Pafos European Capital of Culture 2017 Opening Ceremony

Date: 28 January 2017

Location: Pafos, Cyprus

Client: Pafos2017


To stage the opening ceremony for Pafos 2017, European Capital of Culture


Pafos: A Work of Art was a successful international collaboration that mixed Cypriot artists - including writer Efi Kyprianidou, composer Christina Athinodorou, designer George Papadopoulos, director Neoclis Neokleous, and video artists Vera Papastavrou and Kyriakos Sourides - with UK expertise in sound (Melvyn Coote at tubeuk), lighting (Stephen Page at DBN Lighting), aerial performance, pyro  and special effects (Adam Platten at Walk the Plank). Guided by Artistic Director Liz Pugh and Creative Producer John  Wassell, of Walk the Plank, the creative team was further strengthened by Israeli choreographer Ido Tadmor, and assistant Jhonathan Yoni Soutchy, who worked for weeks to rehearse the cast of 15 professional dancers and 75 young dancers and gymnasts from Pafos.

The show drew on the myth of Pygmalion, told through beautifully expressive dance to Athinodorou's expansive and emotional musical score. In contrast, we used the motif of Pafos re-invented as an Open Air Factory to punctuate the story of the artist who tries to bring to life the statue he has made. Great cogs of fire appeared in the sky, traditional Cypriot embroidery and mosaics appeared on screens, and young dancers weaved silk flags around Pygmalion and his beloved Galatea.

Moments of intimacy - including the singing of a Turkish Cypriot lullaby by Umut Albayrak in harmony with a traditional song in Greek from Pafos Music Lyceum Choir - were designed to draw in the 12,000 strong audience. Guests from Aarhus, the other EU Capital of Culture in 2017, included the Aarhus Jazz Orchestra and the Concert Clemens choir, who joined the Pafos Municipality Band in a new composition from Lars Moller. As this played, 320 children from local schools carried lanterns they had each made - led by artist Helen Davies - to be hung on a structure representing the Idol of Pomos, one of many prehistoric statues found around Cyprus. This ancient pagan symbol grew before our eyes as she rose into the sky alongside the tiny figure of aerialist Fran Widdowson, spinning in a shower of sparks.

The threads of Pafos' richly diverse history and present day talent and ambitions came together as this former capital city took its place once more, this time as a Capital of Culture in a European context.

We're really proud to have worked with Pafos 2017 on this incredible collaborative opening ceremony, one that mixes the homegrown talents of Cyprus with international guest artists. We brought people of all ages together to celebrate Cyprus’s rich cultural heritage – and in doing so gave it contemporary relevance and meaning.

Liz Pugh, Artistic Director - Pafos2017 opening

Project Specification
Project Scale
Creative Content
Costumes and props
Fire and Fire Drawings
Parades and processions
Projection/video mapping
Site responsive performance