LITERATURE AND ARTS IN LEFKADA
Literature and Art Festivals and the International Folklore Festival
Lefkada was the first in Greece to institute Literature and Arts Festivals, in 1955, and the International Folklore Festival in 1962. Ever since, these events have taken place without interruption, every August, to this day, drawing on the age-old traditions of the Ionian Islands. They were immediately taken to heart by the local population, became a magnet as a tourist attraction, and were imitated all over Greece. The Literature and Art Festivals, as the name suggests, offer a variety of events of scholarly and literary content, such as lectures, theatre performances and concerts. There have been numerous exceptional moments over the years in the history of these festivals, culminating in the unplanned appearance of Maria Callas in 1964, her last performance before a Greek public. Internationally acclaimed names of the social sciences, outstanding Greek writers, renowned musicians, actors and more have participated in these festivals and functions.
During the Folklore Festival, the town’s streets are filled with dancers from countries the world over , in their national costumes, dancing and singing around the main square, waving flags and banners. In fact, the entire island is infused with the enthusiasm created by colourful national costumes, the variety of the music and the cheerfulness of dance groups from near or far.
These are days when it’s fun to be in Lefkada town, certainly on the first Sunday of the Folklore Festival. On this joyous Sunday, there is a reception of the leaders of the groups in the Municipal Cultural Centre, followed by a gathering of all the participants at the monastery of Faneromeni, where there is a prayer - officiated by the Metropolitan Bishop – for peace and amity among nations. Early in the afternoon, these colourful and buzzing groups of dancers, usually accompanied by their musicians playing traditional music of their country, make their way down to the town and parade along the central Agora, cheered by the locals and visitors, who contribute in a variety of joyous ways (cheering, applauding, throwing confetti, streamers) and finally end up at the seashore. Then, all together (including locals and tourists), a cheerful round of ‘Syrto’ is danced, which has been designated as the Dance for Peace and Fraternity among Peoples. Then, for an entire week, performances are given in the open-air theatre at Vardania on the edge of town.