FoP (Friends of Paros) is a not-for-profit association, founded at the initiative of the inhabitants of Paros in 2002, as well as of other people who feel, in one way or another, connected to this picturesque island of the Cyclades Archipelago.
This year's FoP annual event and fund-raising dinner took place on 11 August at the Swiss Home Hotel near Naoussa. Distinctions were awarded to the publications Paros Life and Ta Pariana for their contributions to the cultural life of the island. Paris Kaklamanos accepted the award on behalf of Paros Life and Jeffrey Carson spoke about the history of the magazine. More than 125 people – including the Mayor of Paros – attended, and proceeds (1,250 euro) were donated to the AMEAI Centre for People with Special Needs & Abilities. Participants enjoyed the music of Vassilis Rakopoulos and a display of traditional ‘karaves’ created by youngsters in Naoussa under the guidance of Manolis Somaripas. The event was supported by the Municipality of Paros, the Union of Agricultural Cooperatives and the Moraitis Winery.
First of all I must apologize for my absence from this evening's gathering, but family commitments keep me in Canada until the end of the month. I am, however, very touched that the Friends of Paros have chosen to recognize the contributions of Paros Life to our community in this way, and honoured to be receiving your annual award alongside Nikos Aliprantis's prestigious publication Pariana.
I am sure neither you, nor Paris – who is kindly reading these words on my behalf – want a long speech by someone who isn't even here this evening, so I promise to be brief.
There are far too many people to thank individually for their contributions to the growth of Paros Life over the past 13 years since we began. Those who have supported us with their advertising, of course, have funded our efforts to bridge the gap between Greek and non-Greek-speaking Parian residents and keep the international community informed of local news and events. To them I extend my gratitude – especially to those who have continued to support us despite the difficulties we are all facing in these challenging times. Some of you present this evening – Jeffrey & Elizabeth Carson, Jean Polyzoides, Lena Yacoumopoulou - have been extraordinarily generous with your photographs and articles over the years, as have many others. But there are a few individuals without whose help at critical times in the magazine's history it would have been impossible to continue: Robert & Karen Barratt, Trudy Petridi, Angelica Eder, Iris Papathanasiou, Frank Tocher, Natalie Hatter, Cynthia Cotts and Paris Kaklamanos have each played a pivotal role in the evolution of Paros Life. I gladly accept the honour you bestow on the magazine in recognition also of their dedication to and love for this extraordinarily special island which we have chosen to call home.
I may not be with you in person tonight, but I am certainly there in spirit.
Thank you, Friends. I am both proud of and humbled by this award.”
Mayor Christos Vlachoyiannis:
“Paros Life offers an important service to the island's international community, which – if we were better organised as a local authority – we could be offering. I believe that non-Greek speakers and foreign nationals living on our island should be able to integrate into our society under the best possible conditions. They should be kept informed of what's going on and have a voice on the developments affecting them, so that they can cooperate with us harmoniously. Paros Life plays a vital role in this area."
“When my wife and I moved to Paros in 1970 – and we’ve been here ever since – there was little in the way of overt cultural life. I brought the first piano to Paros and gave the first music lessons in which children learned to read music; I wrote the first English guidebook, I wrote articles about the church and old customs, and I had no competition. The old cultural life was an aesthetically impressive amalgam of songs, poems, proverbs, superstitious stories, church festivals and architecture. But the arrival of cars, television, tourists and cash squelched it, for that kind of peasant culture requires isolation. It was initially replaced by nothing, and there was reason for despondence. But Paros – that is to say, Parians – soon got their bearings, and now our cultural life is rich with concerts, dance performances, readings, art exhibitions, proper building restoration and civic pride. Part of this revival was due to young Parians who saw the problem; their organ was the newspaper Pariani Gnomi, now defunct. Two decades later, Paros Life took up the call, and is happily still flourishing.
The first edition of Paros Life, then called The Foreigner, came out on 1 March 1998. It was a four-page black-and-white, photocopied newsletter that hoped to create a sense of connection and community among Paros' very disparate foreign residents, who were increasing (there were six when I first arrived), and inform them of local news and events. Some of the writing and most of the work were done by founder and publisher Vicki Preston; if there is anyone who loves Paros, it is she.
Greek is not an easy language, and the Greek papers were closed to most of us; Paros Life gave us a shared means of communication, increased understanding of what was going on around us and delighted us with its straightforward reporting, its assumption that problems are solvable, and its insistence that culture, animal rights, ecology and wit are valuable. It integrated us into the Greek community, replaced rumour with research, and persuaded many happily to extend their residency.
The Foreigner as a title was contrary to intention, and in 2001 it was renamed Paros Life, which better reflects its content and purpose. Naxos Life was launched 2005, and in 2008 the two merged.
Paros Life has a very specific philosophy, which is printed in every issue: “to promote cooperation and integration within our local community." The letters page also states that: “We strive always to emphasise the positive. We seek means of continuous improvement, rather than focusing on criticism…” which sets the magazine’s tone.
English has rapidly become the international language. The xenoi (foreigners) who read Paros Life, you surely have noticed, come from everywhere, including other places in Greece; and it is circulated far and wide – it was Paros’ first newspaper to be media-smart. Because of its freedom from politics (though not political reporting), the usefulness of its information, the quality of its articles, and its communal intentions, it is now read by many Parians too.
We who have come to live on Paros thank the island and its people for all it has given us. I hope we may be permitted to think that with Paros Life, as well as in other ways, we have given something back.