Athens Gets Blunt With Lycabettus

Athens mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis says the open-air Lycabettus Theatre was shut down hours before a James Blunt show because of safety issues, but the venue insists it’s all down to a local government cock-up.

It seems the decision to shut the 7,000-capacity Lycabettus was based on a safety report from Greek Tourism Development Agency (ETA), which has since withdrawn its recommendation that it be closed down immediately to provide time for inspections and an in-depth technical study.

The closure has caused such a furor in Athens that the argument appears it could go as far as the Greek parliament.

The venue, whose ownership appears to be the subject of a long-running political dispute between the municipality of Athens and the Greek ministry of culture, has since released a statement saying the closure is "unannounced and unjustified."

It also said it’s regrettable that the decision to close the theatre was "apparently a result of misunderstanding between the City and ETA." It claims the organizers and fans have suffered the economic consequences and that the incident may cause artists to lose confidence in Greek events.

Although the tourism authority agreed to keep the theatre open for the summer season, the city said it had decided to close it because of "risk of bodily harm" to people using the venue.

The city was backed by a court ruling that overturned a request from concert organizers to keep the theatre open.

At 4 p.m. June 19 police shut down the Lycabettus – a hilltop venue with a panoramic view of the city – and ordered the management and staff to vacate the building, leaving Blunt’s crew stuck outside and unable to get to the equipment they already set up on stage.

"The police arrived out of the blue and told everyone to leave the venue immediately, then they locked the gates with a padlock and stayed outside on guard. They let us back the next day for five hours to get all the gear and stage out," said Nick Hobbs from Charmenko, which had set up the Blunt shows.

"If they’d given us two or even one day’s notice we’d have found an alternative venue. The city didn’t give a damn about the artist or local promoter – or of course the thousands of people who’d bought tickets."

The municipality’s decision is made more puzzling because Nick Cave and Mark Knopfler have already played Lycabettus this summer, which is causing confusion among the promoters with upcoming dates for acts including Lenny Kravitz and Gloria Gaynor.

Demertra Madzouka of Didi Music, which promoted the Nick Cave (June 7) and Mark Knopfler (June 15) shows, told Pollstar the company will almost certainly move its August 1 show with Kravitz to Terra Vibe Park.