Every summer for the past eight years, the Afro Banana Republic Festival has lit up the season. The brainchild of ABR (Alternative Brains Rule, a local non-profit organisation), the multi-day event is always a mad whirl of excitement; a glorious, fun-filled celebration of art and music and life – so good, it’s won international recognition, securing an EFFE award for being one of Europe’s finest festivals. Year on year, it’s welcomed people of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs into its joyous community. But in 2019, although the premise of good fun, excellent entertainment and ground-breaking innovation will remain the same, there’s change afoot in the ABR camp…
“This year, we’re returning to our roots,” says Constantinos Kyprianou, one of the organisers. “With The AfroBanana + Friends Festival 2019 we’re going back to 2011, referencing the very start of the ABR when the festival was a small community, a family of enthusiasts. It’s not so much a different direction,” he clarifies, “as a narrowing down.”
What this means in terms of change is threefold: a new location, new friends, and – most importantly – fewer tickets for sale. Yes, in 2019, tickets for the five-day ABR Fest are, for the first time, extremely limited. (You have been warned!) The exclusivity is due, in part, to the change of venue. Over the years, the festival has taken place at various locations across the island: it began in the forest of Ayios Trimithias, moved down to beachside Kiti in subsequent years, and is now set to “combine the best of both worlds,” at Val’s Place in Gialia, Paphos.
“Our new location,” says Constantinos, “is an absolute gem of a place. It’s where the sun sets and the stars rise, a perfect hillside location right next to the sea. Surrounded by lush greenery, it’s a paradise of hidden corners, fragrant orchards, and magical gardens; everyone who visits Val’s Place always returns. In fact,” he continues, “the owners, a wonderful local family, grow their own organic fruit and veg – everything from papayas to grapes to mangoes – on the premises, and will be preparing and cooking much of the food for our festival-goers.”
Val’s Place also allows for campers, with two sites from which to choose. “There’s one right in the centre of the festival area, an active camping site which has existed for a while, and another that, although just 150 steps from the main action, is much more secluded, a cool and shaded Garden of Eden concealed among the orange groves.”
So far so good: a gorgeous new location, a place to stay, and scrumptious organically grown produce to sustain us. But what about the main event, the actual festival?
“In previous years, we’ve seen over 3,500 people attending each ABR Fest,” Constantinos acknowledges. “But this time, we’ve limited the number of entrants to provide more of a family feel.” The new formula, he explains, involves a more selective approach to entertainment, with each of the days curated by one of the ‘Friends’. Thus we have New Division and Sousami (two of the island’s most iconic rock bars), the Brandy Sour Collective, Animafest, Antiskino, and the Roots Crew all sharing in both organisation and entertainment.
“If you’re going to build a community, you have to build it with your friends,” says Constantinos. “And these are people and organisations we’ve known for years, those who have always participated in and supported our culture, people who align with our ethos of inclusivity and our celebration of the alternative.”
As part of the collaboration, the first three days of the festival will see attendees waking to Wing Chun, acro yoga and Tai Chi classes, enjoying on-site music from the Brand Sour radio station, and listening to live interviews with various well-known musicians. There will be a relaxation area with more than 50 hammocks, a Recharge Dome for your mobile devices (thanks to long-term festival partners the Bank of Cyprus, who are apparently keen to “facilitate the growth of substantial youth led creative initiatives that positively impact the local cultural scene”), and each evening brings a curated screening with Animafest: “Settle down on the cushions and watch animated classics before going to bed!” enthuses Constantinos. “We’ve designed the whole of the first three days as an environment that encourages a real sense of community for a small number of participants.”
This changes a little, however, in the final two days of the festival. Organisers will be releasing triple the number of tickets for the Saturday, and rewarding all ticket-holders with free entrance on Sunday. Over the weekend there’ll be a second, larger stage for various headline acts (“an eclectic amalgamation of bands, DJs and performers from around the world, complemented by some of the island’s finest music makers”), and a number of additional workshops, including kids’ yoga, World voice music, and a dance class which takes in everything from jazz to hip hop.
“Lots of workshops, lots of music, and lots of people is the order of the day on Saturday and Sunday,” says Constantinos. “But we’re still aiming for that intimate feel, especially at the start. ABR,” he concludes, “has always been about creating a community, building a family, delivering an alternative experience. And that, despite this year’s relative exclusivity, is still what the festival is all about.”
The ABR Fest
At Val’s place in Gialia from July 17 to 21. For more information and bookings, visit www.afrobananarepublic.com or the Facebook page ‘TheAfroBananaRepublic’. Tickets cost from €10 per day, and camping from €12 per night. Under 12s go free