The Lakkos Project was inspired by Mathew Halpin, an Australian artist who has been living in the district for a few years now. After taking many strolls in the narrow lanes of Lakkos, he fell in love with the half-ruined houses of a neighborhood that reflected the ‘old Heraklion’. A living museum, struggling to survive, revealed a great potential for Mathew who decided he wanted to be part of its revival. This idea had to grow in the times of economic crisis, which has some positive and negative consequences for this neighborhood: negative because the crisis led to the abandonment of historical buildings; positive because at least the crisis in the construction sector halted the uncontrollable ‘sprouting’ of high blocks of flats that overshadowed the beauty of this traditional district.
The district of Lakkos first came out of oblivion in 2013, when associations of architects and archaeologists, in cooperation with the Municipality and other groups, organized tours and cultural events aiming to introduce the history of this area to the citizens. Lakkos Project wants to take a step further, focusing on the little park and square of the district. A group of artists (the so-called Lakkos Art Laboratory), volunteer groups, the owners of Lakkos coffee shop, the inhabitants and the Municipality of Heraklion have all become the collaborators of Mathew who now sees his idea becoming a reality. Together they painted the colorless facades of old houses, they cleaned the little park, and revived known and unknown historical characters of Lakkos through paintings and graffiti. The artistic climax is probably the large mural of a rebetiko “gang”, overlooking the square. Furthermore, the Municipality has initiated an effort to plant trees and flowers in the empty spots, which were previously occupied by parked cars, something that will surely make Lakkos a more attractive neighborhood.
Matthew, who was first disappointed by the modern look of Heraklion, after 4 years of living here he saw the district of Lakkos and its abandonment as an opportunity to transform oblivion into creation. An opportunity to preserve the tradition and history of the city, but also an opportunity to inspire artistic creation and initiate a dialogue between diverse groups, attracting more artists, professionals, young people and families to come here and house their lives and ideas. He has made a start by choosing to live and work in Lakkos. “Heraklion needs this. It is a big city and all big cities need creative hubs”, he says. He further explains that the Municipality needs to cooperate with the community and the owners of old abandoned houses, who need to be convinced that there are many benefits from renovating them, or at least to grant them rent-free in exchange for their renovation.
The prostitute, work of the artist Danae Syrrou
Next step? A big party (which gradually took the form of a small festival) on Saturday September 26, 2015, at the square of Lakkos, with music, dance, theatre, and other site specific events. This will be the beginning of a beautiful street art festival, which will develop and grow every year. In the future the festival will also ‘move’ to other historical districts of Heraklion, like Agia Triada. More information on Lakkos Project and its evolution is available on its facebook page: www.facebook.com/thelakkosproject
Here and there, color invades the forgotten houses (photo by Lakkos coffee shop)