On Wednesday 13th October 2004 the Atlantis team woke earlier than most and made our home kid-proof and the yellow room a school. We had planned an event with Oia's one and only school, comprising 60 children aged 6-11, and our friend Kostoulla Tomadaki whose most recent children's book ['H thalassa exei to xrwma ths psichis' trans. 'The Sea has the colour of the soul' publ. kedros] takes its heroine on a fantastical visit of Oia past and present. With this as its theme, our children's day saw the kids from the school—broken up into 3 just about bearable groups of 20 at a time—flock the bookshop, the boat and the yellow room for their exciting excursion. Each group were shown a slide show we'd put together of photographs of Oia as it is now, and as it was before the 1956 earthquake, and before the development brought on by tourism in the last couple of decades. Tim participated in his role as 'the Indian in the cupboard' by demonstrating how we bind books on his granny's 60 year old Singer sewing machine. Inspired by talking and reading with Kostoulla from her book, looking at the images and thinking about book making, and pumped by Hannah's Swedish chocolate cake and juice, the kids drew pictures, screamed songs and wrote out Oian recipes. The eldest group played a game of 'sentences' and thus composed a fairy tale of local characters on a mission to rescue Oia's Venetian castle from an invading pirate ship.
They left us exhausted and exhilarated by their energy—the animals and Quinn had already been scared off, and Craig had fled to Athens, but somehow the shop survived and lived happily ever after for another couple weeks.
In the week that followed, Karisha, 'the Hannah', Ryan and Maria chased the teachers and Kostoulla to gather the material from the day and battled with InDesign to make a spectacularly wealthy and colourful book of activity by the local children, the first of its kind this town has seen. Limited editions were printed in our little back cave office. Oia's council and cultural body 'oi panomerites' are now confidently seeking funds to print the book proper with a couple of big publishers already showing interest.
The October 27th re-opening of the Cultural Center in Finikia marked a huge event for local community, and the presentation of Atlantis Books' children's book was at its core. Publicized in the national newspaper 'Kathimerini,' local press and radio, and televised on the local TV station, it was attended by all the 'village elders', countless figures from the cultural life of the island [including 3 bishops with very full beards and golden sticks] and of course, Oia's anticipating kids, who read from their self-made book while friends accompanied them on the piano.
To the kids we're local comic-heroes who love to have them round: we're the quirky team of foreign folk at the edge of the village with a book-filled boat that they love to navigate. Since the event many have dragged their parents to the shop to show them that we exist and urged them to delve into our shelves. When they catch us in town they ask about their book and scream and count the days till its out. This event has been crucial in putting us closer to the heart of the community. In a series of recent town meetings people have bemoaned the lack of 'culture,' or at least a thread of year-long activity for local life that would counter the bipolar energy created by the tourist season. The co-operation we're having with the local school through these recent events' not only by hosting excursions and creating a beautiful book of their activity, but also opening dialogue about how we can best provide literature and cultural experiences for Oia's new generation [with a book festival in the spring perhaps and theatre perfomances]- has shown people that we are committed to our pledges from day one: that as a project and as a book store we are here to be more than just a seasonal money-making enterprise. We have all the energy and the will to understand the needs and help realize the potential in the community—where better to sew these seeds but with these kids—for initiatives towards literature, culture, and creativity.