10 Jun 2017 Unite Cyprus Now proves the island’s potential

Imagine a business that takes a day to decide on a memorable slogan and hashtag, around 10 days to design its own brand colours and typeface, two weeks to grab the attention of the international media, and just a little longer to draw a crowd of over 300 punters aged three to 73.

This is not a business, of course, but the remarkable flourishing of Unite Cyprus Now, a growing band of enthusiasts at the Nicosia Ledra Street (Lokmaci) crossing, demanding a solution of the Cyprus problem.

It all began on May 17, when leaders Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci emerged from a long meeting with no agreement on how to get he negotiations to what should be the final stage, namely a grand conference in Geneva.

It looked like the end of the road. It may yet be. But, to borrow one of the placards from the Unite Cyprus Now crowd, “It ain’t over till we say so”.

That night, my fellow columnist Esra Aygin called on supporters of a solution to make a big noise about it.

And make a big noise they have. Now into its third or fourth week depending on where you start, Cypriots from both sides of the island have been gathering every day, without fail, at the Ledra Street (Lokmaci) crossing, to blow whistles, bang drums, join hands and sing their hearts out.

The weekend crowd swelled after the UN Special Adviser, Espen Barth Eide, announced on May 26 that he was halting shuttle diplomacy on agreeing what is intended to be the final date to solve the Cyprus problem in Geneva.

It reached around 350 the following weekend. And since the somewhat equivocal pledge last Sunday to get back to Geneva, even the smaller weekday crowds have been growing.

Why does this prove the island’s potential? First, it shows that there are a number of resourceful people who really want to make a Cyprus settlement work. They already have friends across the divide and will be an important ‘accelerator’ in bringing people, institutions and businesses together.

Second, they have already been working on it. At the Ledra Street crossing and elsewhere, I have met business people who know exactly what they will do the day after a solution and have already set up agreements with business counterparts from the other community to do so. I shall not expose them by saying who they are, but suffice it to say that some of them are big business.

They are also innovative. Not only does Unite Cyprus Now have a recognisable brand (designed by Maria Voniati), and an anthem (composed by Haji Mike and Gibsy Rhodes), the participant who has become the crowd’s natural leader, Andreas Lordos, actively encourages different forms of expression. This has spurred all kinds of initiatives, from salsa dancing to poetry.

The spontaneous flourishing in the buffer zone is a living example of the island’s potential. Unite Cyprus Now participants are imaginative, inventive, and they never give up.