Following a brief hiatus and on its second day after returning from summer holiday, the H4C is already functioning in full swing, creating a strong first impression that shows its dedication to fostering peace through arts and culture. Fringe Me Up! acted as a precursor to the upcoming Buffer Fringe Festival in November, not only to get people excited but to give them a taste of the talent and atmosphere that was to be expected. Unable to attend the official festival, I looked forward to seeing what I would be missing. That being said, as someone who comes from outside of Cyprus, the prospect of seeing a music performance in a buffer zone, to me, was odd. It was a place that I wouldn’t normally associate with music and I was nervous about possibly entering a contentious atmosphere. Not to say I was expecting to see soldiers for instance, but I thought there would be restrictions on what could and couldn’t be done. I thought that the Fringe performance would be inside the H4C because of noise sensitivity regulations, as when I first entered the buffer zone I noticed how quiet it was, aside from the sounds of nature. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the roof is regularly used for different kinds of events. This is wonderful because you not only get a great view of the sky, but you can also see the Venetian walls that make up the remnants of the old city.
Despite the surrounding area reading ‘de-militarized zone’, the H4C stands on its own as a nice calming presence, separated by simple rustic décor creating a comfortable atmosphere that anyone could enjoy. The same could be said for the roof where the performance was held. People sat either on cushions or on the edges of the roof, and with the only source of light surrounding the performers, it felt like being a part of an intimate campfire. That is, with exception of being under the starry night sky, which made the experience even more amazing. It was a perfectly clear night, not too hot, and because of the H4C’s unique location in the buffer zone, there was a constant silence and all you could hear was music. Having such an unobstructed view of the sky and stars, not to mention such tranquil surroundings, is something not often experienced in the city. It was a very refreshing experience. You forgot where you were and just enjoyed. Everyone was respectful and engaged, it really felt like a community.
From what I had seen of Cyprus thus far, and what I was told about Nicosia being mostly empty during the month of August, I was surprised at the number of people that came to the performance, with more and more people filtering in as the performance went on. For me, the audience, was just as entertaining as the show. Every time a new person entered the venue, they were almost always greeted by waving hands, kisses and hugs. Moreover, it seemed like nearly everyone had someone to greet while walking to their seat. The group of people sitting in front of me had one person who was always sharing or giving cushions to his other friends to make sure they were comfortable. Coming from New York, I wasn’t used to seeing this level of friendliness out in the open, not to say that New Yorkers aren’t kind but we have more of a tendency to keep to ourselves. Also coming from such a large city, the chances of seeing someone you know are slim. Even though I wasn’t a part of the friendships around me, it was nice to see and it made me feel like I was in a place that was very welcoming.
The type of music played during the performance was the perfect style for the event, it was engaging without being too intense and up-beat, it wasn’t a party but a gathering for people to enjoy the great music and talent of the artists. The performing duo: singer Amy Israels and guitarist George Karpasitis, set a great tone for the whole evening singing a wonderful mix of classic and original songs. Israels original songs were impactful and allowed you to get a deeper understanding of who she is as an artist. It definitely made an impressive first impression for the Buffer Fringe and left people wanting more. Proven by the encore demanded by the audience, and granted. The audience was gracious and appreciative to the artists and vice-versa.
This event was a perfect example of the kindness of Cypriots that I had heard so much about, and it was heart-warming to see. The H4C, using these types of events, bridges the two sides together by drawing on similar interests, helping to break any stereotypes or misconceptions about either side, showing that peace is within reach. The Fringe Me Up! event was a wonderful experience and I look forward to seeing what else the H4C has planned in the future.