, excellent music. It’s unmissable,” grins Ioanna Pantopoli, founder of Avant Garde and, as such, the brains behind the annual festival. Marrying creativity, music, sustenance and good company, the festival aims at bringing together a creative crowd in the presence of some of Cyprus’ best known bands, for an evening of musical and gastronomic jollities.

“We’re expecting around 800 people this year,” Ioanna continues, explaining that the festival is designed to appeal to all age groups: “everything from age 18 to 60! We always see a wide range of ages and people attending the festival and though, in the main, it’s people who tend towards the artistic and creative, that certainly doesn’t preclude any type of person in any way.”

It’s this idea spirit of community and enjoyment that typifies not just the festival, but also the group behind it: the “amazing team” at Avant Garde Free Press. “Because we’re a local free press, we write about the community; everyone and everything we cover relates to Cyprus, and the things that we feel really matter to people,” Ioanna explains. “And, as part of these ideals, we try to provide our readers with the opportunity to meet artists of all kinds and from all walks of life, supporting the community in which we live.”

Having previously hosted a number of special events designed to bring the work of local artists to the wider public, the annual festival is not merely the only way in which Avant Garde promotes local talent and culture. “In previous years, we’ve organised a couple of fashion shows promoting Cypriot designers and their work, held fashion exhibitions both at ARTos and at the Aigaia Art School and hosted a concert with famous Greek singer Maravegas,” says Ioanna, naming a few of the group’s former projects. But it’s the aptly named Garden Festival that’s usually the highlight of the year, she suggests.

“Every year, we’ve organised the festival in a park or garden,” says Ioanna. “The first year – in 2012 – we held it in the park opposite the Famagusta Gate. We had a total of eight bands playing a mixture of blues and rock, jazz and experimental music,” she explains, clarifying that each year the organisers try to entice exciting new groups to join the line up. The food was a buffet-style Cypriot meze (cheese, cucumbers, bread and meat – that sort of thing) and over 1,000 people turned up to enjoy!”

The success of the first festival meant that, in 2013, a two-day event was put in place in the larger premises of the Municipal Gardens. “We enjoyed a great selection of rembetiko, bossa nova, jazz and covers from renowned groups such as Sandy Brour and Trio Frisson. And,” she adds, “despite the fact the weather had suddenly and surprisingly turned cold that weekend, loads of people showed up!”

With such a lively interest from the community, this year’s festival is sure to build on previous successes. Not only is there a fantastic line up of local musicians, there’s also a wealth of food and drink available and – best of all – there’s no cover charge. “We decided that, since the crisis, everyone’s had a lot of issues to deal with,” says Ioanna. “So, despite the fact that it’s a big thing for us to be able to cover the expenses, we’ve decided to make it free entrance.”

With bands such as Trio Frisson, Some Take, The Big Band Theory and Atou Ta Leme included in the line up, the Avant Garden Festival III promises to be an event worth attending. “It’s going to be great!” enthuses Ioanna. “Fantastic music, great food – pulled pork sandwiches, burgers and fish and chips this year – and a large bar, all in a beautiful setting, lights and bunting decorating the park.” It certainly does sound like an Avant Garden of delights!

The Avant Garden Festival III
Saturday, October 18 from 4pm to midnight in the Municipal Gardens of Nicosia. Entrance is free, and food and drinks will be available for purchase throughout. The event will have access for people with disabilities. For further details visit www.avant-garde.com.cy or the Facebook page www.facebook.com/avant.garde.press . You can also email [email protected] or call 99 870053