The recent circumstances the Nicosia museum found itself in were far from a fairytale and closer to a nightmare for owners and fans. Largely supported by the museum founders themselves, the dead period over the lockdown with zero profits took its toll on the Fairytale museum which was, as a result, on the verge of closing.
On June 1, when most museums in Cyprus were expected to open, the Fairytale Museum posted on Facebook that it may never operate again. For the last three years the owners have funded a lively, loud space for the creation and development of culture.
The museum’s actions, like those elsewhere, were put on hold for two months while the country shut down fighting Covid-19. “The coronavirus crisis with the complete suspension of the operation of the Fairytale Museum was the last blow, which makes it impossible to support it now from an economic point of view. With pain in our souls, we see every hope of continuing its operation to be lost, something that hurts us deeply because it is a dream come true for us, embraced by the entire local community – parents, children, students, teachers – even by tourists visiting the city,” director Vicky Mbalomenou had posted on Facebook.
She told the Cyprus Mail the decision was a difficult one to take but they had exhausted all other options.
Nonetheless, Vicky opened up the floor for suggestions, funds, sponsors and ideas in the hope of finding a “magical helper” to keep the museum open. News travelled fast and the possibility of the museum shutting down pushed its admirers to act. Quickly, an online petition was created raising awareness of the situation, showing support and asking politicians, mayors and cultural institutions to help.
It wasn’t long until tangible assistance came through. The AG Leventis Foundation responded almost immediately and offered €5,000, which will help cover rents that are due. During the lockdown, the museum was one of the most active cultural institutions online with frequent readings to children by actors, authors and even President Anastasiades himself. To support this action, Hellenic Bank also donated €5,000 to the museum.
With school visits on hold, which paid for most of the costs, the museum had no way to keep going. Though a positives response was quickly made and on June 3, just three days after the museum publicly announced its troubles, the Ministry of Education and Culture offered €20,000 to help weather the blow it suffered from the pandemic.
“This amount acts as an important ‘breath’ for the museum, prolonging its life,” Vicky said in a Facebook post. “At the same time, this assistance is a practical recognition for us by the Council of Ministers about of the Fairytale Museum during these three years.”
This financial aid will help the museum operate until the end of the year, given that profits pick up again. Though a tremendous help, it only temporarily saves the museum and it is still on the lookout for more sponsors or ideas. Nonetheless, having the support from the ministry allows the institution to take time to think of ways to keep the museum alive and take action, something that wasn’t possible before.
As such, the museum will continue talks with the Ministry of Education and other institutions and individuals that have expressed interest in supporting it to find a solution that will make the museum sustainable in the long run. Nicosia Mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis engaged in discussions to help find a permanent solution for the museum. Similarly, the education minister has promised to visit the museum to get to know it better.
But it is not just the authorities that have helped, but the general public too. “It’s the people that truly helped,” Vicky told Cyprus Mail. “I wasn’t expecting this attention and people wrote very moving messages about how the museum touched them. We finally feel we are not alone. During the uncertainty, the heart-rending messages we received told me that even if the museum closed, it had been worth it.” And for that, she thanks everyone who fought for the museum with every Facebook post and petition signature.
So, the Fairytale Museum will live to see another day, tell another story. “We won’t go back to hosting big events for many people yet. We need time to see how things will run with the new measures. The last few weeks have been very intense and emotional but we’re excited to be back.”
On Saturday it will re-open with a programme for children aged five and over, including adults. Titled ‘Once upon a time a basket…’, the event is aimed at small groups of visitors, inline with the current health and safety measures, where kids and their escorts can pick up a basket which will include a book of activities and objects created to guide them on an interactive, thematic journey around specific exhibits and points of interest at the Fairy Tale Museum.
The programme will be offered in both Greek and English. For Saturday no bookings are required as the museum eases back into work, though only two to three families at a time will be allowed in. The event will continue every Saturday (between 10am and 1pm) and from next week the museum will return to its normal opening hours.
Most of June’s activities will take place online throughout the week (Monday-Saturday) for organised groups of children and it looks like the Fairytale Museum is determined to return and continue spreading the joy of books and storytelling.
2 Granikou St, Nicosia. Tel: 22-376522. https://www.facebook.com/mouseioparamithiou/