In many ways, the capital of Hellas is a haven for creatives. Built on a foundation of ancient art, a rich love of culture and now a stifado-style melting pot of styles, Athens is the place to be if you're looking to draw creativity from the unique energy of a city.
So much so that with its street art and underground cliques it’s become a cliche to call it the "New Berlin"; but as this New Era mini-doc captures it’s not so plain-sailing when it comes to staying afloat as a creative.
It’s the latest episode of New Era’s docuseries, focusing on rising subterranean collectives and scenes across the world. Introducing audiences to those on the ground in the underground, the legendary streetwear brand is also providing support and funding for the creatives. It’s one for the heads.
So far, the series has stopped off at Accra to explore the creativity, community, and culture in the Ghanaian capital, and Reykjavík to represent the Prikið community hub. This time it’s amplifying the efforts of Fade Radio, the city’s main underground radio station. Founded while the city was still rebuilding itself after its debt crisis, Fade has gained credit. Started from scratch by Dennis Green, it's now a major platform boasting a roster of 100 regular residents built on a wing, a prayer and some proper good music.
The film begins by heading to Romantso, a cultural hub named after the cult literary magazine it once housed. Now it’s a club, cinema, theatre and workspace, attracting young creatives for its major energy and key resources. It’s also the HQ for Fade Radio.
“The creative community here is very active,” Green says in the film. “There’s a lot of people doing music and people are always hungry for parties…but being a DJ and producer in Athens is not easy. So, we need places like this to give opportunities to new artists,” he continues.
“When we started we really didn’t have anything; no budget or equipment,” adds his friend DJ Problems. “We made the graphics, and bought the servers so that we could stream on the internet, and that’s how it all began… It’s a really nice feeling when you start something from zero.”
Other artists in Athens share this view in the film; while the vision is unlimited the funding is the total opposite. “Athens is inherently creative, but it’s also a very difficult place to create,” Saber Rider, one of the station’s residents, says. “It’s at a tipping point. People are trying to form collectives, but it’s rather difficult because there is no state funding at all,” she continues, explaining that the Ministry of Cultures’ grants have been cut by 60%, creativity seemingly holding less currency.
This creates a Herculean struggle for those trying to make it. “Every city is creative in the sense that it contains people. But is art in Athens able to exist? That’s the real question,” she asks. While there’s no concrete answer, there is a shared optimism and belief that the scene will survive. DAZEDBOI – also a Fade Radio resident – sees the trap scene as a main part of the city’s future and believe the city’s power lies in its multicultural energy.
“You get people from different groups all together, and you get an exchange of ideas and networking,” he says. He explains that everyone has to be ready to ball. “You’ve got to be tough, work all the time, progress as a business, get to know people, and promote your stuff,” he says. DJ Problem is also aware of these problems; but is hopeful. “I believe in the future – I want to believe that things will get much better,” he says.
There’s grounds for this belief. In July, New Era hosted a sell out party at La Traac, the skate cafe owned by Romantso; to cap it all off, they also awarded Fade Radio a grant. “Having New Era here to explore the community is great, because people around the world can now see what we’re doing,” Green says. “This act of giving back is so helpful for the community,” he continues, explaining that Fade Radio is going to run DJ workshops for people who can’t afford the equipment.
Maybe the next wave of local creatives will emerge from these initiatives. As New Era has shown, it seems that when Athens is thrown curveballs, it hits home runs.
Find out more at neweracap.eu