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A different lifestyle lived through the collective [with video]
THERE IS a well-known saying that in unity there is strength. The people at Utopia know that pretty well. After all, their idea for setting up a collective last year has flourished, bringing together people of all ages and backgrounds to participate in activities that share their philosophy and approach to life.
Utopia originally started five to six years ago selling natural and organic products grown by Dinos Georgiou in his organic farm in Flasou. He is one of only four producers in Cyprus to cultivate and grow natural and organic products. Utopia was to serve as the store, the gateway for the products to the wider public. Seeing the demands of the farm increase, Dinos gathered a group of friends to discuss what more could be done with the shop.
Thus in January 2012, Utopia Collective was set up with six to 10 people on the managing board at any one time and countless other participators pooling their ideas as to how this project could develop. The fact that it is a collective means that these people manage the space together, “like social houses abroad,” explains Stephanie Polycarpou.
The idea is for people who share the same interests to work together on specific projects and to become active in those areas. Stephanie said that Utopia Collective was created by a team of young people with similar beliefs and perception regarding lifestyle, nature and society. “Wellbeing is the main axis of our lives and we care about the environment and our relation to the community,” she added. “We believe that education and personal development can bring about change. We respect nature and want to live in harmony. Our aim is to promote and encourage a healthy, collective and sustainable way of living. That’s why Utopia Collective was created,” she said. “The idea of the collective is to be active and to contribute”.
Utopia is a non-profit organisation. The aim is not to make money but to bring together people with similar interests in a space in which they feel comfortable and relaxed enough to engage in various activities. That is why Utopia offers a peaceful space for people interested in organic vegetables, healthy diet, Yoga, educational workshops, screenings and music, Stephanie explained. Every month a programme of events is issued which includes all sorts of activities: from learning to knit, to seminars and lectures by doctors and sociology professors, to presentations, discussions and screenings, to musical events, to lunch and tea events. Even flea markets and language lessons are held at Utopia. Every month there is also an activity for engaging children into the world of recycling. Going by the cartoonish name “Loopydoopy” the “upcycled crafts workshop” is open for young and older kids, and activities involve making crafts from scrap paper.
Utopia also prepares hot, fresh, vegetarian food for parties and other events, while it also offers food on its premises once a week. Stephanie stressed that it is not a restaurant. “We offer food in the context of a collective kitchen,” she said, “but the idea is to cook and eat all together”. This operates on donations – in that you pay as you please – and the aim is to promote healthy, home-cooked meals, as well as the process of being a collective effort and achievement!
The range of activities is endless and new projects and activities constantly arise. “The space is available for anyone who wishes to run events, seminars, workshops similar to the collective's philosophy,” smiled Stephanie. “We welcome proposals by people who have visited the space and want to do something here,” she added.
“As long as you give you also receive,” said Stephanie, adding that the people gain out of the services and facilities offered at Utopia, but so do the young people operating the premises who gain the chance to widen their network and promote their lifestyle.
Since its launch a year ago, Utopia is thriving. Stephanie said that this is due to a combination of factors – the fact that vegetarianism and organic food have now become a sort of trend, that Old Nicosia is becoming fashionable again and the shop benefits from its location at the heart of the old town, but also the fact that people simply enjoy the atmosphere and embrace their lifestyle.
Utopia is visited by people young and old, regardless of social background or ethnicity. “People come in here either because they heard of it somewhere, from a friend, or simply because it grasped their interest when passing by,” explained Stephanie.
Dinos Georgiou told the Sunday Mail that his perception of a Utopia is different to the idea of a community/society possessing ideal or perfect qualities. “For me,” he said, “Utopia is a constant vigilance, a constant progress. That is why there are no goals for the collective, because we want to constantly improve.”
The shop on a corner in the old town of Nicosia certainly emits a radiance of a living organism, of something that develops and grows, that changes, that is not always static and is open to new ideas. After all, that is what the collective was formed for and what it aims to do – pool and share ideas to improve our society and our lifestyle.
The shop sells the organic products grown in Flasou (vegetables, herbs, olive oil, honey, lemonades, mandarinades, teas, etc.), while it also sells other local organic products for which the origin and raw materials are known. Organic soaps and body creams are also sold, as well as handmade jewellery. The shop offers a warm, relaxing atmosphere in which to enjoy a freshly brewed natural cup of tea, while reading a book available on its bookshelves and accepting a delicious melt-in-the-mouth homemade cookie, that Ileana Nicholson insists you try.
Utopia Collectiva is based at the Utopia Shop near the OXI round-about in Old Nicosia - Areos 48, old town Nicosia. Tel: 96 592201, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/UtopiaCollectiva