European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Spyros Mercouris - coordinator of Athens 1085

Spyros Mercouris                       Photo by Kostas Kartelias 2007


Work as Coordinator

“I never had a desk behind which I would sit; rather we had a long table and everyone sat around it to discuss how we are going to do it.”

Searching for venues

"When Peter Stein came to Athens before the event to search for a proper venue for his play ‘Orestie’, he was not satisfied with any of the stages or theatres that I showed him. Then I got an idea: 'wait, we have a huge quarry, let me show you it!' So we drove to that quarry. Once Peter Stein set his eyes upon it, he immediately said: 'This is it. He is not going to move anywhere else. Here he wants the stage so that the audience can look beyond towards the sea!'.

But then how to build in such a short time both the stage and the tribune for the audience? I said to myself, that I have my reliable workers. In particular I knew one young man who had grown up in the shop of his father who did for me and others all sorts of metallic jobs. This young man had been working since the age of six, but he had never learned to read and to write. But he had magical hands when it came to treating materials of all kinds. So this young man and his team constructed everything. He built the entire stage and a tribune for 2 500 people in just 31 days. He hardly slept during those days. And if he rested for a while, he would wrap himself up with a blanket and lie down in a small tent near the construction site. It was amazing that he manage to finish the job on time."

Spyros added once this remarkable event with Peter Stein was over, they donated stage and tribune to another community of Athens where it is now called the Melina Mercouri Theatre."

European dimension

"To my mind a European Capital of Culture is about letting people meet and this is done best by bringing together artists, writers, cultural actors etc. who all can enter a dialogue with every citizens. A Cultural Capital should not become something like a stage for just another festival."



Born in Athens (1926). Studied Law at the University of Athens.

Active in the Resistance during the German/Italian occupation.

Member of the resistance organisation “Democratic Defence” during the colonels’ junta (1967-74) in Greece. Organised the tour of Melina Mercouri against the dictatorship in 14 countries of Europe. Took part in activities against the junta throughout Europe and United States with speeches, interviews and by organising political and cultural events.

Co-founder of the political party PASOK.

Owner and Director of the property development company in London “Dimmerk Property Developments LTD” (1969-81).

Special advisor and co-ordinator of cultural events at the Ministry of Culture in Greece and abroad (1981-89).

Organiser and general co-ordinator of the first Cultural Capital of Europe “Athens 1985”.

Contributed towards the construction of the exact replicas of the ancient trade ship “Kyrenia II” 300 BC and of the ancient war ship Trireme 500 BC Organiser of the events for the launching of the ships “Kyrenia II” and “Trireme Olympias”.

Organiser of the kindling of the Flame for the Olympic Games and its celebration in Athens for the International Olympics in Seoul (1988). Presentation of the exhibition “Mind and Body” in Athens and in Seoul.

Greek Organiser and co-ordinator for a year of cultural events by the city of Dallas “Dallas World Salute to Greece” (1990).

Organiser and curator of 70 exhibitions in Greece and abroad among which the most important are: “Greece and the Sea”, “Democracy and Classical Education”, “From Byzantium to El Greco”, “Prehistory and Antiquity”, “The Mycenean World”, “The Human Figure in Early Greek Art”, “Mind and Body”, “A Stage for Dionysos - Theatrical Space and Ancient Drama” “Greek Myths & Ancient Drama at La Scala”. These exhibitions have been presented at prestigious venues such as the National Archaeological Museum of Greece, the National Gallery of Greece, the National Gallery in Washington D.C., the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, the Royal Academy of London the Theatre Museum of London, the Antiken Museum in Berlin, La Scala di Milano.

Co-ordinator of event on island of Lemnos “Aegean Archipelago” for the preservation of Culture and Environment (Melina Mercouris’ last vision).

General co-ordinator of the Cultural Capital’s Seminar: “New Cultural Roads in Europe”, during the event, “Waves of the Black Sea” and “Aegean Archipelago”.

Organiser of numerous symposia, such as “Man at the age of technology” “Experiences and Visions” “Thucydides” etc. and TV programs on culture also lectures and personal appearances on television in Greece and abroad.

Producer and director of the following documentaries: “Poets sing to Greece”, “A voyage through Myth and Time”, “Onassis’ Cultural Heritage”. Co-founder of the film distribution company “Lambiris - Mercouris”.

Co-ordinator of the European Cultural Event, 5th of May 2000 - Day of Culture, with the theme “Freedom of Expression and Dialogue” and 5th of May 2002 - Day of Culture, with the theme “Cultural Diversity Versus Uniformity” organised by the Network of Cultural Capitals and Cultural Months of Europe.

Honorary President of the Network of Cultural Capitals and Cultural Months of Europe. President of the non profit organization Horizons – Actions. Member of the Board of Directors of the Melina Mercouri Foundation. Special Advisor to the movement “Kids’ of Guernica. Member of the Board of the Cultural Centre of the Municipality of Athens for eight (8) years until 1996.

President of NGO 'Open Horizons'



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